A man was walking down the street when he passed by some elephants feeding. As he was walking he saw something that made him stop. He saw 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 anytime, break away from their bonds but for some reason, they did not.
He saw a trainer nearby, walked on over and asked, “Why do these animals just stand there and make no attempt to get away?” “Well,” the 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 title of that story is “The Elephant Rope”. After I heard about this story I thought to myself, “How true this is, not only for the elephant but also for us humans. That must have been the reason my Grandmother tied me to a table when I was one. To keep me from wondering around while she did her chores.”
Seriously, that rope represents past failures, obstacles and challenges that have held us back. Like the elephants, how many of us go through life believing that we cannot break free from our ropes because of an event or situation that occurred a lifetime ago? Maybe as a child we felt unappreciated after performing in a play and never performed again even though this continuous to be a lifelong dream? We say to ourselves “I can’t do it because I’m short. I can’t do it because I’m shy. I can’t volunteer for that project because i might fail again. ”. How many times?
When I first joined TownCenter Talkers, I gave myself a rather ambitious schedule. I declared that I would complete 1 speech every meeting, or at least a month. I have not kept to that schedule.
I’ve analyzed why not and one of the issues I found is in choosing a topic. There have been many times when I’ve thought to myself that maybe I should just quit. I thougjt “What was the point?” But I did not want to think of myself as a quitter, yet. So for the past weeks I struggled to find a topic for this speech, and after three 3 years, I am giving speech 10.
There was a situation when I came within a week of quitting. And this was during the time that TCT had only two remaining members. Nick, and Myself. I looked at alternate clubs and I so did Nick. But if I did, then this would be the 3rd Toastmasters club to die on my watch and I did not want to just accept that. So I didn’t. We didn’t (point and acknowledge Nick) , and are we all not glad for that?
Think about it, If Nick and I had given up where would we all be? Another Toastmasters club I am sure but group dynamics wouldn’t be the same. We would not benefit from the knowledge our mentor is providing or having Monica as our President.
A few years ago, when my brother and I were still in our pre-teen years, we enjoyed reading this magazines we got from the local Air Force PX stores. The magazine was Reader’s Digest. Does anybody here know or remember that magazine? Reader’s Digest compiled and shorted stories already published in other magazines. My favorite section was called “Laughter the best medicine” followed by “Life in this United States” My brothers was the many recipes the magazine published. He enjoyed trying out the many recipes that could only be completed with ingredients that at that time were not readily available. Whenever possible, he would go into the kitchen and prepare a meal, I would eat it and give my opinion. My grandmother would clean-up. At our age we did not yet fully grasp the concept of cleaning up after ourselves in the kitchen. And my Grandmother was not shy about letting us know how she felt about boys wasting their time cooking. It did not help that we always got in her way. My brother cooked, I ate and my grandmother cleaned. These was our role.
One day, my brother served a dish he had prepared for dinner and he was really very proud of this. And to tell you the true, it was actually very good. I sometimes wish I remembered some of the ingredients. I only remember it had chicken and Catsup, and it was not Popeye’s. But it could have been. While everybody was enjoying dinner, my grandmother again decided to voice her opinion and this time, my brother reacted. He got up and declared that he will no longer try any of the recipes and proceeded to throw his collection into the garbage. I tried to convince him to change his mind. My Mom tried to change his mind but, he would not budge.
Who knows what he may have accomplished if had been able to get over the incident? He may have his own Michelin-rated restaurant but now we will never know. To this day, he only cooks the basic egg, rice and bacon.
As kids, we have no fear and want to try everything, we want to do everything. But fear is something we are taught. Society starts putting ropes around us. Fear of mountain lions will save your life. Fear of bugs, maybe. But we are also told to keep quite in certain situations, or that our opinions are not important. Men should stay out of the kitchen, women, stay in the kitchen. Men don’t do ballet and women shouldn’t be running for office. In time these can be ingrained and difficult to break.
So I challenge everyone to think about and analyze your situation. Are you where you want to be in life? If not, why? Is there a flimsy rope holding you back. Maybe being more active in Toastmaster and giving speeches can help you break that rope? If you have not yet reached your dream, then now is the time to break free of the rope holding you back. There is no such thing as being too late, or too old. The opinion of others matter, but in the end, your opinion of yourself matters more.
When your time in this world comes to an end, will you be able to look back as your life flashes by in front of you and can you honestly say to yourself that I tried my best to be my very best?
In ending, I will share with you a poem that I believe encompass a very view of how to conduct ones life in the face of challenge.
It is a version of “The Paradoxical Commandment” by Dr Kent Keith that is often credited to Mother Teresa.
PEOPE are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and joy, some may be jealous. Be joyful anyway.
The good you do today will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
The speech was great and was inspiring. Especially after Norman humbly admitted that it took him three years to finally complete 10 speeches. But he can now apply for his Competent Communicator Award!
I would comment though that he may want to work on his pronunciations. I did not understand some of his words. He should also emphasize words when he wants to make a point. For example “The Title of that story is the Elephant rope!”. Over all, it was a good speech.
© 2019, Norman Talon. All rights reserved.