Why You Need to be Practical, Not Clever

Updated: Aug 15, 2020

“Paulinas may be clever, but clever is not the same as having common sense.”

That's what the music teacher at my very academic girls' school used to stay - and it's stuck with me...

Common sense, practicality, problem-solving: these are hugely important skills in the workplace (and family life!).

We've tested these skills more in recent months than ever - managing through shortages, working around limitations, creatively solving problems...

And this skill is beautifully illustrated in this week's edition of my #SummerStories: the King and his Shoes.

(To read previous weeks' #SummerStories, click on their titles below:

A very long time ago, in a time before shoes had been invented, a newly-crowned King in a Kingdom far, far away, had an exciting, new idea:

he wanted to visit every corner of his kingdom to meet his people.

His wife, the Queen, thought this was a wonderful plan.

Rulers need to know their kingdom and people intimately, in order to rule them well.

So they decided she would stay to rule the Kingdom while he was gone.

And he set off, with the Queen waving her handkerchief from the tallest tower of the castle to wish him well.

The King took with him a small retinue: a royal advisor, a bodyguard, and a donkey carrying their luggage, including a stool.

They walked together, barefoot, along the rough and dusty path, out into the kingdom.

When they reached the first village, the royal advisor set up in the stool in the centre of the village for the King to sit on, and announced his arrival with a loud blast on his trumpet.

The villagers gathered around cautiously, not quite knowing what to expect.

Rather than shouting at them, or demanding more taxes, the King asked them questions about their lives, their crops, and what they needed - and he listened carefully to the answers.

He was a good King.

This pattern continued: the three walked together, barefoot, along the rocky paths around the Kingdom.

At every village, the King asked the villagers about their lives.

The royal advisor took notes.

The bodyguard guarded, but discreetly.

And every time the group moved on, the villagers looked at one another, surprised, but grateful, that their King had actually been listening to them.

After three hard months of travel, the King, his advisor and his bodyguard had walked every rocky path in his Kingdom, visiting every village - it was time to return home.

The weary, footsore travellers walked slowly along their final road, back to the Castle where the Queen was waiting.

The Queen had been ruling alone, wisely and well, while the King was gone.

But now she welcomed them all home, and took her husband off for a hot bath and a good dinner.

Over dinner, they talked of the King’s journey.

He told her stories of the places he had been, and the people he had met.

They discussed the lessons he had learned, and the plans they would make to respond to the needs of their Kingdom.

It was very clear how useful the King’s journey had been.

“Darling, it seems to be that this should not just be a one-off. I learned so much! And it’s important that we find out whether the actions we will take actually do address the problems of our villagers.”

The Queen agreed immediately.