The first time I was asked the question was when my daughter (Tamryn) was about to turn five. It was a question that then cropped up every year with regular monotony only to be met with the stock-same answer year after year. It was a question that long after the futility of the question and the deflection of the answer was fully understood, nonetheless remained part of the ritual of every ‘Tamryn birthday’.

The question?… “Dad can I have a pony?”

The answer? (One that had a diminishing effectiveness with the passage of time) “Of course you can…when you turn 30”. It was a smart answer that satisfied all parties; well at least it did for a while!

This year Tamryn turned 30 and the trap has been sprung!

If you don’t believe in serendipitous answers to some of life’s toughest questions then maybe what I am about to share will help sway you.

A few months prior to ‘D-day’ I was reading Terry Prachett’s wonderful book Nation. Prachett is one of those authors who have the unique gift of unlocking the imagination and transporting the reader to entirely different worlds. His use of words brings to life the unimaginable and gives form to shapeless ideas, creating new worlds in the process. It is magical and a study all in of itself.

But I digress.

And so it was while reading Nation that I encountered the following that immediately provided an answer to the giving of a pony:

Her mother had been alive then, and had suggested a pony (for her birthday), but her father had laughed and bought her a beautiful telescope saying. ‘Of course she should watch the stars’…Who’d want a pony when you can have the whole universe? It was far more interesting and you didn’t have to muck it out once a week.

There you have it. Serendipity in action!

All at once the answer to my dilemma was right in front of me: Buy Tamryn a telescope for her 30th birthday. Of course she would also need her own copy of Nation in which this passage would be boldly underlined along with others such as: ‘You must spend your whole life asking questions’ and, ‘There is no better medicine than finding out you are wrong’ and, ‘I don’t know the answers, but a few days ago I didn’t know there were questions’

My relief and satisfaction was felt in equal measure.

I am sure many of us think that it is a pony that we want when really what we need is a telescope!

Why settle for a pony when we can be given the ‘whole universe’? Smart leaders (and smart parents!) understand that their job is to give those around them a ‘telescope’. It is to help others see beyond the horizons and live with possibilities as they explore an impossibly expansive universe. (Do you know that the ‘known universe’ is about 13.8 billion years old and that it would take something like 93 billion years to get from one end to the other traveling at the speed of light!)

So, what might be your ‘telescope’?

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