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Lead a horse to water

[ 2009-02-06 11:33]     字号 [] [] []  
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Lead a horse to water

Reader question:

What does this headline – Bank lending: You can lead a horse to water… (MarketWatch.com, October 15, 2008) - mean?

My comments:

It means it's not easy to ask banks to start lending simply because government money is being put into them.

In America, for example, hundreds of billions of dollars of government money have been given to the banks, to save the banks from bankruptcy and to encourage banks to start lending again. But under the current circumstance of doom and gloom, banks are reluctant to lend and the government, of course, can't force them to do it.

So there, pessimism persists.

"Lead a horse to water" is the idiom in question here. It refers to the age old proverb “you can lead a horse to water, but you can't force him to drink.”

That is to say, opportunities notwithstanding, it's up to the horse, or by implication the men or women involved to take the initiative. In other words, the desire or motivation has to come from within.

I remember watching Marilyn Monroe – The Final Days, a documentary about the Hollywood star of half a century ago and in it, the daughter of Monroe's acting teacher praised the actress, saying that it was remarkable for Monroe to take acting lessons because Monroe was the biggest star of them all. You can lead a horse to water, she said, but you can't make it drink. Monroe genuinely wanted to learn because she wanted to be a good actress, not just one who looks pretty and makes money for the studios.

"I want to be a good actress," Monroe says in the movie. And, if memory serves, she adds:"Not necessarily on top. I don't have to be on top because many good actors and actresses are not on top."

Here are a few media examples of the proverb in various forms:

1. You Can Lead the Horse to Water...

Wait, can't the Federal Reserve and Congress act to make credit available and stimulate the economy? That's a good question. In fact, the conventional wisdom making the rounds today is that greedy banks are simply refusing to lend money.

In the UK, where the pound dropped precipitously after the government said it would spend an additional 100 billion pounds ($142 billion USD) to support the nation's banks, politicians say they are "infuriated" that banks are refusing to lend money. Here in the U.S., sentiment is much the same.

- Five Things You Need to Know: Policymakers Operating Without a Playbook, Minyanville.com, January 29, 2009.

2. Don't Just Lead the Horse to Water -- Make Him Thirsty! …We often think that our job is to lead the horse to water. You're wrong. It's to make him thirsty.

- Coaches - Building Your Business - The Trick to Making Free Sessions Work For You, EzineArticles.com.

3. Fans and coaches alike have been frustrated with the Lakers' Kwame Brown. That's because, though quick and athletic, the 6-foot-11 forward-center who was the overall No. 1 pick in the 2001 NBA draft by the Washington Wizards, has not consistently played up to his potential.

Abdul-Jabbar, now a Lakers special assistant coach, was asked if he was able to convey to Brown the fundamentals of playing center.

"It's hard to get through to him," said Abdul-Jabbar, who passed off the question to Jackson.

Said the coach:"I've called him a knucklehead from time to time. You've got to lead him to water, then force him to drink."

Added Jackson:"I've told him, 'When Kobe shoots, you've got to go get the rebound.'"

- Hem lines lead to punch lines, Los Angeles Times, January 18, 2008.




About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.