Friday, August 10, 2007

Is There an Elephant in the Room?

This week I read an interesting story from Bobb Biehl’s book Masterplanning (2). He illustrated a point from his story about how people’s words “stake” us down and we become paralyzed in life. Let me quote his story about going to the circus:

When we got there, it was hot, dusty, windy day at the fairgrounds where the circus was playing. We moved props from one of the three rings to the next, helped in any way we could, and generally got dusty, dirty, hungry, and tired. During one of the breaks, I started chatting with a man who trains animals for Hollywood movies. “How is it that you can stake down a ten-ton elephant with the same size stake that you use for this little fellow?” I asked (the “little fellow” weighed three hundred pounds.) “its easy when you know two things: elephants really do have great memories, but they aren’t very smart. When they are babies, we stake them down. They try to tug away from the stake ten thousand times before they realize that they can’t possibly get away. At that point, their ‘elephant memory’ takes over and they remember for the rest of their lives that they can’t get away from the stake.” Humans are sometimes like elephants. When we are teenagers, some unthinking, insensitive, unwise person says, “He not very good at planning,” or “She not a leader,” or “Their team will never make it,” and zap, we drive a mental stake into our minds. Often when we become mature adults, we are still held back by some inaccurate one-sentence “stake” put into our minds when we were young leaders.

Let’s remove those stakes that have held us back too long.

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