How Do You Eat An Elephant?

One bite at a time!

The thing is…. Elephants are tough.  Their hides are thick and difficult to chew through (and I am, in general, opposed to most gray foods).

Of course, I’m not suggesting that anyone adopt a pachyderm-rich diet, but I do believe that everyone needs a symbolic elephant that they’re constantly working on to conquer a long-range goal.  Here are some examples that you can use as fuel for your individual fire:

David is the manager of a help desk.  His small team takes user support calls all day, and most of them look just like the last.  Therefore the days, while very busy, tend to look and feel like one another.  Because David is ambitious and not challenged by the lack of variety in his job, he sets about deciding where his passion lies.  David is bright, and he has written, over the course of several years, a number of short stories and even some fairly creative business plans.  Ultimately, David decides that he wants to write a book that assembles some of the best customer service stories that his team has experienced over the years.  The experience proves both entertaining and productive for David and his team.  David puts up a board in the office where team members can participate in the outline development for the book, and everyone is encouraged to contribute.  This book becomes David’s elephant and is shared by everyone on the team.

Maureen really enjoys her job in real estate.  Each listing brings with it an opportunity to showcase a different home and to become acquainted with sellers and buyers.  Maureen is passionate about people, and that has led to her decision to start a small support group for women in search of career choices.  When she ‘s not busy with the back-and-forth shuffling of offers and counter offers, open houses, consulting with sellers, negotiating with buyers, and the other facets of her job, Maureen uses her significant network of contacts in the business community to help other women secure jobs and climb their respective corporate ladders.  Weekly, she hosts a gathering of like minded women where they share leads and information about job openings and career opportunities.  This is exceptionally gratifying and uncompensated work for Maureen, and she counts this as the most important work that she does.  This is Maureen’s elephant.

Jon Acuff writes in his book, Quitter, about his story of working diligently and loyally in his day job while pursuing his dream job of public speaking and authoring.  Jon’s elephant was a whole new career that he fueled and nurtured in his off hours.  He tells the story of landing at the airport after an out-of-town weekend speaking engagement, jumping in his car, driving straight to the office where he had his day job, changing in the bathroom stall, and reporting to his cubicle.  Jon’s elephant was an extremely ambitious one (and ultimately very successful).

The fact is that we all need some goals that represent the marathon in our life.  While we spend most of our days in sprints, we need that special project that challenges us to be patient, diligent, and methodical.  While we spend the day shuffling things in and out of the microwave, we need something slowly perfecting in the crock pot.  We occasionally lift the lid, give it a stir, add a pinch of salt, replace the lid, and get back to the other facets of daily life.

My first challenge to you is to identify your elephant.  What is something that you need and want to do that is sitting on your bucket list?  What is one thing that you’re not doing that represents your elephant?

My next challenge to you is that you do it.  Commit it to writing.  List the steps necessary (however long) to accomplish the goal.  Take item #1 from the list, and get started today.


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