Sandpaper Parable: Are You Smooth or Abrasive?

Over the years, one of my favourite sources of inspiration has been a little book by James Taylor called Everyday Parables: Learnings From Life (Wood Lake Books, 1995). Just in case you wondered, he is no relation to the singer James Taylor, although both of them have a wonderful way with words. James Taylor, the writer, has a gift for expressing complex and timeless truths in uncomplicated modern language — something that’s far too rare these days. In this book, he takes everyday — and very common — tools, food and experiences, and offers us different ways of thinking about them by using parables.

To refresh your memory, teaching with parables is the way that wisdom teachers through the centuries have tried to get complex truths across to their audiences. Essentially, it involves taking something very familiar, very tangible and sometimes of little significance, and making a connection to more complicated ideas. (In a sense, the “case” method of teaching business to MBA students at Harvard is simply one variant on this age-old process.) Jesus, arguably one of history’s more notable sages, used parables as his bread-and-butter technique for getting some rather abstract ideas across to the masses of his time.

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Dr. Sandy Cotton

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Dr. Sandy Cotton taught leadership at the Queen’s University School of Business and the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario for about three decades. He is a permanent Deacon of the Anglican Church of Canada and continues to consult and lead workshops.


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