Solve this Riddle and Challenge Your Leadership Perspective

Alert! There is a free gift offer at the end of this post, but you have to read the entire post to get the free gift. Not really. You could go to the end and get the offer code, CLICK HERE and just get your free gift. But then you would miss a really cool riddle and some salient leadership stuff that might help you be more productive. 

Here is the riddle:

Three travelers were on a journey when they checked into a cut-rate hotel. The clerk at the desk told them there was only one room left and the price was $30 for the night.  Exhausted, the travelers took the room and each gave the clerk a $10 bill.  The next morning the hotel manager was reviewing the guest list and noticed that the night clerk had actually overcharged the travelers for the room. The published room rate was $25, and having just been to a leadership workshop on Building Character In Leaders, he asked the Bellhop to get five $1 bills out of the drawer and to refund the travelers the $5 difference. On the way to the travelers' room, the Bellhop realized that five is not easily divisible by three and not having been to the Building Character in Leaders workshop decided to give each of the travelers $1 and stick the remaining $2 in his pocket.

Now, you realize that $9 times three travelers is $27 plus the two dollars that the Bellhop put in his pocket equals $29.

Question: Where did the other dollar go?

Reflection is such an important part of leadership.

As organizational leaders, we find ourselves in the midst of some pretty busy times these days.  "Crazy busy” is actually what Dan called it in a workshop I led yesterday. The end of the year finds us trying to cram a lot of activity into not-so-much space. On the personal side, there are holiday parties, kids' school programs, last minute travel preparations, and gift purchase fill our minds. On the business side, there are year-end performance reviews to complete, development planning discussions to have, and planning meetings to hit the ground running in January.

 It just feels like there is not enough time to get everything in, let alone find space for personal reflection.

In fact, many of you might say, “Come on, man, there is no way I have time to rest and reflect!  I’ll do that down the road...”

And then you realize you won’t. 

Because January will be just as crazy as December and February just like the two months that preceded it.

So What Is A Leader to Do?

This is a question I get asked a lot in my executive coaching practice.  “I have so much that I need to do, I don’t have time to do anything else.” and then the question comes…”So, Scott what should I do about this?”  And you can see the trap we fall into.  We think that doing something is going to get us out of the crazy.  

Now I am not going to discount things like better planning, and prioritizing important over urgent work.  There are some productivity hacks that might help some folks.  But most of the leaders I work with are “hacked out” of productivity. Everything they are working on is important. So now what.

Here is my advice:  Work less and think more.


I recently ran across a two-year study out of Sweden that experimented with a 6 hour work day instead of a traditional 8 hour day for nurses at a care facility in Gothenburg. Here are some of the researchers' conclusions regarding the nurses who worked fewer hours:

  • They were less tired
  • less sick
  • had more energy coming home 
  • increased time to do activities 
  • got an average of 7 hours of sleep a day versus less than 6 hours a day for nurses working traditional hours. 
  • even their blood pressure was lower than the average for all professional women in Sweeden.

So maybe you can’t get your supervisor to agree to a 6 hour work week. I get it. 

The question becomes, what can you do?

Try This Simple Step

The assumptions you are using to create your reality can’t all be valid if you can’t get everything done in the allotted time. You are telling yourself that all this craziness is normal and this is the cycle of thinking you need to break. 

But you don’t even have time to think about how to change. You are right! You don’t have the time!

You have to make the time! And I am going to give you a free gift that you can use when you make the time.

More on that in just a minute, but first the answer to the riddle: 

Answer to The Refunding The Travelers Riddle

Have you figured it out? 

If you follow the math as I originally laid it out there is a $1 that seems to be missing.

But that is because I gave you a faulty assumption.  

Each of the travelers indeed would get a $1 refund and the Bellhop put the $2 in his pocket. 

You do not add the $2 from the bellman, you subtract it from the total.  So 9 times $3 refunded reduces the price of the room to $27 dollars and when you subtract the $2 the bellman kept you get the $25 price of the room.

Faulty assumptions are at the root of many leadership issues.

What Faulty Assumptions Are You Making?

I wish I had some pixy dust or a magic wand to help you answer the above question. I don’t

But what I do have is a free gift that might be of value.

I have written The Minimalist Guide to a 4-Hour Personal Leadership Retreat and it is yours absolutely free if you CLICK HERE and enter this promo code below when you checkout:


It is my gift to you. While I don’t have the answer to what leadership assumptions you are making that are not serving you well right now, you do. You just have not MADE the time to think about what they are.

The Minimalist Guide was developed so that when you MAKE time for yourself to reflect on your personal leadership, you will have some structure to help you along the way.

If you decide to take the challenge and make some time for yourself and use the guide, drop me a note and let me know what you learned. I love hearing from you. I promise if you send me a note, I will read it and reply to it personally.