How Do You Eat An Elephant?
Suppose you are touring an African savanna. Your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere and your guide has gone for help but never returned. Now you are on your own.
For three days you haven’t had any food or water. And all of a sudden, you spot an elephant… What would you do? Do you run away or try to somehow eat that six-ton monster?
Ok, I know what you are thinking. Let’s make it a bit easier for you, assuming the elephant is already lying on a barbecue…
Alright, alright, maybe I have gone too far. I don’t mean to offend you if you are a vegetarian or vegan.
You probably have heard about the advice a million times: “If you are indeed trying to consume an entire elephant, just take one bite at a time”. But in reality, most people choose to run away from the animal rather than sit in front of the mountain of meat with a knife and fork.
The fact is that complex tasks or long-term projects are never accomplished in one giant step. Rather the journey to the finish line is made up of many small steps. When your mind is having trouble comprehending the magnitude of what you are supposed to do, the best option is to first break it down into small steps, then try to finish it one step after another.
Here comes another problem. After about a week, you probably will get sick of eating the same “elephant meat” all the time. So you leave, and the remains of the elephant either rots away or gets consumed by crows and hyenas. Consequently, you miss out the opportunity to make it into the Guinness World Record for being the first human ever consumed an entire elephant.
As you can see whether the task is complicated or not is irrelevant. The real problem is consistency. Just as Jim Rohn has once said,
“Everything by longevity tends to get off course.”
So obviously the problem of being consistent is universal.
How do you get over it?
This is the tricky part. No matter what other experts may suggest, I don’t believe there is a solution that is one-size-fits-all. But one thing is for sure that you do need to turn whatever you want to do into a habit, so you can do it automatically without having to think about it too much.
The good news is forming a habit is not as difficult as you may think. Let’s say you aspire to be a writer but you hate writing so you procrastinate a lot. This is what you should do.
Start something small.
Aim for an arbitrary figure like 500 words a day. It doesn’t have to take you very long. If half an hour is all you can squeeze out of your hectic schedule, so be it! Once the word target is reached, carry on with your life as usual.
You don’t have to get upset if all you can come up within that half-an-hour is only gibberish, or something resembling what comes out of your uncle Bill’s mouth when he is drunk. It doesn’t matter. Remember the purpose is to form a habit. Just give your best shot and put a big smile on your face after you have done it.
This is what would happen:
- If you write 500 words per day;
You write for 5 days a week, leaving the weekend for recuperation;
In a week, you can write 2,500 words;
In a month or 4 weeks, you will come up with 10,000 words;
In ten months, you will hit an impressive 100,000 words;
A typical novel has between 75,000 to 150,000 words. So if that is true, in theory, you should be able to write a novel within a year. You can then take the next two months off lying on the beach in Tahiti while your publishers are fighting over your exclusive publishing rights of your “masterpiece”.
Ok, maybe that is just too idealistic. I will rest my case.