Thanks to Norm Amundson for telling me this story. I think that it sets out the central dilemma in career development fantastically well.
One day three fishermen went down to the river to fish. They had just cast their lines when they saw something in the distance. One of the fishermen lent over to the over and said “I think that is a person down there in the river”. Sure enough a body floated by and the fishermen jumped into the river and pulled it out just in time to save the drowning man.
A minute later another body floated down and then another and then another. The fishermen were desperately trying to pull all of the bodies out and save people, but pretty soon they were tired and there were just too many bodies. “We can only do what we can, keep it up lads” said the first fisherman.
The second fisherman suddenly stopped and said “I can’t do this any more, I’m going up stream.” The other two were horrified, “but you are abandoning all of these people. They will die” said the first. The second fisherman said, “I’m not abandoning them, I’m going up stream to find out who is pushing them in.” And off he went.
This made the third fisherman think even harder. “I’m going as well” he announced. “Where are you going” asked the first as he frantically pulled the drowning from the water. “I’m going further upstream and I’m going to teach them to swim”.
What would you do?