A Middle Manager Learns Zen

For a short break from my work on Farisa’s Crossing, I wrote this parable.

Zen and the Art of Middle Management

A middle manager went to a Zen master.

He said, “I suffer from anxiety. It’s holding me back in my career. With this problem, I’ll never become a True Executive.”

The Zen master said, “I’ll teach you how to overcome your anxieties.”

He studied under the master for a week, and learned how to control his fears and reduce his worry.

A year later, he returned to his mentor to thank him.

“You’ve helped me cut my anxieties to 25 percent. I’m smoother than silk in meetings. I’m Assistant Director now.”

The mentor smiled.

“May I study with you, for another week?”

The mentor nodded.

The manager studied. He meditated. He learned how to calm his own nerves and mute the darker bits of his mind.

He returned, a year later, with more thanks.

“You’ve helped me cut my anxieties to 10 percent. I’m a Vice President now. Almost a True Executive.”

The mentor smiled.

“May I study with you, for another week?”

The mentor nodded.

So the manager studied more. He meditated, from five in the morning to eleven at night, every day for a week.

After much work, he learned how to extinguish his anxieties, to tap into the universal calm, to pull the mind back to its sky-like nature.

A year later, the (ex-)manager returned– with a lawsuit.

“What’s this for?” the mentor asked.

“You ruined my career!”

“I don’t see how–”

“You’ve helped me cut my anxieties to 0.1 percent.”

“That’s good. You are learning to overcome samsara and its poisons.”

“No, it’s not! The job of a True Executive is not to overcome his anxieties, but to offload them to other people. How can I do that now?”

At that moment, the mentor was (dis)enlightened.

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