The Chicken Eagle

— Written by: Ellen Hermens
Flying eagle

Image: Jeff Ratcliff /

Or the moral of the story

There is a popular story about an eagle which had been raised among chickens as a chicken behaving just like one of them. He doesn´t fly. He picks on the ground to find his food and does all what a chicken does. In the end when a naturalist brings him far away to the top of a mountain thrusting him in the air – the eagle begins to fly just like the king of the sky.

A nice story which we tell others when we coach them to help them gain the self-confidence of an eagle. Only: are you an eagle or rather a chicken? Let have a closer look into the story…

Pictures imply the untold

If we take a closer look to the details of the story then one of the frame work which is being set up is: people are like chickens or eagles. And if I develop that further the story says: some people are called for higher tasks or can achieve more than others – namely they can fly. And other people are “only” chickens and never will be able to fly or achieve more no matter how much they try and exercise.

This also includes that there are only few people who are capable of flying and most are damned to scratch and pick the ground – because there are so many more chickens than eagles. Even if we ignore such general associations or prejudices like that most people consider flying a great skill and picking the ground as something simple. Even if we ignore that this metaphor is discriminative.

Who knows if they are a chicken which only desparately tries to be an eagle or if they are really an eagle? I think this metaphor is cruel. By the way, having these associations we give them a value: if I am an eagle among chickens then I am able to do or achieve something they never will. I am something special – and the others will automatically be somewhat less worthy.

All of us are eagles!

Why should we separate people into chickens and eagles? Why should we ask ourselves: am I an eagle living among chickens or a chicken which believes to be an eagle? I say: all of us are eagles! We all are able to fly.

But there are those who are convinced that they will never be able to fly at all. Or it may be safer staying on the ground – you probably fall out of the sky. Or those who had their wings clipped. Social pressure can cause that. If eagles like that stay too long on the ground they don´t even try to fly any more. They got used to stay on the ground. And others “adapt” by themselves into the community and keep their wings close to their back so they don´t fly. How sad.

It´s up to us: we all are able to fly. I see that persons have so many talents which they never become aware of or foster. People have so many potential skill which they never develop. I look for the potential skills and talents in people and see whcih great person they could be. We all hld so many skills in us to be extraordinary characters who life a fulfulling life.

When you use stories and metaphors

Stories are a great way to set up a framework which includes all details and not having to tell them all. Like in this story many details come into our awareness when we take very close look into the situation. Our subconscious grasps this automatically – and accepts the framework´s implications, requisite and believes. Thus storytelling is a powerful tool.

So, when you tell stories in your lectures and speeches – and I recommend doing so – take a close look into your story or metaphor: are the details, the implications, the framework what you want to convey?

I remember a business consultant who compared getting new customers with a fisher whom she shows rich fishing grounds. This picture implies that the fish are caught and eaten – also very probable against their own will. Not very nice – from customer point of view. Especially as she was looking for customers herself – I felt like a ish she wanted to catch.

I recommend: Examine your metaphors and stories and ask your target group. Sometimes we are not aware of implications they will have.


We all are able to fly, we all carry this talent within ourselves. So spread your wings!

Even if you need to run like an albatross to lift-off slowly.

Whatever you do: Fly!

(The story of “The Chicken Eagle” can be found on a manifold of different websites.)

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