Ken DukeWritten by

Lessons From Your Enemy

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If you’re a regular reader of this column, you may recall that I have a large cork board in my office with all kinds of stuff pinned to it — slips of paper from fortune cookies, lures hanging from push pins, memorable notes and cards from my wife and friends, and thought-provoking quotes that I think are worth considering, remembering and putting to use.The board could definitely stand some organizing, and I’m sometimes frightened to think it’s a snapshot of my brain, but a day does not go by that I don’t look at the board and consider something I have placed there.

Ken’s cork board of wisdom

This morning I rediscovered a quote from the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism. Now, I am not a follower of Tibetan Buddhism, but I know a thought-provoking idea when I read one, and the 14th Dalai Lama is a thought-provoking idea machine. This one just happens to be a favorite of mine:

“The enemy is a very good teacher.”

That pretty much nails it, right? But how often do we think that way, consider our foe and try to learn from him? Too often we’re so busy hating and cursing the “enemy” that we don’t even think about learning from him.

We can do better.

No matter our “enemy,” we can learn from him or her or them or even it.

Is your enemy a competitor — a looming big box store across town? What are they doing to take business from you that you can emulate? What can you do better or differently? Where are they leaving dollars on the table that you can pick up?

Is your enemy the weather — a late spring or harsh winter that slows sales? How could you have been better prepared? How do you adapt and adjust? If your customers can’t get on the water or ice, maybe they’ll still come to your store or shop for your products if you offer classes or instruction for the fishing to come.

Is your enemy disease — some affliction that saps your strength and threatens your life? Can you combat it with medicine and better lifestyle choices? Can you learn to live with it or at least make more of the time you have?

Personally, I need to be careful not to let my “enemy” become my excuse. That’s the first step in learning from that enemy and using his lessons to make me better.

I haven’t always done this. At least I have not always done it quickly or effectively. I need to work on that … among many other things.

Abraham Lincoln supposedly said, “I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends,” but that’s not on my cork board. It sounds hokey and false to me. I might be able to come to terms to with my enemy, but friends? That’s a stretch … especially when the enemy is nebulous or irredeemable, like the weather or disease.

But learning from my enemy? I know we can do that.