Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Extra Ordinary Life Lessons

You can eat an elephant.
Oh, yes you can it's true.
They may be huge but not to worry,
they aren't too big for you.

Just how can I eat such a thing
that's so immense in size?
Just look at it in pieces
and make them all bite size.

You see to look from head to tail
can be a daunting task.
Many would just give up now
and let the elephant pass.

Look at it as if you can
eat it piece by piece,
It may take you a while,
but your goal you will reach.

So, next time you have a task
that is difficult to do,
Remember, you can eat an elephant
so take a piece and chew!

I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent, reasonably educated, relatively successful and well-adjusted person, but there are some areas of my life that there just seems to be a disconnect for one reason or another. I can set goals and achieve them, brainstorm, plan out a method of attack and then follow it through to completion. However, there are parts of my life that just seem to elude the whole process. Well to be perfectly honest, not whole areas of my life, but seemingly just certain tasks or individual problems that seem to avoid the transfer. Part of this I think stems from the fact that I have a strong desire to do well anything that I devote my time and energies to, I want to "do it right" or not at all. I tend to exclude the phrase "good enough" from my personal vocabulary, believing that something is either good or it is not, "good enough" doesn't often come to life in my world.

Don't do things half-assed. If a thing is worth doing at all, it's worth doing as well as you can possibly do it. Pick out something you think is worthwhile and do it or work at it with passion. Do it with all your might. -- Hugh Young
While this may be a great philosophy and value to uphold, it is paradoxically and simultaneously both my greatest strength and my greatest weakness. When I undertake a task, I will do it to what I believe to be the best of my ability. However, this way of approaching the world sometimes keeps me from doing things that I really should do and that truly need to be done --things that would benefit from any level of devotion, even if the best is not available. The alternative approach I like to call the "Slip, Slop, Slap" method and it is one of my biggest pet peeves to see people engaging in the "Slip, Slop, Slap" on projects that I believe are important. (Just as a side note here - this is not a Bop original, but simply a borrowed phrase to which I've given new meaning, I must give credit where credit is due though. It is originally the campaign slogan for the Australian health initiative to reduce the risk of malignant melanoma in it's citizens. I first heard it several years ago and adopted it to describe a "half-assed" approach to things, but in it's orignial context it stands as a reminder for - "SLIP on a t-shirt, SLOP on some sunscreen, and SLAP on a hat" when one goes outside or is at the beach, which is an iniative I do support as one of my sisters is miraculously a melanoma survivor.)

Our strength grows out of our weaknesses. --Ralph Waldo Emerson
At any rate, I am in the process of attempting to grow and become more conscious and aware of how the paradoxical nature of this blessing/curse, that seems to be hard-wired into me, affects my life and my actions and achievements in order to hopefully learn to lessen the negatives and augment the positives that come along with it. One strategy that I am finding helpful these days is that of breaking down a formidable task into smaller, more bite-sized pieces, like how one goes about eating the proverbial elephant. I like to fancy myself a "big picture" kind of person, but I have come to realize that certain situations call for me to simply look at each section or segment of the picture individually and in doing so the "big picture" will take care of itself. Sometimes I may think that I cannot bring a particular project to the level of completion that would bring me a sense of satifisfaction because of limitations in time, energy, money or other resources and therefore avoid tackling it at all. However, I am learning that I may be able to bring just a small portion of it close to my overall vision and that, at times is "enough" for the moment.
I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do. -- Helen Keller
All great masters are chiefly distinguished by the power of adding a second, a third, and perhaps a fourth step in a continuous line. Many a man had taken the first step. With every additional step you enhance immensely the value of your first. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
So it is with new acceptance and the embracing of a knowledge that perhaps I already knew in other areas of my life, that I celebrate this week the success of completing a home project and household task that has eluded me for so long. I am embarrased to confess to you exactly what it was, as it is such a seemingly simple chore for which most people (I think) eastablish a regular daily or weekly rituals and simply "just do it" as Nike says, often in popular "Slip, Slop, Slap" fashion, to be able to simply check the item off of their "To Do" list and move on with living. It takes me longer though to "do it right" and therefore I put it off until I have more time to complete the task in a manner I deem acceptable. Then with each avoidance it became a yet a bigger task that would take even more time to complete properly which in turn caused greater avoidance -- a negatively growing, self-feeding spiral.
One step at a time is all that's possible - even when those steps are taken on the run. -- Anne W. Schaef
There has been, for the last several month, a growing, nagging desire to finally "EAT this ELEPHANT" in my life. I reasoned, I am a fairly intelligent, reasonably educated, relatively successful and well-adjusted person in many areas of my life that this shouldn't be so hard. "It's not rocket science, it's a household chore," I prodded myself. When I set my mind to do something, I know that I can do it and do it well. It was just a matter of overcoming this disconnect in my thinking. As I allowed my consciousness to comtemplate the task and no longer avoid thinking about it, it became a challenge and I never turn down a challenge! So, I began small bite by ever seemingly small bite. The acomplishment of this task became a present and gift that I so wanted to be able give myself - first for Thanksgiving, then I thought it would be achieved by Christmas, . . .New Year's perhaps? Okay, I was making progress. Even if I still saw the whole elephant in my mind, when I forced myself to step back and really, truly look at him, there were significant portions of the elephant now missing-- his ears, his trunk, a couple of legs... "I can do this," I thought. Maybe for my birthday on the 22nd? Alas, life and work got in the way delaying progress each time I set an "end date." Then, I gave up setting an end date. Although my determination grew as I was getting a little tired of finding new, interesting, and tasteful ways to cook up the leftovers: elephant stew, elephant soup, Pink and White Elephant drinks, and even Tomato Basil Elephant Ears (now these were particualrly good though). I now had a desire to move onto other culinary tastes, focus on new goals and on Sunday, January 27th I finally used up the last of the elephant -- Success!!
The elevator to success is out of order. You'll have to use the stairs... one step at a time. -- Joe Girard
Note to concerned wildlife and endangered species activists:
No actual elephants were harmed in the learning of this life lesson.


Anonymous said...

Bravo! Bravo! GREAT post, awesome quotes; I love your writing! But, you've got me extremely curious WHAT this elephant was!??!!? (Care at

Bop said...

Care --
What would I do without your comments?!?!! You always keep my ego well fed. ;o)

About the elephant, as they say in the movies - "I could tell ya, but then I'd have to ________"... Well you know the rest, don't want to be accused of making any online threats here. Hee hee, just kidding of course! I'll probably end up sharing it with you in an email sometime.