The Parable of the 2×4

By James Chase

When I write the story of my life I would like to give it the title – “The Parable of the 2 x 4”. In order to understand why let me share with you a story about a farmer and his mule. The originator of the story is unknown and I have seen several versions on the Internet so I will write how I remember it.

A long time ago a new farmer was in need of a mule to plow his land. He went to his neighbor to see if he had a mule to sell. As is the practice when purchasing a mule, the new farmer asked if the mule had any problems that he should be aware of. The neighbor said that the mule would do anything he asked.

The new farmer took the mule home and the next day took him out to the field to plow. The farmer said, “Git up!” But the mule did nothing. He even went as far as talking nice to the mule. Still nothing happened. After some time the new farmer called his neighbor and came over right away.

After the new farmer explained what had happened, the neighbor went over and picked up a two-by-four. He hit the mule over the head and whispered in the mule’s ear. The mule proceeded to plow back and forth the field. The new farmer said to the neighbor, “I am not in agreement of mistreating an animal. Why did you hit him over with the two-by-four?”

“Well,” said the neighbor. “You have to get his attention first.”

Now I am not a proponent of hurting animals and this story is only a metaphor but it describes perfectly the “aha moments” that we each have. As I look back through my life I remember many of them. I would like to share with you one of the most recent.

Several years ago I came across the “Seven Levels of Awareness” as described by the Bob Proctor organization. The only thing I could find on each was the short descriptions but they have made an impact on me. Let me share (from the lowest to the highest):

  1. Animal – At this level “we react” to outside influences and circumstances.
  2. Mass– Here we “follow the crowd”.
  3. Aspiration – This is where we desire to be better but don’t make the necessary changes.

These three levels are where most of us are and we get stuck at aspiration. But we don’t have to. The rest of the levels are as follows:

  1. Individual Expression– Here we become aware of our own uniqueness.
  2. Discipline – When we are at this level we give ourselves a command and we follow it.
  3. Experience– At some point we have direct experience and we act on those ideas.
  4. Mastery– This is where we reach a certain level of skill – we have mastered whatever skill we are trying to obtain.

Now you might be asking why this was an “aha moment” for me. I kept wondering why it seemed that I couldn’t obtain that “golden ticket” that I wanted. When I learned about these levels there was a name to my problem of progression.

There are several areas of our life that we can work on: spiritual, financial, physical, relational, and personal/professional lives. What I found is that I seemed to focus on only one or two items and left the others to whatever came along. This understanding has allowed me to chart out where I am on each of the areas.

But what happens when you feel you have mastered each area? There are always new goals in each of the areas. Let me share with you the one area where I felt I had mastered. In the personal and professional area I had received my high school diploma. I had mastered that area or so I thought. I realized after that I would need a college education to progress further in my career. I went through the levels again to work towards my Bachelors degree. This degree only took me so far. To become a college professor I need to continue on to obtain my Masters degree. Again that took me only so far so now I am going through the levels again to obtain my Doctorate degree to become a full professor.

There is always room for improvement and we must understand that if you want to continue to grow and develop in all areas of our lives.


Dr. James B. Chase, Jr., EdD
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