Wrestling with Pigs

George Bernard Shaw said,

“I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”

When I read that quote, I think about politics, especially office politics. If we muse a bit on Shaw’s quote, we find these elements: Experience, Choice, Pig Pen, Motivation / Goals, and Pigs.

Everyone gets dirty, but everyone doesn’t learn not to get dirty. Sometimes, getting dirty brings quick lessons and can be like touching a hot stove – an instance of pain that says,

“Self, never do that again.”

Other times it takes a while to recognize how dirty you have gotten. There is an allure to a good fight especially when we feel challenged. Shaw didn’t say he no longer wrestled. However, he figured out that doing so with pigs is futile.

Disagreeing with others is part of our DNA. Differences of opinion can be very vital to success and growth. As the saying goes,

“Steel sharpens steel.”

Here is a hack to know if you are wrestling with a pig. It is a convenient distinction between “conflict” and “controversy”.

With “conflict” you have a disagreement but work together for an agreeable outcome.

With “controversy” you have a disagreement and you try to get your side to dominate and other sides to be destroyed.

If you break down the words, “controversy” is to turn against, and “conflict” is to strike together.

With a bit of experience, you can spot the ones who have no interest in healthy discussion, debate or disagreement. They just want to be at the top of the hierarchy no matter how they get there.

It is unfortunate that some never rise above a pig’s level of awareness and realize they have a choice.
Actress and author Portia Nelson wrote this great piece that demonstrates how one typically discovers the freedom to choose.

“I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in.

I am lost… I am helpless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.


I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am in the same place.

But, it isn’t my fault.

It still takes me a long time to get out.


I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in. It’s a habit.

My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault. I get out immediately.


walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.


I walk down another street.”

We have a choice. We don’t have to take the bait.

Pig Pen
Pigs wrestle in the pig pen. Sometimes the pig lures us into their own private pen. Other times, the whole office environment is a pig pen. The trick is to recognize you are in a pig pen. It may be unrealistic to make the choice to leave the pen immediately, but honesty is a good place to start.

Motivation / Goals
There is no more important element to a life of legacy-building success than to develop at the level of our character. Pigs have no lack of goals but their lives are cyclical. They may go uphill with their career, but downhill with their character.

Don’t be the pig.


Rick Burris


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