Stronger Than We Know

Years ago, I read an article in Fortune Magazine where a successful businessman talked about the best lesson he'd ever learned. He was in India, I believe, walking by a large elephant tied to a small stake. He asked the elephant trainer why the elephant didn't pull the stake out since the animal had more than enough strength to do it. The trainer explained that to keep baby elephants from walking off, they are tethered to stakes. They try to break away, but can't. By the time they're full grown they've stopped trying. This full-size elephant didn't know his own strength. It's one of those ah ha stories that makes me grab my heart and wonder, where is that true in my life? Where am I stronger than I know? I can get obsessive about this and say, well, Joan, if you were more organized in your life — if you hadn't flunked ballet when you were three — if you hadn't let your mind close up one day in honors geometry…

There are greater, deeper stakes in my life that need yanking, to be sure. And I try to imagine what would happen if just for a moment I threw back my head, roared through my trunk, took a big step away and the stake popped up from the ground. I don't normally think of myself as an elephant person, although I have an earlier blog (Toys in My Office) where I discuss the symbolism of a balancing elephant toy. But there's something stirring about freedom being one yank away — not a hundred yanks, or years of yanks, but one proud, boundary breaking yank of power. I love that. May we summon our strength and yank up the old stakes that can no longer hold us bound.
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