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Climbing Mountains & Eating Elephants

mountain elephant

Two of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given while coming up in the fire service had to do with mountains and elephants. While this may seem weird please allow me to explain.

Whenever I was struggling with the direction I may have been headed, or had questions about my future, or just where I may be going in life one of my mentors would tell me “Robby once you climb this mountain, then you can see the other mountains you are going to have to climb. But until then keep climbing this one!” It was true I couldn’t see where I was going because I was still climbing the mountain, but he had already been up my mountain, he knew I was taking the right path so he told me to keep climbing. In the instances where I was taking the wrong path he would often tell me to “switch mountains”. Mountain climbing can be difficult, but it is also worth it once you climb the mountain. Once you climb the mountain you are on, then you will be able to look out and see the other ones that need climbing.

When I would get given a task, especially a large one that could take a lot of time, you know the kind where it is so big you almost do not know where to start? This same mentor would ask me “Robby If someone told you to eat and elephant, how would you do it?” His answer to this riddle “one bite at a time”. Again he was right you cannot tackle even some small tasks all at once you have to take it one step or “bite” at a time. The elephant you are facing could be huge but you can never finish the meal by taking too big of a bite, when you do stress increases, your attitude suffers, and usually the quality of what you are doing suffers.

These two pieces of advice are what I often say to myself, or give others when things may seem impossible. Some may be struggling with fitness and are not happy about their performance in the gym or the number on the scale. Others may be struggling with the direction their career is taking, that promotion they did not get, or what station they are at. Still others may just have difficulties at home, and can’t seem to get ahead.

First tell someone on the mountain above you, so they can see if you are heading up the right path. You may be headed in the wrong direction and are circling the mountain or you may be on the wrong mountain altogether! You may be using a chain saw and pitchfork on that elephant, when you really need to be using a knife and fork!

Do not be intimidated by the mountains, or elephants in your life, career, or department. Make a plan and attack them! Do not be the person at the kitchen table complaining about the mountain, or the elephant, strap on your climbing gear and get climbing, or get your condiments and utensils and start eating! Some mountains will be climbed fast, some elephants will be like snacks. Some may take years to climb or eat. I have been climbing the fitness mountain for 4 years! I have had some stop offs at various base camps, and have even changed direction a few times, but I still keep climbing. I have some “tactical elephants” I am still chewing on, and have been for years, but they are getting smaller every day!

So get out there and climb some mountains, or eat some elephants! If you are feeling full or fatigued make sure you take a break, or keep some for leftovers.

As usual thanks for reading, spread the word, and STAY SAFE!

 

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