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Fear of the Unknown

An Arab chief tells the story of a spy captured and sentenced to death by a general in the Persian army. This general had the strange custom of giving condemned criminals a choice between the firing squad and “the big, black door.”

The moment for execution drew near, and guards brought the spy to the Persian general, “What will it be,” asked the general, “the firing squad or ‘the big, black door?’”  The spy hesitated for a long time. Finally he chose the firing squad.  A few minutes later, hearing the shots ring out confirming the spy’s execution, the general turned to his aide and said, ‘They always prefer the known to the unknown. People fear what they don’t know. Yet, we gave him a choice.”

“What lies beyond the big door?” asked the aide.
“Freedom,” replied the general. “I’ve known only a few brave enough to take that door.”

The best opportunities in our lives stand behind the forbidding door of the great unknown.

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  • Don McCullough, Solana Beach, California, quoted in Leadership, Winter Quarter, 1992, p. 57