Monday, December 27, 2010

Refusing the Call – Are Hidden Benefits Stopping You?

A postman passed a house with a dog sitting on the wooden front porch everyday. The dog always made a low whining noise. The poor dog was obviously in pain.

One day, the postman not able to hold back his curiosity any longer, finally asked the dog’s owner what was going on.

The owner replied that the dog was sitting on a nail, hence the non stop whining.

The postman then asked the owner why the dog wouldn’t just walk away from the spot where the nail was.

The owner replied: “Perhaps, that spot is shady and cool, and the nail is not painful enough.”

Are we not sometimes like the dog in the story?

Do we sometimes let ourselves be stuck in a situation that is causing us pain but stayed on because we are not willing to let go of some hidden benefits of staying put?

Settling for hidden benefits is usually fear-driven – it is the attitude that “a bird in hand is worth two in the bush”. It is the unwillingness to risk letting go of current benefits for a greater but yet unrealised gain. It is the preference for the devil we know over the devil we don’t.

  • Back off from plans to start your own business because of unwillingness to quit an unfulfilling job for fear of losing a reliable income.
  • Pass up opportunities for fulfilling relationships because of unwillingness to meet new people for fear of rejection.

We can choose to live within our imagined limits, settle for less, endure dull pain and boredom indefinitely, rather than risk rejection or lose face. Or we can choose to scale the brick wall disguised as hidden benefits that separates the Ordinary World and the Special World in two steps:

Step 1 - Find out what the hidden benefit is. It is often difficult to know what stopped us at the threshold of our Hero’s Journey. This is because hidden benefits lurk quietly in our unconscious mind like bed bugs hiding in the folds of bed linen. Try teasing it out using the following questions:
  • If backing out of your goal has a hidden benefit, what do you think it is?
  • If you knew what the hidden benefit is, what would it be?
  • If you already have the hidden benefit, what does it give you?
  • When you have what the hidden benefit gives you, what does it mean?

Step 2 – Now that you know what the hidden benefit is, find a way to deliver what the hidden benefit gives you and what it means to you without giving up your Hero’s Journey. Put another way, figure out how to eat the hidden benefit cake and still have our Hero’s Journey afterwards.


  1. Another call to action moment would be from the well known scene from when the main character is asked if he wants to take the red or blue pill. One would allow him to forget all he has learnt about the matrix and return to his normal life, which would be the hidden benefit; and the other pill which would allow him to fully understand the matrix, thus begining his hero's journey.

  2. for hero's journey, see Kal Bashir's 510+ stage version at