Learning from Baby Elephants

The age of the city zoo and the animal based circus is or perhaps even has finally drawn to a close. That is for the best, but that’s not my target here. I’m more interested in talking about learning and creativity.

They can teach us something very valuable here which I’ve recently ran into first hand.

And yes, in their little way these adorable youngsters and there gentle grownups have an interesting story to teach us.

Ok, it sadly involves the circus. Sorry about that, but best share the idea while we know of it.

When a baby elephant is outside of the big tent and waiting between travels, what the circus people would do is take a big stick and drive it into the ground. A rope would be securely fastened to this and the other to the elephant. The baby would not be able to pull it out and learn eventually that it had a certain space it could move, but that’s it. Eventually it stopped trying to strain on the rope.

What’s interesting here is that the Elephant’s training stayed that way. So in this way the animal fully believed that it could never escape the rope and stick, despite the obvious fact that this huge creature could now either just pull it easily or take one foot and crush it to twigs.

The metaphor is clear and I’ve certainly experienced it as a musician. I’ve come back to artists and songs that I had thought “nope, i could never come close to doing that” but I’ve not noticed my own growth.

The recent ones for me were those first artists I got into like Queen and Bruce Hornsby whose music just seemed to complex for me. I avoided them until recently when I actually found myself playing them.

I can now here what I couldn’t before. The same guy with the same instrument.

As a bassist I get this from watching (and I’m by no means suggesting I’m now his level) the video “Jaco Pastorius – Modern Electric Bass”. I’m still in awe, but when he goes over concepts I can hear what he’s saying with far more clarity. Even some of his more elaborate parts I’m hearing the idea behind it or how it works. It’s not just this ingenious blur.

I dont mean to toot my own horn, because you do it too. You’re doing it now. You’re reading a blog, when long ago you sat there mouthing an alphabet. We are all growing, in fact that is a requirement of life. We are so close to ourselves that we don’t notice. But outside of reading you more than likely have things in your life, which may be creative ones, that are in the same boat.

As person explained, I think it was Tony Robbins, imagine what you can reach is a circle, like perhaps range reached by a rope? But then something falls just outside that circle. You strain a little and reach it. Your rope just got longer now. Then another one happens, and another.

How do make this happen? Just keep going. Show up to the page and look for those things that challenge you.

You may be still trying to pull that stick from the ground, but dont worry. Just keep working at it. Your growth won’t be denied.

One day you’ll give this old circus a run for it’s money.

Have a great weekend!