An Alternative to "the wolf you feed"
May 28, 2020 2:43 PM   Subscribe

I'm working on a piece of writing about how a particular industry needs to have a values shift. I had thought about opening it with the well-known anecdote "two wolves fighting" anecdote, where the moral is that the one that wins is the one you feed. But when I went to look up origins, turns out it's a piece of evangelical glurge that gets passed off as a "Native American" story. I don't want any of the associations of that on my piece. So, do you know of another short anecdote with a similar moral - that you need to make a choice about which values to invest in? Thanks for your help.
posted by Miko to Religion & Philosophy (13 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
“Be what you would seem to be” ? Widely attributed over the last couple millennia.
posted by clew at 2:52 PM on May 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

Plato's Chariot Allegory might be interesting. It is similar in that it focuses on two animals representing binary sides of human nature.

It is different in that it doesn't focus on starving one of them while feeding the other, but getting them to work together to pull the whole soul toward enlightenment, which I think is interesting, a bit more holistic and fits with Jungian need to develop and integrate your shadow-side rather than trying to cut it out or stuff it in a box. Whether that fits with your point is another question.
posted by weston at 3:23 PM on May 28, 2020 [11 favorites]

American Zen teacher Cheri Huber says "The quality of your experience is determined by the focus of your attention." In more businessy phrasing, there's "what you count is what counts" and "what you measure is what matters".
posted by Lexica at 3:24 PM on May 28, 2020 [6 favorites]

The mental image I always have for this concept is "watering weeds" -- that if you water the plants you want to grow they will choke out the weeds, but if you water the weeds, what you get will be weeds.
posted by selfmedicating at 3:46 PM on May 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

selfmedicating, I've heard that phrased as "the grass is always greener where you water it."
posted by teraflop at 4:14 PM on May 28, 2020 [9 favorites]

How about what Aristotle supposedly said about excellence? (I've seen this a lot over the years and I've never seen it debunked, but I'm not in a position prove anything.)
posted by kimota at 5:39 PM on May 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

How about what Aristotle supposedly said about excellence?

David Milch rephrases this as, "We do not think our way to right action. We act our way to right thinking."
posted by dobbs at 6:33 PM on May 28, 2020 [6 favorites]

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
-Kurt Vonnegut
posted by Daily Alice at 7:35 PM on May 28, 2020 [11 favorites]

I heard a variation of the 'who wins' tale in a film - a thriller - something made in the last two years - except it was two rats - and I don't recall the name of the film. I seem to recall some baddie with a 'foreign' accent telling the hero - maybe in a setting where he was about to try to extract information - Sorry, that's as much as I recall.
posted by Quillcards at 4:01 AM on May 29, 2020

two rats
some baddie with a 'foreign' accent

Pretty sure you’re thinking of Javier Bardem in this scene from “Skyfall” back in 2012.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 5:51 AM on May 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

I always thought of this as "What we allow to happen in our organization, we choose to happen in our organization."
posted by Rykey at 10:17 AM on May 29, 2020

In healthcare quality improvement, a famous quote is, "Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets." Not sure if that's in the right ballpark, but hope it helps!
posted by acridrabbit at 1:21 PM on May 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

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