“The mind is a powerful thing. It can take you through walls.”
– Denis Avey, The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz: A True Story of World War II
An important lesson you can learn from the elephant
As a child I once read about how circuses kept their elephants from escaping. Since elephants are huge containing them seemed difficult. If they got mad they could easily smash through any obstacles and rampage around.
Building an elephant proof cage was pretty impractical.
One ingenious trainer came up with a solution.
He took young elephants and tied them up with a thick piece of rope. When they tried to break free the rope was too heavy and strong. Every time that the baby elephants would attempt escape they failed.
After a while the elephants would simply assume that they could not get away. Even as full-grown adults they wouldn’t bother trying to fight against their captivity.
Psychological conditioning turned flimsy ropes into inescapable shackles.
Don’t be like the elephant
It’s pretty easy to get bogged down with failure. Over the past year I’ve faced a dozen catastrophes that seemed like certain doom.
My review writing business on Fiverr crashed.
I contracted a gruesome case of folliculitis.
Goofing off caused me to cancel a trip abroad.
There were multiple things that seemed horrible when they happened. Each of them could have easily defeated me. Some of them almost did too.
But in the end I got over all of them.
Instead of writing reviews for $5 a piece, I decided to become a copywriter. It paid a thousand times more than Fiverr ever could have.
My folliculitis cleared up and hasn’t reappeared. Taking off my shirt is no longer embarrassing.
By realigning my goals I was able to reschedule my trip and move overseas. It happened a few months later than I had hoped for, but ultimately wasn’t a huge deal.
The difference between failure and the fear of failure
Doing bad at something or failing isn’t the end of the world. You’ll recover. It might take a month or a year, but you’ll bounce back.
Thinking that you’re going to fail is a bigger problem. Unless you actively work to face your fears you’ll never be able to overcome them. You’ll be the elephant stuck at the circus with nothing but a flimsy piece of rope standing between him and his freedom.