The Bullfrog and the Scorpion – Apologies to Aesop

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This story is originally by Aesop.  I have used it many times to illustrate the moral that Aesop attached to his story.  However, I am modifying the story somewhat and will attach my own moral to it.  I hope you enjoy it. 

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Once upon a time there was an old bullfrog who lived deep in the forest.  He had lived many years and most of them were on a small pond fed by a shallow bubbling spring.  The pond was surrounded by huge oaks and evergreens.  Closer to the banks, you could see many fronds, ferns and depending on the season a large variety of mushrooms.  The water in the pond was crystal clear and was favored by many different varieties of small fish.  Flies, water skimmers and dragon flies flittered about the pond and all made a tasty meal for Mr. Bullfrog as he was know to the other animals in the forest.  Of all of these meals, Mr. Bullfrog favored dragon flies.  However, his tongue was no longer as fast as it once was or thought Mr. Bullfrog, “maybe dragon flies are faster today than in years gone past.”  In any case, it had been many weeks since Mr. Bullfrog had enjoyed a dragon fly dinner.

Bullfrog contemplates water lily from a lilypad

It was a mid-summer day.  The sun had come up early and the temperature was already in the high eighties.  Mr. Bullfrog was perched on a vacant lily pad in the middle of the pond.  He was enjoying the warmth of the sun on his back and the coolness of the water on his webbed feet as they dangled in the water.  Suddenly he heard a voice say, “Help me please.  Can you help me?”  He looked around but did not see anyone.  Again he heard “Help me please.”  It seemed to come from the far shore.  He paddled over and as he came closer to the bank; he saw a large black scorpion sitting near the edge of the pond.  The scorpion asked, “Can you help me?”

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Now Mr. Bullfrog was wise in the ways of the world.  He had not lived his many years by being a fool.  He back paddled a few yards so as not to get too close to the scorpion.  Scorpions were the vilest meanest most dangerous creatures in the forest.  Everyone knew that you could never trust a scorpion.   

bullfrog-1“What do you need help with?” asked Mr. Bullfrog.

“I need to get to the other bank.  Would you give me a ride on your back?”

Mr.  Bullfrog thought this was one of the most ridiculous requests that he had ever heard.  Why should he trust a scorpion?  “Why would I give you a ride?  What if you stung me?”

“Why would I sting you,” replied the scorpion?  “It would not be in my self-interest.  If I killed you, then I would drown.  Self-interest theory says that a concern for one’s own interest or advantage requires that we be generous in foreign aid.” 

518QHRLJzuL._SX356_BO1,204,203,200_Mr. Bullfrog thought about this for a while.  In some respects it made good sense, but he still could not see that the rewards outweighed the risks.  He had read Dr. Persico’s book on strategy several years ago and applied many of the ideas to his own life.  One of the key concepts concerned risk mitigation.  One should always access the gain of an action against the inherent risks associated with the action.  Mr. Bullfrog concluded that the risks still outweighed the gain.  “What is in it for me,” asked Mr. Bullfrog?

The scorpion thought about this question for a minute and answered it thusly.  “Look, I was going to the other shore to eat a dragon fly that I had left there a few days ago.”  The wily scorpion knew that bullfrogs loved dragon flies.  “If you carry me over there, I will give you a half of the dragon fly for your labors.”

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Mr. Bullfrog started to salivate at the thought of a dragon fly meal.  He was about ready to accept the chore when he suddenly thought about one of Dr. Persico’s key principles.  Think about contingencies and unexpected consequences.   Applying this line of thinking, Mr. Bullfrog thought, “well, what if he is lying?”  “How, do I know you are telling me the truth about the dragon fly and how do I know that once you are across, you will really share your meal with me?” 

The stalemate seemed unbreachable.

The scorpion thought long and hard.  Finally, an idea popped into his mind.   “What if I kill a dragon fly for you now and leave it on this bank?  You will have a whole dragon fly for a meal on this side and once we get to the other side of the pond, you will have another ½ dragon fly for a meal.” 

This clinched the deal for Mr. Bullfrog.  Him mind still continued to pursue contingencies but risk mitigation theory now favored the possibilities of at least one dragon fly meal or 1 ½ meals against the possibility that the scorpion did not really have a dragon fly waiting on the other side. 

It took about an hour, but the young scorpion was quick, and he soon snagged a dragon fly.  After stinging it, he brought it to the edge of the pond.  “Here is your dragon fly.  Take me to the other side and you can come back and enjoy your favorite food.”

Mr. Bullfrog paddled to the edge of the bank.  The scorpion jumped on his back and away they went.  The farther across the pond they went, the more the scorpion had to resist the impulse to sting the frog.  Killing things was so much in his nature that it was only with great effort that he continued to resist his natural instincts. 

bullfrog-swimming-w-treat-davidsonAbout halfway across the pond, Mr. Bullfrog suddenly dived beneath the surface of the water.  The scorpion was flung into the water.  Mr.  Bullfrog paddled a few yards underwater and then came up.  When he came to the top, he heard the scorpion pleading “Why have you done this?  We had a deal.” 

Scorpions cannot swim and he began to sink into the depths of the pond.  The scorpion heard Mr. Bullfrog reply, “Well, I took you ½ way across the pond and given my analysis of the rewards versus the risks, strategic thinking says that I am better off letting you drown here.  The advantages are multiple.  First, if you are telling the truth about the dragon fly that you killed a few days ago, I will find it and have two whole dragon flies to eat.  Second, If you are not telling the truth, I have at least one dragon fly for a meal.  Third, I pursued a very risky effort with you on my back, and ½ way seemed to me to be the maximum that most scorpions could forgo their instincts.  I consider I was lucky to get that far and any further would be pushing my luck.  Strategic planners should never rely on luck.  Finally, letting you drown means one less murderous scorpion in the world.” 

The last words of the scorpion before he drowned were, “I should never have trusted a bullfrog.” 

As Mr. Bullfrog paddled back to his lily pad, he thought, “Good strategic thinking is the best thing in the world, next to a pair of webbed feet.”  

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