Can you teach a horse to fly?

The sultan of Persia had sentenced two men to death.  One of them, knowing how much the sultan loved his stallion, offered to teach the horse to fly within a year in return for his life.  The sultan, fancying himself as the rider of the only flying horse in the world, agreed.

The other prisoner looked at his friend in disbelief.  “You know horses don’t fly.  What made you come up with a crazy idea like that?  You’re only postponing the inevitable.”  “Not so,” said the first prisoner.  “I have actually given myself four chances for freedom.  First, the sultan might die during the year.  Second, I might die.  Third, the horse might die.  And fourth…I might teach the horse to fly.”  Source:  The Craft of Power, R.G.H. Siu, 1979

Wow – I like this guy’s thinking.  Rather than giving in to victim mentality, with one creative suggestion, he creates four possible outcomes other than just being put to death.

So let’s imagine you’ve just been told your job is being eliminated?  Can you propose a solution that would benefit both you and your employer? 

 We will award the 48 Days Fresh Start Package to two people with the most creative answers by Thanksgiving Day.

31 Responses to “Can you teach a horse to fly?”

  1. jurgen wolff Says:

    For the next year pay me my normal salary but at the end of the year, if I have not created at least that much extra value for the company, I will repay the difference.

  2. Charles Suite Says:

    When told my job was being moved from Atlanta to Carrolton TX and I was told I would be given a severance, I asked my boss was there anything I could do to help him through this transition.
    Well he thought for a second then offered me to go to Carrollton Tx and train the personel to do my job.
    I agreed. Upon arriving to Texas and training the personel , I was offered a job in Texas, which I turned down.
    When I returned to Atlanta all the former employees had been let go.
    However my apreciative boss offered me a job in another department, Finance ,which I gladly took.

  3. Doug Everett Says:

    I am a grocery store manager in a small town in Texas. I enjoy the money and the comfort of a weekly paycheck from this job, but my passion is remodling homes or fixing problems related to the home. I don’t enjoy the 70 hour work week and having to be away from my family every weekend and holiday.
    If I were to get laid off or terminated from my job today, I would cease the oppurtumity to go do what I love and that would be handy man work and remodling. I feel I could help people and in turn have mire time with my family while enjoying life more.

  4. Bruce W Morgan Says:

    . For those being laid off from companies that employ many moms/dads that require childcare for them to work. Suggest to company that YOU create a day care center either in a spare space on company site, or nearby. Benefits–will allow workers a more convenient child care/workplace. Reduces fuel and time for employees (a little more sleep time, ahhh). Close proximity for parent to check on child. Creates a bonding atmosphere for parents/employees. Good for company morale. This also applies to employees that may want to propose company offer this service and make you the director. Think outside the box by thinking inside your box.

  5. Sue Says:

    I drag myself to work every day. It would be a blessing for me to be let go. It would be a blessing for my company to let me go. I am still doing work I am sick of. I am on my first day of 48. I am seeking help and hope.

  6. Matthew VP Says:

    I think one solution that happens often is to become a consultant for the company instead of their “employee”. This is a win for the company because they no longer have to worry about the overhead of health insurance, retirement, etc. It’s also a win for the former employee because they can make more than in their previous position and then can use their talents/gift/abilities to consult for other companies as well. The “employee” could also conduct seminars/training sessions & provide companies with materials to help them.

  7. Cam Says:

    I work at a printing/publishing company. If I were told my job was being eliminated, I would propose to have the option of leasing the use of several of their pieces of equipment that I am trained on. At the moment, I am one of a tiny handful of people in the company who can take a book from concept to finished (perfect bound) piece and have been trained on all the necessary pieces of equipment to do it. If the company says yes (which is probable because the equipment is not used on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays) I will be creating revenue for the company by utilizing their equipment when it is otherwise not generating any income, and I will provide myself with all the equipment needed to have a small publishing house with minimal risk and minimal out-of-pocket expense.

  8. Karen Says:

    If I (as a teacher of non-native English speaking international students) were laid off, I would focus almost entirely on building my education business online and offering specialized training seminars, some in person. I would also offer books (mine and others), some electronically. This way I could be hired or retained as an adjunct as well, at one or more institutions. Technology is a key component in education and business whether on or offline, so I am currently working hard to stay up-to-date, gaining whatever training I can from my current employer. My interest in this area and taking advantage of this training has certainly assisted in the security of my current employment.

  9. Bob Loder Says:

    I would like to remain with the company on straight commission. Any work I bring into the company, I get paid for. I am aloud to maintain my current workstation (a place to hang my hat). I f I produce, we both win. If I am not successful, I’ve had office space to work from and find a new position (easier when already “employed”). Coversely, my boss had an opportunity to enact a turn-around with bodies in his camp!

  10. Ed Burns Says:

    I would offer to 1099 myself as a contract employee to fill in for vacations, sick days, maternity leaves etc. in EVERY department. Before my departure I would make an agreement to train two days (or whatever) it takes, in whatever department they fill would benefit. Since I know basically all the “in’s and out’s” of the company, this would take little time/investment on their part. It is a win/win. The company gets an experienced person with no payout in benefits and little training and I retain employment. Another win for me would be the fact that I would likely be the first person on the list for rehire should anyone leave the company within my contact period. I would also have a stipulation in my contract that states if I were rehired full-time within a specified time period that I retain my seniority from my previous position.

  11. Dwayne Thomas Says:

    I would take the lay-off and offer my services as an unpaid intern for any department in the company. This would allow me to collect any unemployment benefits available, search for new employment, maintain professional contacts I have created, continue gaining work experience, and put me in a position to be rehired within the company if a position becomes available.

  12. Lou Firestine Says:

    There are several options.
    Changing to a contract employee, 1099 reportable. As a contract employee you can contact other companies and offer your services as well. Each company would only pay for the hours they needed, and you could regulate your hours to better fit your needs as well as gaining an insight into other companies.
    Going to part time which would reduce or eliminate your benefits package but would retain your senority and foothold in the company when things start looking up again. The company would be able to retain a trained and respected employee, and the employee would have time to pursue other passions and options without starting from a position of desperation.
    And since many companies are re-structuring, offering to move to a different department or changing duties to something the company finds more vital at that time. It shows your flexibility and willingness to adapt, and you gain new skills and opportunities.

  13. Colleen Cornish Says:

    Build a bridge.
    • If your job is eliminated to save what would have been paid to you in wages; offer to stay on for 90 days, part-time, working for continued health care coverage. Propose to devise a plan for where your work would best be reassigned and to train the personnel who will handle the reassigned work. The bridge will cover your health care needs while you look for work. Possibly bridge into training with the company you have worked for.
    • If your job is eliminated because the company is outsourcing the work you’d done, ask for an introduction, recommendation or to be moved to the outsourcing company (negotiated as part of the contract) so they can benefit from your intimate knowledge of the operation. Bridge into working with them.
    • Offer to sub through the flu season, at any and all of the positions you can cover.
    — Either way, you give your employer a new picture of who you are, how you handle tough situations, your understanding of the company and of business.
    You’ll pick up new skills and leave undefeated.

  14. Grace Says:

    In a desperate move I will think exactly like that prisoner.
    I will ask the boss to let me volunteer for free to help with any other work available. In return I will promise that I have been having this idea that can help the company. Then since I do not have the idea I will get online and look at the competitors and see what I can offer my company.
    I will hope that someone gets a better job and moves out.
    I implement my idea and get a promotion.
    The boss moves to somewhere.
    The company is sold and I am retained by the new management.
    I will live on hope and hope alone at this time and think and think and keep telling myself that something has got to work out SOMETHING!!!
    At the end of the month I will have come up with my own business idea and I will go home and implement it.
    All the best to all

  15. Lisa Anderson Says:

    My school library position was eliminated in 2008 due to loss of state and local revenue. The media aide was put into this position. Research shows many benefits to students when there is a certified media specialist. So they could possibly reduce the number of days I work or have me half-time. This is a reduction but I substitute teaching so at least I would be eligible for benefits, retirement, and the students/staff/school would have benefit of a certified person some rather than none. This could satisfy the teachers union as a concession I would hope too.

  16. Candy B Says:

    The 1st thing I would do is thank my employer for the opportunity to use my gifts and talents at their organization. I would negotiate a timeframe to transition off staff that would include my providing my employer with a manual of my key responsibilities and roles that need to be transitioned to someone else. I would also request my glowing letter of recommendation.

    On my own time, I would assess where I am, my areas of passion and view this as an opportunity to transition to doing something I love. I would look at my skills, abilities and talents, my strengths and areas of weakness, the things I loved about the job I am leaving and the things I didn’t like about the job. I would build a new or revised life mission based on these outcomes.

    My employer would benefit because I would be helping transition my role to someone else with a positive servant leader attitude. And I would benefit because this job elimination would be my stepping stone to what God truly has for me. Rather than fear change, I would embrace it with excitement, enthusiasm and energy that reminds me that I am here to make a difference and now is the time! As a result of my positive approach to change, my employer would question if its best to eliminate the person and the position or just the position. Regardless of my employer’s decision, my personal self-assessment would put me in the position to determine my own destiny and opportunities.

  17. Clear Choice Says:

    While working at a national office supply chain and going to school to get my teaching certificate, I was told that because of my schedule needs for school, my job was being eliminated. That afternoon, the window cleaner showed up for his bi-weekly cleaning. With an upbeat and joking tone, I asked the manager if the window cleaner gets to keep his job since he’s apparently only available for about an hour a month.

    I offered to clean the windows for free while I learned how to efficiently and effectively clean glass (there’s a lot of glass on the front of these stores). She agreed. The manager saved money for the store, I got my teaching certificate while quickly adding other local businesses to my window cleaning route before and after school (I was already 36 with a wife and 9 month old son at home) and I built a business that I knew nothing about before that day.

    I’m now in my eighth year of teaching high school English (head of the department) and run a very profitable high-end residential window and specialty cleaning business on the side. Not only have I surpassed my teaching salary for two consecutive years by cleaning windows and chandeliers, I’ve helped three former students start their own window cleaning businesses to help pay for college. Furthermore, while my colleagues are paying for health clubs and tanning memberships, I’m getting paid to get the same results working outside.

    Without being “fired” by the big box office supply store, I’d be making half as much income today and probably wouldn’t be nearly as fit and healthy.

    Thanks, big box!

  18. Leanne Says:

    I would put together a proposal to abandon my desk-job, go out at my current salary and build relationships with potential clients for the organization. Failing that, I will have built a valuable network of contacts from which to better understand the needs of the clientele and if the organization is not willing to meet those needs, I can then create a viable business solution from that information and launch into self-employment almost seamlessly.

  19. Andy O Says:

    Well, my boss could die. I could die. The horse she rode in on could die…. JUST KIDDING.

    My solution is to go find another job. My take on job elimination is that the services that I provided are no longer valued in the company. There is no need to find a creative way to stay. It is best to cut my losses, exit as a professional, and find something better that makes me happy.

    Or, I could win the lottery.

  20. Joe Says:

    Well this is me!
    My position is being eliminated as of Dec 31st. the company I worked for was purchased by a larger company who brought me in to teach their staff how to make my products. I have been told that Dec 31st is my last day and a severance will be offered.
    Well since this decision the company has chosen to integrate there computer system to the system of the company I came from. Which means all the specification data will need to be entered into the new system. Since I have this knowledge I have offer myself as a contractor to load the system with the valuable information needed to run the system without any training or added expense. A win win situation for both the company and myself!

  21. Frank Says:

    God must have a special place in his heart for disabled children. I’m a special ed teacher and have to build communication systems for students when they have severe disabilities that prevent them from talking or even moving. There’s been many times in working with them that I felt like I was standing on holy ground. It’s a sense that God was there and really cared for the “least of these” that couldn’t speak up for themselves.

    If my job were eliminated today I would contact some non-profits to find funding and offer my services free of charge. That would greatly benefit my employer since they have more needs than they can keep up with. It would also benefit me since I feel a strong sense of God’s presence when I can serve this group of people who can’t speak for themselves.

  22. Jamie Says:

    Presumably the job is being eliminated because of duplication of work or because the key duties of the job are simply not enough to justify the salary of a full time employee. However, there is a high likelihood that there are a handful of skills or tasks that I do extremely well that will be difficult to transfer to another employee easily. I would take the following course of action:

    1. I would identify those skills and job functions that I provide that would be time consuming or difficult for management to transfer.
    2. Since they probably do not take a lot of time for me to complete (hence the job elimination), I would determine a flat amount per month that I would charge to complete the tasks on a contract basis, knowing that the time spent working might vary from month to month. In other words, they pay a fraction of what they paid before for completed tasks, not all my time spent at the office.
    3. Here’s the creative twist…I would offer to do these tasks for free for 3 months following my termination in exchange for my boss opening up his “rolodex” of colleagues, friends and business acquaintances, etc. and wholeheartedly endorsing me and my services. In this three month period I would hope to build to a number of clients that would meet or exceed my current salary.

    Under this scenario, the company wins because they pay a fraction of the cost for my best talents, and they eliminate all the expense of benefits. In addition, they get the tasks done for FREE for 3 months and save on training another employee to do my job. I win because I get a more flexible work schedule and the opportunity to build a client base that will likely far exceed my current salary. In addition, I do this with a built in recommendation from my first client and a “warm” prospect list using his/her rolodex.

  23. BillyToro Says:

    I would offer to take a 20% reduction in pay to stay on and/or get rid of perks such as car allowance, cell phone, laptop, etc.
    In lieu of a severance, I would offer part-time work to decrease their health benefits expense, buying me time to look for a new job.
    If it is a mass layoff, then I would offer to take on more responsibility for less pay.
    I would offer a relocation to stay with the company.
    If possible, I would offer to become a consultant for the company.

  24. Leta Says:

    When I was laid off. First, it starts with attitude. Keeping a positive attitude is important. The company was laying off about a 1/3 of their force. I continued to be a positive influence. People noticed! The company gave me a food box when I left; most of them did not receive one. Other employees gave me gift cards and care packages. I continued to hear from many of them and then when work picked up I was the first one to be called back. The comment made; “we liked your attitude through all of our economic downturns you were a “breath of fresh air.” I have no desire to stay with the company. While I had my 7-month layoff I clarified goals, started dreaming. It was one of the best 7-months in my life. When I went back it clarified for me that truly I am ready to move on. But, having a great attitude when things are tough can carry you far and can impact/influence others.

  25. Julie Says:

    I was laid off from my part-time job as a receptionist at a local auto-body repair shop last spring.

    The owner of the company often employed his children (he had ten adopted children), and decided to let me go in favor of keeping two of his daughters on-staff at the office (one full-time and one part-time), since money was short. I had worked there longer than both of his daughters, and was more efficient with my time in the office, but he didn’t want to keep all three of us. The trouble was, the part-time daughter was planning to move to college three months later, but he wanted to help her save up for school. Even though she was only going to be around for a few more months, he let me go in order to give her more time to save up.

    If I had been thinking fast (they told me not to bother coming in again a couple hours before closing one afternoon) I could’ve suggested to the owner that if he kept me on for the next three months before his daughter moved away, I could help her write applications for college scholarships (I excelled in writing at college).

    (They did call me back after she moved away to college, but I did not go back because they could not assure me that I would not be let go again without any warning. The job was not a necessity, so I felt it was fair to make that request.)

  26. Bobbie Says:

    First idea: I purpose to work for this company full time- just as I had in the past for first two months of the year at no pay. If by month three, you do not have the financial wearwithall the keep me and give me a 15% raise, I will leave.

    Second Idea: I will work at home for a 20% paycut and no benefits or perks

    Third Idea: Part time work- Part time pay

    Fourth Idea: Restructure my current pay to directly correlate with the revenue I am generating for the business

  27. George Says:

    My job being eliminated I would first inquire if there were any other positions available within the organization that I might be able to do.

    Second, suggest a shortened work week, two 10 hour days or three 8 hour days. Therefore allowing the employer to utilize my services and me the time to seek other full-time employment or free time to pursue other career opportunities.

    Third, offer my services as and independent contractor available to the employer and also to others in need my services.

    Fourth, if multiple people a being let go there is a possibility that another employee and myself could offer a part time work week totaling 40 hours for the two of us, offering multiple sets of skills to the employer.

    Fifth, suggest that a contractor be terminated and I can take over those duties. Even janitorial at night and a few hours a day at the tasks I am being relieved of.

  28. Ronnie Says:

    Top ten Win-Win situations:

    1. Ask to be transfered into a different department that needs help.
    2. Offer to work at home to save office expenses and travel time.
    3. Offer to go onto a commsion based pay rather than hourly/salary.
    4. Offer to call old/former clients and find out why they have not ordered in a while and what we can do to get their business back.
    5. Offer to work part time instead of full time.
    6. Offer to revamp a struggling brand or item for free.
    7. Offer to use a little used item and build it into the next big thing.
    8. Find a new use for equipment that could be sold to others.
    9. Offer to be on-call or a consultant for problems, brainstorming and future growth.

    And if nothing seems to work try this:

    10. I was planning on leaving and building my own business to crush you and all other competition. Keep me and I’ll use my ideas and we can grow this business together. Lay me off and watch my sucess!

  29. Paul Sellers Says:

    I would offer him the opportunity to hire me as a consultant to assist the company in ensuring that my duties were covered:
    1. By other people (i.e., train them to do my job).
    2. Using technology
    3. By restructuring the work flow.

    I would charge 3 times my current rate, work 2 days (negotiable) a week for 3 months (also negotiable) while I:
    1. Assessed if there was another position within the company that I could fill
    2. Find another J-O-B (using the 48 days focused search)
    3. Take the part time business that I had been growing to the next level

  30. Dan Miller Says:

    Thanks so much for all your thoughtful and creative responses here. While all the ideas were innovative and encouraging, we have chosen Charles Suite and Clear Choice as the winners of the 48 Days Fresh Start Package.

    If Charles Suite and Clear Choice will provide us shipping addresses, we will get those out in time for Christmas.

    I trust each of you will continue to come up with ideas to “teach a horse to fly” if the need arises in our own life or that of someone close by.

  31. Clear Choice Says:

    Dear Dan,

    Thank you for this opportunity to contribute to your blog and for finding something of value in my response. I was very excited to see that I had been selected as a winner, and as I was standing in the cold rain last night, giving a quote on a window cleaning job, I was smiling, thinking “I just won the Dan Miller Fresh Start Package!”

    My address is:
    Jeff Whitmire
    300 E Fairlane
    Pilot Point, TX 76258

    Dan, I first heard of you about a month ago through Dave Ramsey’s frequent recommendations of your books. I just finished No More Mondays and found it very encouraging and enjoyable. Thank you for all that you’re doing for those of us who want more than just a paycheck from a day’s labor.

    Jeff Whitmire (Clear Choice)

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