Have you ever looked at a circus elephant anchored to the ground? I'd always wondered, how can this be an obstacle for that massive creature. A simple metal collar around it’s leg to which is attached a small chain. And this chain is attached to a wooden peg driven into the ground. Something doesn’t make sense here.
That 12,000-pound elephant could easily pick up its foot and with one fell swoop yank the peg out of the ground and walk away. But the elephant doesn’t ever do it. Why? Let me explain.
When that elephant was still a baby, that same collar, chain, and peg were used to hold the elephant in place. The restraint was sufficient to hold the baby elephant who indeed tried to break away.
Every day while the baby was chained up, it would pull at the chain and pull until finally a cut appeared on its leg exposing the sore sensitive layers of deep skin tissue. It hurt to pull like that and soon the baby elephant, realizing the effort was futile and painful, and finally stopped trying to escape.
Breaking Free of Your Obstacle
As the baby elephant grew older, it never forgot that bad experience with the chain and peg. And so whenever it was anchored down in a spot, it would think, “Hey, it’s impossible to break away and besides, it hurts.”
All of us have the same problem to one degree or another. We continue to make assumptions about ourselves and others every day. One negative experience often stops us from ever trying it again. I can recall countless situations throughout my life that I simply avoided or ignored at all costs. But, what had it really cost me? We will go to great extremes to avoid an obstacle and being hurt by it again.
As we’ve grown older, those hurt feelings, inadequacy, and misguided thoughts sit in our subconscious mind. Assumed restraints which we've innocently learned from friends, classmates, co-workers, teachers, and parents.
If you understand the hurt and the constraints of the obstacle, you’ll be better able to cope with your fear. Awareness grants you the kind of power that will allow you to breaking-away from the herd. Once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll be amazed at the doors that swing open for you. That’s just the early benefits, it gets “really cool” when you bring others up around you!
Really an Obstacle
I can point to countless assumed constraint in which I’ve personally experienced. Here are three of them:
”You’re not someone that’s qualified for a business loan.” I pushed every dollar I had into starting my first business. Within five years, that business had gross sale of 1 Million dollars.
“You’ll be lucky to even make the varsity cross-country team.” Went on to earn track and field All-American honors.
“You’re career assessment suggests, that you should bypass college, and work in the manual labor field.” Graduating from college and owning a handful of successful business, didn’t pop up on those career assessment results.
These are even better. Follow these three historic “assured constraint” business examples.
“The Concept is interesting and well-formed, but for you to earn better than a ‘C’ the idea must be feasible.” This was said by a Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. Smith then after went onto create Fed Ex!
“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” This was said by Ken Olsen, president chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, in 1977.
“We began by going to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we’ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we’ll come work for you.’ And they said ‘no’. After that we went to Hewlett Packard, and they said, Hey, we don’t need you. You haven’t even gotten through college yet.” This was relayed by Steve Jobs, Apple Computer co-founder, on his attempts in the mid-1970’s to get Atari and Hewlett-Packard interested in his and Steve Wozniak’s personal computer.
Let’s not put this off any longer, make your list of assured restraints right now! Begin with the obstacles that you overcame to get where you are today. Then follow that up with, obstacles that you know are blocking you from your true potential.
Until you ask yourself these questions, you’ll never really know what will and what will not work. Give yourself and those around you the gift of belief! Remove assumptions and begin exploring the facts that we so often skim over. Just as an example, stop and pay attention to what you visualize when you say a noun. Your assumption or feeling from that noun could be very different than mine. It's simply good for us to build awareness around this, it would however be ridiculous to overdo this.
I hope this information shed light on the false restraints we put on ourselves. I’d be honored if you’d share your story of triumph in the comment section below. The more examples we have, the more we'll all begin to believe!
Wade W. Bergner
Business & Personal Development Coach