Episode 002: The Elephant and The Rope
The Elephant and The Rope
As a man was passing the elephants, he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at any time, break away from their bonds but for some reason, they did not.
He saw a trainer nearby and asked why these animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away. “Well,” trainer said, “when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”
The man was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.
The Insights and Takeaways
I love this story for so many reasons, but I want to dive deeper into two crucial take-aways that I get from listening to this story. The things we experience when we are young and the power of belief.
The first is how crucial experiences are when we are young. From birth, we are comparable to sponges: absorbing information at all times and continuously developing our skills, thoughts, and beliefs based on the experiences we go through. I currently am doing post-graduate service work by volunteering at a high school. One senior student that I’ve had the pleasure of working with, let’s call him Jeremy, has such a vibrant and humorous personality. Jeremy can light up any room that he walks into. Unfortunately, when it came to academics, he had no desire or drive to succeed or learn. This confused me and so I talked to him. I found out quickly what his “rope” was.
Growing up, his father did not make much money. Jeremy just started a job in the summer and continued working throughout the year and was making money similar to that of what his father made while growing up. His rationale was, why do I need school if I can make the same amount of money as my dad without a high school diploma? Jeremy’s “rope” was his tunnel vision that convinced him to think that the amount of money he made compared to what his father made should dictate the need or lack thereof for education, knowledge, and enriching his own mind. As a result, Jeremy is choosing to not break that “rope” because that’s what he knows. I’ve been working with him to turn his perspective around and show him how a simple mindset shift could allow him to break free from his “rope” and access all of his potential. A person’s upbringing is so crucial to the development of personal belief and limitations especially in this day and age.
This leads me to the other concept that I explore every time I listen to this story. The power of believing in yourself. Our minds control and influence every aspect of our everyday lives. Sometimes the mind works for us: for example, we as humans can bite our fingers off and the effort involved is comparable to the effort needed to bite a carrot. That’s insane! I’ve tried it, but I just can’t do it. It’s because my mind is protecting me. It’s helping me out and saving me a trip to the hospital.
Unfortunately, our minds don’t always work in our favor. I know it happens to me a lot. Even starting this podcast, my mind worked against me almost immediately. It continuously filled my head with thoughts of doubt, failure, and disappointment. I’ve already done more than 100 takes and it’s only episode 2. I keep failing, mumbling, failing, and slipping, but I keep trying. We have to remember that even if we fail once, we must persevere and keep pushing forward. In order to overcome these thoughts, I had to believe in myself. If we forget to believe in ourselves and our own capabilities, we will quickly burn out and be victim to these imaginary “ropes” that we place on ourselves. Like a full grown elephant, we have so much strength and so much potential, but without the belief in ourselves, we won’t be able to break free from our own restrictions.
Now I want to take this time to challenge you. I want to challenge you to think of what “ropes” have you placed in your life. Maybe you don’t even know that they are there, but the goal is to identify them and then break free of them. Believe in yourself and attain your maximum potential.