What Socrates Got Right About Engagement & Wellbeing

Wellbeing Wins – 3 min

There’s a legend about Socrates that one day a young man approached him asking his help to find knowledge.

Socrates took him out to the beach and waded into the water. When they were at shoulder depth, Socrates turned to him and asked, “What was it you wanted from me?”

“I want to find knowledge!” the man replied.

At that, Socrates took him by the shoulders and dunked him under the water, holding him under for several moments.

When the young man regained his breath, Socrates repeated his question, “What is it you want again?”

“I want knowledge,” the man replied, gasping.

Again, Socrates dunked him and held him underwater even longer this time.

The scene repeated itself several times until the young man couldn’t take it any longer. At Socrates’ inquiry, he finally changed his answer, exclaiming, “I want air!”

Socrates replied, “When you want knowledge as much as you want air, you will find it.”

What does this have to do with engagement? I’ll tell you.

Our organizations are full of wonderful colleagues who aspire to contribute great things. But when they run out of air, none of those aspirations matter anymore. They go into survival mode.

That’s what’s happening in our organizations right now, with stress and burnout threatening our teams’ survival. When their wellbeing becomes compromised:

  • The quality of their work suffers
  • The quality of their service to the customer suffers
  • They may choose to exit the organization as a means of survival

Our employees are doing their part. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to protect their wellbeing.

*The video above comes from a recent “10 Day Engagement Challenge.”

Nathan Magnuson is an executive leadership consultant, coach, facilitator and author of the books Stand Out! and Ignite Your Leadership Expertise. Click to see the exciting ways Nathan is helping organizations and teams become more effective with Leadership-in-a-Box.