In his autobiography, ‘Will’ by Will Smith and Mark Manson, there’s a great short story about how Will Smith learnt to follow through on big jobs. It’s a simple concept that can help you break down mammoth tasks and not get overwhelmed.
It starts with Will Smith as a young kid. Him and his brother were tasked to build a huge wall outside their father’s store. The wall had been demolished for them and it was their job to mix the cement and lay the bricks.
Every day after school they would go to the store and continue building. Laying brick, after brick, after brick.
It was hard, it was arduous, and to the two small boys it seemed like an impossible task. Months went by and they were making little progress. It looked like they would never finish building the wall.
Getting fed up and feeling the weight of the task upon them, Will complained to his brother “Why do we have to build this wall…what’s the point…it’s never going to be finished…it’s impossible“.
His father overheard him and marched out the store shouting at his two sons.
“Your job is to lay one brick perfectly on top of the other“, he said. “Ignore the wall, just focus on the brick“.
What he taught the two boys was that they needn’t worry about the end goal, this can be overwhelming. Just focus on completing the step in front of you, and do it well. Then once you’ve done that small step, take another, and another and another. Eventually you’ll have a finished wall.
How Do You Eat An Elephant?
The principle can also be summed up by a more common, but slightly more unusual phrase that teaches the same lesson: How do you Eat an Elephant? The answer is…one bite at a time.
It’s an odd phrase, but it’s a metaphor for the elephant representing a huge task ahead of you.
You can only eat so much at a time; your mouth is only so big.
Instead of getting overwhelmed by the huge task that lays ahead of us (i.e. eating an elephant), we should just focus on the next step (i.e. taking one bite of the elephant) and do that well, no matter how small it is.
By ignoring the enormity of the task, we can reduce the anxiety associated to it. We may feel like we’re going nowhere when we look how far we have to go. This can be disheartening, but this is what we must avoid doing. Just focus on the next step and get that one done well, then repeat again, and again, and again.
Forget the elephant, just focus on the next bite.
Forget the wall, just focus on the brick.
If you enjoyed this blog, make you subscribe to get an email when a new blog is released…