Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Incrementalism

About 30 years ago a gang of us climbed Great Gable, taking the route over Green Gable. It's a depressing route because when you reach the summit of Green Gable you discover you have to go down and up again to get to the top of Great Gable.

John, the subject of many of my late-night tales, some of them with a basis in fact, was one of the party. So was Bob, a practical joker of some renown.

Bob noticed that a flap of John's rucksack had come undone and so, indicating to the rest of us behind John's back, we began placing small pebbles in the rucksack every twenty yards or so.

After about half an hour (he was a bit slow on the uptake then, our John) John complained that, 'I swear this rucksack's getting heavier.' We explained that as it contained his lunch and emergency gear it was important and as he lost energy he would feel its weight more. However we assured him that once he had taken the weight of the food and turned it into fuel at our lunch stop he would feel the benefit. We carried on up the mountain, him grumbling more and more, we continuing to drop smaller pebbles in.

At the top (bless him, he made it) when he removed his packed lunch from his rucksack he also tipped out about 10 pounds of pebbles. A detailed account of what he said is beyond the remit of a Christian minister's blog if the minister wishes to continue employment.

The moral? Oh yes. It's the boiling-a-frog story. You don't notice change if it happens slowly. I feel this quite keenly right now. I am working at a pace I wouldn't have imagined when I said goodbye to my colleague Ken back in May, but no one week has been dramatically different from the week before. I was only late for one of the seven meetings I attended yesterday - the last one. The busy day was necessary in order to have today for some reading and study - a bit of fuel.

Don't mess about with practical jokers. Throw them off the mountain. Only for a bit of a laugh mind.

But watch out for incremental change. Who is putting pebbles in your rucksack?

And don't get fooled twice. Just as we finished lunch Bob slipped at least half the pebbles into John's empty lunch box and put it back in his rucksack.

2 comments:

Mike Peatman said...

I have heard that story from Bob (so that's two sources - I could do some source / form / redaction criticism but I'm not that sad)

I remember Green / Great Gable and something called windy gap in between. How I coped with the heights I'll never know. Peer pressure.

david said...

No route up Great Gable can be described as "depressing" - it's a grand walk however you approach it and in any weather conditions!