How to Chain an Elephant: Breaking the Shackles We’ve Placed on Ourselves

It’s been awhile since I’ve published a guest post.  So I’m really excited about today’s post from Danny Iny who runs a marketing training program site.  Here he talks about an important lesson that can increase your motivation.  I’ve found it’s hard to achieve success when you don’t have the proper mindset.  So check out Danny’s article and learn a simple way to accomplish more with your Internet business.

Elephants are pretty powerful creatures.

They weigh in at as much as 24,000 pounds, and stand as high as thirteen feet tall.

Their trunks are agile enough to pick up a single blade of grass, and strong enough to rip branches off of a tree.

Despite their enormous power, elephants can be chained. It doesn’t seem to make sense – what chain is strong enough to hold an elephant who struggles to break it?

The answer is a small one: a small chain fastened to a metal collar around the elephant’s foot is attached to a wooden peg nailed into the ground. This holds the elephant so strongly that it doesn’t ever struggle to break free.

There is an elephant inside each of us – an inspired being of enormous power and capability. And just like the elephants that we might see in a circus, our internal elephants are also put in chains.

How does this happen?

It starts when they’re babies…

Unshackling the Chain of an ElephantChaining an elephant isn’t as simple as just putting a chain around its leg – an adult elephant would snap that chain without even noticing the effort.

The way to chain an elephant is to start when it’s a baby. You don’t even need a chain – a strong rope will do.

The baby elephant will struggle, but eventually it will realize that it can’t break the rope, and even worse, continuing to struggle creates a painful burn on its leg. The baby elephant learns not to struggle – it accepts that the limit imposed by the rope or chain is permanent, and there is no use struggling against it.

Sure, the elephant grows up, and becomes the most powerful land mammal on the face of the earth. But the chains in its mind remain, and so the chains on its leg are never broken.

The chains that bind each of us…

But wait a minute, we aren’t elephants.

We may not be able to rip branches off of trees with our noses, but human beings have learned to offset that particular deficiency with dozens of other neat tricks – stuff like language, planning, and foresight.

Surely, we know better than to fall into the same mental trap as an elephant with a chain around its leg!

Unfortunately, no, we don’t know better. We fall into that trap all the time.

You can see it whenever we speak in absolutes:

“I can’t make a living with my business.”

“I don’t know how to write a viral blog post.”

“I’m not able to quit my job.”

Whenever we take a constraint as absolute – meaning that there’s no qualifier, no “because of” or “in this situation”, we’re keeping those chains firmly in place, and never even examining the possibility that they could be easily broken.

The good news is that there is a magic word that can break those chains. I’m not exaggerating – one word is really all it takes.

Breaking the chains with a single magic word…

The magic word is “yet” – adding it on at the end of any statement that binds us will break the chain, because it recognizes that this isn’t a permanent constraint.

Here’s what this might look like:

“I can’t make a living with my business… yet.” – For me to make a living with my business, I’ll have to grow my customer base to X and my deal value to Y. What steps can I take in order to do that?

“I don’t know how to write a viral blog post… yet.” – For me to know how to write a viral blog post, I’ll have to learn more about what makes things viral to begin with, and maybe learn more about copywriting, too. What steps can I take in order to do that?

“I’m not able to quit my job… yet.” – For me to be able to quit my job, I will need to have a three month financial cushion, and secure an alternate source of income. What steps can I take in order to do that?

Adding “yet” to the end of that sentence leads to the next step, which is thinking about what would have to change, and by extension what actions will have to taken, in order for this limitation to no longer be true.

“What steps can I take in order to do that?”

This is the most important part – by adding “yet” on to the end of these statements, you can then explore what you need to do in order to change it. But you have to actually do that exploration! It isn’t enough to just know that you could change your circumstances – you need to actually take action to do it!

Of course, you may not want to bust through every single limitation – you could legitimately decide that changing some things might be more trouble than they’re worth. The important thing is to make that choice consciously, rather than being pushed into it by old and unexamined assumptions.

Okay, over to you – have you ever busted through a constraint that you realized was only binding you because you believed it was?

Danny Iny is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, and proud co-founder of Firepole Marketing, the definitive marketing training program [] for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and non-marketers. Visit his site today for a free cheat sheet about Why Guru Strategies for Blog Growth DON’T WORK… and What Does!

Take Action. Get Results.

28 thoughts on “How to Chain an Elephant: Breaking the Shackles We’ve Placed on Ourselves”

  1. The elephant analogy is so true. I think any constraint can be busted but it starts with our thoughts. Self doubt and lack of confidence kills any chance of success. It’s like asking a girl for her number. If you think she won’t give it to you and so don’t even ask, then you’ve already rejected yourself by not even trying.

  2. I just wanted to tank Danny for a great article. The elephant analogy is a great one, and I think his article is a great and easy read.

    When it comes to being successful i think we are our own greatest enemies. adding that simple “Yet” and taking steps to make the yet happen are really wall it takes (along with effort and time)

  3. I agree, this absolutely was a great article. The “yet” idea is so powerful. And I love the analogy. So often we try to attribute our circumstances to outside forces instead of focusing on what we can do to change. Love the “yet” idea!

  4. Good one, Danny. Our biding starts from our childhood because what we call “common sense” is actually based on other people’s traumas and experiences. This commons sense is actually the conventional mindset which affects our thoughts. Our habits and way of thinking influence us so much that keep us back and we can’t even imagine what we can achieve by changing them. Let’s break these chains by changing they way we talk to ourselves. Adding this “yet” is a good start.

  5. Awesome post Danny, I’ve seen the process of chaining elephants first hand and it is a relentless breaking on the spirit. By the time they reach adulthood they are hopeless, and no longer fight. I think that to some degrees this happens to humans, we stop fighting for the things we want, and embrace hopelessness. It’s sad
    This was an excellent guest post,

  6. Hi Danny, I’ve spent alot of time in India, and there was an elephant farm very near where I regularly returned to. So over 5 years I saw a baby elephant being chained , it was pretty horrible to see, but gotta have tame wild animals for the tourists right.

  7. Great post Danny!

    I have heard this analogy before, and it never gets old. It is so often that we build imaginary chains for ourselves, but finding the thing that breaks the chains is key. Adding yet to our limiting sentences is a great idea, that is the first time I have heard that one. Once again, great post!

    • Finding the thing that breaks the chain is the key, but recognizing that the chain is imaginary is like finding the lock in the first place – too much of the time we don’t even realize that the constraint is self-imposed!

  8. One of my constraints doesn’t have anything to do with business, but rather personal relationships. I feel I’m not good enough to attract someone of the opposite sex until I get my physical body into shape, and develop enough confidence.

    • That’s a hard place to be, Henway, and thank you for sharing that with us. It’s a reciprocal relationship, right – the better shape you’re in, the more confidence you have, and the more confidence you have, the more success you have, but the more success you have the more confidence you have, and the more confidence you have, the more motivated you are to keep improving. They key is to start that cycle of change… anywhere in the cycle. 🙂

  9. Great post Danny! I need to start adding “yet” to my vocabulary. I try very hard to keep positive and look on the bright side but adding that one word adds promise and hope. I’m going to start thinking that way whenever I start feeling overwhelmed.

    I just discovered Steve’s Blog today and now I’m over to check out yours. (BTW – I found Steve thru Eric Silva who followed me on Twitter today.)

    • It’s funny how there are so many awesome people that we don’t know about – I clicked through to your blog, and I love what you’re doing. I’ve subscribed, and I’m looking forward to reading more.It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sherry!

  10. Hi Danny, I agree that mindset is huge. The word “yet” reminds us that things can and do change. I recently realized that my beliefs about what I could afford to do were based off the realities of 5 years ago, not today. That opened up a whole bunch of opportunities that I was not seeing at all before.

  11. “Yet” – such a small word but it holds a lot of power here! Thanks for the inspiration, Danny.

    I’m remembering chains I’ve broken that seemed way too strong at the time. They’re usually related to technical issues like:

    “I don’t know how to set up an affiliate program.”


  12. That’s something my dad always told me when I was deciding whether to try out for a play, dance team, vocal audition, athletics, etc. he said,
    “If you don’t try out, you’re guaranteed not to make it.”
    Well, on one occasion, I really acted upon his advice. There were collegiate dance try-outs for the World Dance team. This required you to clog. I had never clogged before in my life, but I tried out anyway.
    The audition went well until we put on the clogging shoes. Then, on top of that, we had to choreograph two counts of 8. I did the best I could and actually managed to complete a Canadian double (an intermediate-level clogging step).
    The next day, I was surprised by an e-mail that began with “Congratulations.”
    I learned how to clog and had a fantastic semester doing it, and all because my dad told me “If you don’t try out, you’re guaranteed not to make it.” Take that chain!

  13. Yes, most of the “limitations” we have are just a figment of our imaginations. The truth is that we are capable of far more than we will give ourselves credit for. But guess we were conditioned to accept those limitations but, good a thing, we can retrain or reprogram our minds.

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