The self-assured leader's handbook to exponential fulfillment
Presented by Oliver Villwock.
Oliver is a life coach and author on a mission to empower heart-centered leadership.
His work fuses the human heart, contemporary entrepreneurship and ancient and modern technology. His clients are pioneers in arts, business and spirituality.
Elephant in the circus
I must have been in my final year of elementary school – maybe nine or ten years old – when a travelling circus passed by my quiet rural hometown. As we went to see the performance, I was giddy with excitement.
I prayed that the circus staff wouldn’t call on me in order to demonstrate some sort of trick; the thought alone caused my guts to wrench and my face to flush a shameful red. Lacking confidence in my ability to turn myself invisible as needed, I would probably have declined to go – if it were not for the animals. The prospect of seeing a live elephant gave me the needed incentive to confront my fears.
As the curtain dropped, I was awe-struck.
The elephant was huge.
Legs like trunks.
Ears like sails.
So powerful – and, to my surprise, chained to a comparatively tiny iron rod.
Some time into the show: “dad, why doesn’t she just break free?”, I asked with big eyes, pointing in the direction of the animal.
“She has been trained not to,” came, matter-of-factly, the response.
“Wait… how do you train such a big elephant to stick to such a tiny pole? She hardly has space to walk”, I inquired. I was hoping they had not been cruel to the gentle giant.
“I will tell you when we’re home and it’s more quiet. Let’s watch the fire show now, look, they’re coming!”
I could not quite focus. Amidst the spectacle, my attention kept nervously darting back to the elephant: each one of his legs would have been plenty to kick the pole aside and claim his freedom – and cause quite the kerfuffle.
Just one movement.
It would have been so easy.
Fortunately, we were not seated in the first row.
As time passed, my nervousness faded, and made space for commiseration. “But.. does she not know how big she is?”, I wondered to myself, silently, and attempted in vain to send the elephant telepathic messages. “Come on, just lift your foot, and show us just how wild and powerful you are!”
Instead, she was calmly unchained at various points during the show, and demonstrated her strength by dutifully lifting different objects and trumpeting on command, before being guided back to the pole.
Later, once the show had ended, I learned how they had trained the elephant to remain in place. They had raised her in captivity, and bound her to that very same metallic rod when she was still a baby.
Back then, she had made attempts to break free, and to lift her foot.
The pole had been stronger.
And so, she learned that the metallic rod was too powerful for her. That she could not break free. That she had to obey. And even when she grew to his full stature, weighing in at several tons – she still remembered.
And so, she never tried again.
This was many years ago, and much has happened since. Now, in hindsight, I can say that I have lived most of my life just like the elephant – bound by invisible strings, attached to stories about myself that I had long outgrown, and in complete oblivion to my true power.
Deep down, some part of me had always been slightly confused about my role in the world, as if there was a knowing that the shackles that bound me were not meant for my size. However, for the most part, I had simply become accustomed to it, and comfortable – and did not even try to lift my foot and do something different.
I did not even pause to question whether “more” was available to life, or what made the difference between the people who seemed to be living truly and deeply meaningful lives and the people like me.
Until I made a discovery that radically changed my life.
The shackles are not real.
Let me share a secret with you:
Self-actualization is much more simple than you think.
Stop working harder in the confines of your prison.
Instead, just dare to lift your foot.
Take a bold step. Release the chains. Discover your freedom. Unleash yourself.
You, my friend, are a magnificent elephant.
- Oliver Villwock