Today, April 1st, is observed in many parts of the world as April Fool’s Day, a day to be wary of being caught out.
As a self-indulgence for today, you might want to sit back for a few minutes and just think foolish thoughts.
You may indulge yourself in ironic reflection about what you are doing today and where you are doing it, particularly if you are just starting your second year of working from home.
Your foolish thoughts might be comedic, slapstick, sentimental or absurd.
Or you may challenge yourself, with specific reference to April 1st, by reflecting on the question:
‘What am I doing, that I should stop doing because it is foolish?’
The origins of the April Fool’s Day may predate Geoffrey Chaucer (1343 – 1400). Scholars debate suggestions that he wrote about events taking place on the 32nd of March (i.e. the day after 31st March) in the Canterbury Tales.
Chaucer’s Tale concerns a fox taking advantage of a rooster’s vain certainty. The rooster’s blushes may have been spared if it could have heard Shakespeare’s Fool from As You Like It:
‘The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.’
Others see the April Fool’s tradition beginning in France and The Netherlands in the 18th Century. For some, the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar caused uncertainty about when to celebrate New Year. This made them vulnerable to tricksters.
The Dutch and French may have saved embarrassment if they could have heard Dostoevsky’s foolish insight:
‘The cleverest of all, in my opinion, is the man who calls himself a fool at least once a month.’
Foolish certainty and uncertainty today
A wise fool might observe the paradox that today we are living in times of both increasing certainty and increasing uncertainty.
However, we seem to be short of fools, and guidance from foolish wisdom.
As individuals, increasing certainty may obscure more valuable perspectives. It may also increase the time we work with unseen blinkers.
In business teams, foolish insights can help us enhance the open sharing of ideas, and more fully recognise the effectiveness of colleagues’ skills.
As individuals we can work more effectively with uncertainty if we understand what about it causes our personal discomfort. This happens faster where we feel psychological safety, such as when the fool has our best interests at heart.
Finally, many feel uncertain about speaking truth to power (in multiple guises), and preserving our moral stability. Both these roles were played by fools in the past.
Are coaches fools?
In her essay Playing the Fool (The Future of Coaching, 2017), Einzig observes the significant crossovers between traditional fools and contemporary coaching practice. For example, working with a coach reveals valuable behavioural insights, and broader understanding of yourself and others. These result in more effective relationships and can save a lot of time.
Distinct from the work of fools, Coaching work specifically targets helping you to reveal more of your own wisdom. It is for you, not your Coach, to decide what you are doing foolishly and whether you want to stop doing it. However, working with a Coach allows you to do so in a more effective and comprehensive way.
You may find it interesting to return to the indulgence question, to see if you learn anything more now that you have the perspective of the fool.
If you or your team would like to learn more about foolish work with a Coach, please complete and submit the contact form.