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Why I Hope We Can All Be Poor Farmers in 2017

What a children's story taught me about resourcefulness


Happy New Year from me and the Uncommon Knowledge team - Mark

Happy New Year! Of course! And I hope it will be.

I wish you happiness born from true and meaningful interactions, intimate friendships, and love.

May this happiness wend its way to you like a warming river of light, as you in turn find your way to it.

I hope satisfaction and pleasure come as sparks created by meaningful work, knowledge well applied, clear thought, courageous action, and expanding intuition.

I hope (at the risk of sounding like a 1970s beauty pageant contestant!) for a more tolerant world, not artificially buoyed by the sugary highs of collective superiority or perceived triumphs over others.

And in some mysterious way, perhaps my happiness and yours may be invisibly linked.

37 trillion cells go to make up one human body, and, currently, 7.5 billion selves go to make up our one world. ‘I’ should never trump ‘we’.

People matter because we are the matter that can actually affect change in the world. As Joni Mitchell sang, “We are stardust.” But we are stardust with eyes and ears. We are individuals but also societies. Maybe, in one way, we are the centre of the Universe. We are the architects of our own happiness.

Collective happiness is an ocean made up of billions of drops of personal happiness. But as we pass through the gateway to the new year, one thing really strikes me about our world.

We don’t use enough of what we have.

When I was a child, all that time ago, like many kids, I loved and craved stories. To me, stories were (and still are) timeless echoes of the essence of life itself. Like whispers from some collective soul that gently entreats us to “Wake up!”

One story always stood out to me.

Don’t ever be tyrannized

My favourite picture book was The Poor Farmer and the Robber Knights. In fact, the message of that book has powered much of my life.

Walter Kreye’s masterpiece (well, it is to me!) is a simple tale of an impoverished, hardworking farmer who is bullied and abused by a band of thieving, entitled knights.

Don’t you hate it when that happens? And make no mistake, it does happen.

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Anyway, they continually leech off our poor farmer. I was especially incensed when I learned they steal his strawberries (strawberries, I tell you!) along with his other hard-earned crops. The injustice of it! His powerlessness in the face of such oppression!

Mind you, it’s not long before our farmer reaches the end of his tether. I liked that about him. But arriving at the end of your tether is no good if you don’t have a plan.

He has no weapons, no armour, no allies brave enough to help him drive these wicked interlopers from his land (think a rustic High Noon).

What can he do?

Lay down and die? Oh no, not I!

He can do plenty.

He thinks on what he does have. And he uses it.

He uses a saucepan for a helmet. He uses a colander to protect his face (come on, I was four!). He uses iron farm implements to protect his legs and body. He uses a plough and pitchfork as weapons. And he rides an old donkey in place of a steed.

He makes himself fit for purpose using what he can find. Because that’s all he has. But he never overlooks what he has.

And you know what?

He does it. He drives the invaders from his land. He transforms himself through what he does have but also what he doesn’t.

Indeed, it’s so often our deficits that, paradoxically, empower us to gain.

And even as a four year old I knew something about that poor farmer.

He wasn’t poor at all.

He was much richer than those prideful, conceited, heedless bureaucrats… I mean, knights!

You see, he had what it took all along. And he used it. If we look beyond the surface, we’ll find out something incredibly important about ourselves.

If we look beyond the surface, we’ll find out something incredibly important about ourselves

Because we all have the knowledge and the means to get what we want. The question is whether, like the farmer, we have the courage to use it.

Are we constantly wanting more and more and more without even stopping to use what we already have?

And who or what are the knights?

The culture around us that tells us we can’t? Self-bullying? Undermining doubts? Depressive thinking?

To this day, when I see someone beat depression I am reminded of The Poor Farmer and the Robber Knights. The great tyrannical interloper has been defeated by the formerly downtrodden one. Resources have been mobilized and strengthened.

So what is the source of this farmer’s wealth?

Resourcefulness, enterprise, calm foresight and, most of all, the courage to act on what he knew and use what he did have. He could never be poor. Not really.

He is you and me. We are him.

So as I wish you happiness in this new year, I hope you’ll use all you have, because you have more than you know. But not, I hope, more than you’ll ever know.

What are you looking forward to accomplishing in 2017? Tell us in the comments below!

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Mark Tyrrell

About Mark Tyrrell

Psychology is my passion. I've been a psychotherapist trainer since 1998, specializing in brief, solution focused approaches. I now teach practitioners all over the world via our online courses.

You can get my book FREE when you subscribe to my therapy techniques newsletter. Click here to subscribe free now.

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  • judy

    A strong reminder for me as I am at a time in my life where I realize I already have within and around me, all that I need to implement my dreams, to live a full life, to embrace happiness. So easy to lose sight of what I’ve gathered materially and internally, gathering more before fully utilizing what I possess. I look forward to completing the stories and book started and stalled last year.

  • Alexis MacDiarmid

    Thank you!

  • Jax

    Yes I am just going through a separation after 25 years with someone fairly dominant and I am sorting through possessions thinking “Is this me? Is this him?..with each item .. I am continually surprised at how much I have and trying to find ‘me’ at the same time! I’m amazed how rarely I can’t decide as we are total opposites! It is going to be reassuring finding who I am again and being myself… not sure when I lost that.. Plus I liked your story as I’m an organic gardener!

  • Sal

    Fantastic article. I’ve just found this website and overall I really appreciate the generous and authentic nature of the authors’ posts and the openness of the online community that has been developed here. Looking forward to reading more.

  • Judith Nicholas

    Article popped up in my inbox. I enjoyed it. Everyone loves the underdog…. at least I know I do. I am working on my master’s degree in counseling and psychology. I’d like to get my PhD. I am a high school teacher and hope to some day have my own practice. In the mean time, I find myself applying some counseling techniques daily with my students. Some are so troubled. I enjoyed this story and would like to figure out a way to share it but so many of my students are such skeptics and are highly skilled in draining the power from a story with negative comments and unsolicited rebuttals. If they could learn to hear, then as you said, maybe their, “resourcefulness, enterprise, calm foresight and, most of all, the courage” might be mobilized somehow. Then, they’d never be poor. Not really… right? Thanks again.

  • Max Coates

    That was strangely apposite. I am getting going after the Christmas break. Feeling singularly lacking in resources. My university email has gone down and it is causing difficulties with contacting people over imminent work. I am tending to relive anniversaries of a year ago when I was treated (albeit successfully) for prostate cancer. I have writer’s block over my latest book. There are lots of other issues. Just feeling somewhat done in.

    Yes, I took a selfie with with the family colander on (and no it is not going on the social media) and rescheduled my day taking a somewhat ‘magnificent one’ stance.

    A simple story which like so many others just hits the spot.

    Thanks Mark

  • Chris Attkins

    Inspirational and resourceful piece Mark, thank you. It’s easy to focus on perceived lack rather than intrinsic strength.

  • Cx

    Beautiful story and interpretation. Great way to kick off the year. Thank you.

  • Stewart Walker

    Mark this was a really great article and very thought provoking, many thanks for such a good and easy read.

  • Andreea Niculescu

    Brilliant and lovely!!!

  • Nadina Maija Mackenzie

    Thank you for this inspiration – it is so beautiful and heartfelt. A wonderful spark for the beginning of a new year!

  • Phyl Graham

    Reading the article gave me pause to think about what is already there, redundantly waiting for the strength of will or call to armour! Sometimes it only takes a little trigger to set off a whole process. Thank you.