An Elephant Never Forgets

An old acquaintance – Prateek – sent me a gem of an anecdote, disguised as a forwarded email:

A number of years ago, I had a fascinating experience during the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus. I was able to walk around looking at the lions, tigers, giraffes and all the other circus animals. As I was passing the elephants, I 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. I saw a trainer near by and asked why these beautiful, magnificent animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away. “Well,” he 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 think the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”

I was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they could not, they were stuck right where they were.

Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hanging onto a belief that we cannot do something, simply because we failed at it once before? How many of us are being held back by old, outdated beliefs that no longer serve us? Worse, how many of us are being held back by someone else’s limiting beliefs?

Ever so often, I find myself helping out a friend or a family member discuss the prospect of beginning something new.  Having taken a number of “risks” in life, I do not share their fear of failure.  And it is often frustrating to see perfectly-able people waste away their lives in pursuit of activities that do not interest them… only because they don’t think they can follow their heart’s desires… chase their dreams.

I only wish more of them knew of the Elephant story.  Maybe, just maybe, it would make a difference…

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3 Comments

  1. A stirring account of the restraint on the elephant and its disinclination to move away…it pushes me closer to chase my …

  2. The perspective is unique, the other half of the unfilled cup. Victims of the system, be it a chained elephant, or an false advertisement that says a lie told a thousand times is truth.Call a person a superhero, or a champion, or a unconventional golkie.. be sure that he would believe he is one, even with a torn ligament limping leg on a rainy day Its that we are just the victims of the system, that makes us heros or pariahs of ourself.The other side of the unfilled cup

  3. The permanace of death is mindblowing, to exist with such an equalizing force looming ever close it seems trivial and pointless to venture for anything. Our passions and drives are eternal despite the finite state of our being. It is a shame we have to die. If I could die twice, the first time I would die in my sleep only to wake and realize it was but a dream. I would go on to live a full life only to fall asleep and dream of adventures and chance to meet death before I woke.

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