There’s a story told in Finavarra in North Clare of one Seoirse ‘Daithiúl’ Ó Cluainigh that has been passed down ó ghlúin go glúine (from knee to knee) for more than 1200 years now.
Seoirse had by all accounts lived an idyllic and uneventful life until the day of his 12th birthday.
To celebrate the occasion, his father had gifted him a fishing gaff to snatch salmon from Lough Murree – that freshwater lake beside the ocean that centuries later Seamus Heaney would immortalise in his poem ‘Postscript.’
The day of his birthday dawned crystal clear and Seoirse wasted no time in fording a bank in Lough Murree to stalk a fresh run salmon that would surely have come in on the high Spring tide the night before.
As he carefully peered down into the natural mirror that was Lough Murree he caught for the first time a glimpse of something that would prove transformational.
It was the first time he’d ever seen his own image.
And now he recoiled in shock and shame at just how ugly he looked.
It’s said in North Clare that those we need most in life appear at exactly the right time.
As Seoirse continued to process the cut of his ungainly jib a kindly face appeared beside him in the water.
It was none other than Annie an tSí, or ‘Fairy Annie,’ as the locals called her.
‘What ails you Macín? asked Annie tenderly.
‘It’s just that I’ve seen my face for the first time and I’m appalled at how ugly and unattractive I look. What hope will I ever have of attracting a girl and I looking like this?
Annie took him to her Bothán where she steadfastly set to work for several hours.
‘Now Seoirse I’ve made a mask for you that will set you apart as the most handsome man in all of Ireland. The only caveat is that you never remove the mask and look at your former face.’
The impact was instant.
Next day at the Ó Dálaigh Hedge School he was the centre of attention. Girls who had previously ignored and insulted him now fought for his attention.
His self-esteem and confidence grew by the day yet he never lost track of his character or his humility or his nature.
For years after, at fairs and hoolies and celebrations, ‘Daithiúl,’ as he was now called, would be acknowledged by all and sundry as the most handsome man in all of Ireland by the women and a sound man by the men.
And inexorably it came to pass that he would meet Aoibhín, his Anam Cara and the most beautiful and radiant girl in all of Ireland.
He dearly wished to propose to her but his conscience sat uncomfortably with him.
At all times he was true to himself and those in his circle.
On the very spot on Lough Murree where he’d first encountered his original appearance, he put this proposal to Aoibhín.
‘Aoibhín, there’s nothing more in the world that my heart desires than to spend my life with you.
‘But there’s something you need to know.’
And he told her the story of Fairy Annie and how he feared that if he removed his mask he’d revert to his former odious self and that she’d be appalled.
The cat was well and truly out of the bag now and there was nothing for it but for Daithiúl to face the music.
Hesitantly and fearfully he removed the mask which had remained hiding his dial for so long.
Aoibhín gasped in amazement.
‘Daithiúl, there’s no difference whatsoever. Your original face is exactly the same as the Síogs mask.
‘You’ve become exactly what you’ve pretended to be for so long.
• That’s the way it is with confidence. If you model it, act it, practice it and repeat it, you will become it.
• And never doubt the existence of magic and miracles. The wise people call it ‘draíocht’ and it’s forever by your side particularly in times of trouble. Invoke it today and anytime you feel down or depressed or despairing.
• Remember that a person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have. The truth will verily set you free.
‘Self image sets the boundaries of personal achievement.’
—Dr Maxwell Maltz. Author of ‘Cybernetics.’
‘We become what we think about most of the time, and that’s the strangest secret.’
—Earl Nightingale. Author of ‘The Strangest Secret.’
‘And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.’
—Seamus Heaney. Postscript.
1. What masks could you usefully don?
2. What masks could you usefully shun?
3. What uncomfortable conversations have you been putting off?
4. When will you have them?
Don Colleran complained to Reilly last week that his blog posts are too long and he doesn’t have the time to read them. He asked Reilly could he provide an executive summary of them.
Reilly told him in no uncertain terms where to go and that was tantamount to asking Seamus Heaney to provide an executive summary of ‘Postscript.’
What Reilly is doing however is a video summary of the classic business book ‘From Good to Great. Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t’ by Jim Collins. It’s a cracking book and there are at least seven strategies and mindsets that could seriously career you from ‘good to great.’
If you’re interested please email me at email@example.com and yes, it’s free.