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Jonathan Livingston Seagull Comprehension Questions

Literary books can give a creative insight to the fine art of motivating yourself. Here are three literary classics that will give you a metaphorical guide to motivation.

1. Jonathan Livingston Seagull – Richard Bach (1970)
This is a gem of a book and the one I would put top of the list. The story revolves around a seagull called Jonathan Livingston, who wants to soar like an eagle. Of course being a seagull, he has a wingspan and limitations of flying like a sea bird. Thus here the author explores the possibility of achieving the impossible. Can a seagull soar like an eagle? In the story Jonathan Livingston meets with another seagull Chiang who shows him the higher plain of achievement and tells Jonathan that the secret is to “begin by knowing that you have already arrived.” The ‘secret’ here basically implies the ability of a person to achieve his/her vision and dream. If you want something very much you have to imagine that you’ve already got it and act as such. That way you will gravitate towards getting what you really want.

In the context of a business organization this novella provides a metaphorical insight on how a small and medium size enterprise can aspire to become a multi-national corporation. The question is: Can this really happen? Reading this short novel will give the leader of an organization the insight and inspiration to challenge the impossible. But to do this the leader has to overcome the many obstacles that will manifest in many different forms. These obstacles include being trapped in a certain way of thinking, peer pressure, group think attitude and the fear of failure. It is only when you, the leader are able to overcome this that you will achieve the ‘higher plain of existence’.

2. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho (1988)
"When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream," said the alchemist, echoing the words of the old king. The boy understood. Another person was there to help him toward his Personal Legend.” This is the legendary quote in this novel by the Brazilian author. Here the key protagonist is Santiago who is an Andalusian shepherd. Santiago experiences a recurring dream and he consults a gypsy fortune teller who advises him to follow his dream. This sets him on a journey in search of an Alchemist who will reveal to him his fortune. Reluctant at first, Santiago decides to pursue his dream journey when an old man, Melchizedeck, tells him of his Personal Legend which is his purpose to live. Santiago’s journey brings him to Africa and to Egypt and along the way he gets robbed, beaten and falls in love and eventually realizes that what he was seeking for was always right in front of him. The basic theme of this beautifully crafted story is about taking calculated risk. Santiago meets a baker and a crystal merchant who never undertook their Personal Legend and therefore never got anywhere in their lives.

In the fast pace world that we live today, sometimes don’t we all lose sight of our goals and objective? Further when opportunity sometime knock on the door we let it slip by because we are entrenched in a certain ways of doing things and become fearful when we are struck by hardship or unexpected turn of events. This is almost a parable to the protagonist; Santiago getting robbed, beaten and enslaved. Yet eventually when he learns to overcome his adversities he realizes how to make his dream a reality. To succeed in the new economy of today we need the kind of perseverance that Santiago displays.

3. Winnie the Pooh – A.A Milne (1926)
This amazingly simple children’s story can give you great insights on how to become a good problem solver and decision maker. Here the key protagonist is a Bear called Edward who for some strange reason calls himself Winnie. This in itself has an interesting parable that you will discover when you read this series of books. Here we have Winnie the Pooh who basically goes through the day trying to see how he can get the ‘hunny’(honey) without getting stung by the bees. In a business environment this serves a parable to the concept of giving good customer service. After all if you are in the service sector, you need to keep your customers happy as they are your ‘honey’ and naturally of they are dissatisfied it is almost like getting stung by the bees.

Thus the stories of Pooh bear are basically one about customer relationship management and how to achieve this. In recent years Roger D Allen and Stephen D Allen wrote three books using Winnie the Pooh as the key character in helping people solve management problems. The books were called Winnie the Pooh on Success, Winnie the Pooh on Problem-solving and Winnie the Pooh on Management. These books tapped into A.A Milne’s creation to use it as a metaphorical parable in to assist in the organizational thinking process.

The important thing to keep in mind when you read these books is to see how you could use the little stories within them in your organization. This will allow you to look at the issues and challenges from a creative perspective.

Dr Daniel Theyagu is a corporate trainer and seminar leader who has designed and conducted competency-based training for more than 150 organizations. He is based in Singapore and can be reached at Website: