“The barrier between success is not something which exists in the real world: it is composed purely and simply of doubts about ability.”
-Franklin D. Roosevelt
Do you ever get discouraged by barriers that hold you back from what you want in life? Have you ever felt like you simply cannot overcome an obstacle to your success?
Let me explain by introducing you to a friend.
Wally, is an African Bush Elephant, and these creatures are the true kings of the jungle. Thirteen feet tall at his back and 16,000 pounds, he is unstoppable to all in the wild. And just to give perspective, he weighs as much as one hundred people!
Wally, however, is a circus elephant. He is one of the many entertainers that you watch when you go to a Barnum & Bailey show. And he is an incredible entertainer. Because elephants are so smart, they can learn to do incredible stunts. Wally seems to have a good life on the outside, but there is a different reality behind the scenes.
When Wally is not doing his tricks, he is in the back area of the circus tent. One would expect him to be locked away in a big cage with massive steel bars, but actually, Wally is tied down by a small rope attached to a peg in the ground.
But how? One might ask, “He’s the king of the jungle!?!? He can walk through brick walls and flip over trucks. How can a small rope hold him down?”
Wally has been programmed.
When he was a baby elephant, he weighed only about two-hundred pounds and was far weaker. At this time, trainers wrapped a very strong rope or chain around his leg that he physically could not break out of.
Then the trainers would take a training stick, shaped like a nasty hook, and hit the baby elephant.
Wally tried as hard as he possibly could to get out, but he simply could not break out of the thick ropes or chains holding him down—after all, he was only a baby.
After repeating this process enough times, the baby elephant decides that he absolutely cannot break out of what is tied to his leg. And soon enough, the trainer can replace the thick rope or chain with a small rope. And the elephant will not try to break free.
He now knows that he cannot break out.
Well, at least he believes that he can’t—so it becomes the truth.
This process of programming is so powerful that these powerful creatures have been known to burn alive inside of a burning tent because they were held down by this small rope.
All Wally ever had to do was move his leg over a bit—just take that first step. But he did not.
This is the same process that happens to us in our childhood. When a child is brought into the world, he or she has unlimited potential. That child has no sense of her limits. Then comes life. Between birth and the seventeenth birthday, the average child hears the word “no” 50,000 times. To be fair, many of these “no’s” are to protect us from danger. “No, don’t touch the stove.” “No, don’t do that.”
However, there are many other “no’s” that sound more like, “No, you can’t do that.” “No, you’re not good enough to do that.”
Even good parents fall into the trap of creating illusory limits for their children.
By the time we are adults, we have a very clear sense of what we can and cannot do. We have been programmed—and it does not empower us. It holds us back.
Looking at your barriers to success, think briefly about how real they actually are. I challenge you to compare yourself to Wally, the circus elephant who is held back only by a rope that could easily be broken.
Could you simply take a first step to bashing through your barriers?
Written by Marc Wayshak, empowerment expert and motivational college speaker.