Domesticating an elephant sounds like an unenviable task, but it’s actually simple. All it takes is a chain, a metal collar, and a stake.

The collar is attached to one end of the chain, and it goes around one of the elephant’s legs. The chain’s other end is attached to a stake in the ground. The elephant pushes, pulls, runs, and tugs against its chain, but it can’t break free.

Now, stay with me … I know this all sounds a bit garish, but as you’ll see, there’s an important similarity here.

Let me point out that all this happens when the elephant is young. A baby elephant is still large by most standards — usually 200-250 pounds — but not large enough or strong enough to break its chain.

A fully-grown elephant could break that chain with barely any effort. Yet, the crazy thing is, that same exact chain keeps the adult elephant in place. Why?

Because the elephant doesn’t even try to break free anymore.

The sad truth is that the elephant’s failure to break the chain is too deeply rooted in its mind. Now, as soon as that collar goes around its leg, it no longer tries to break free.

In reality, the chain itself isn’t stronger than the elephant. The way the elephant mentally associates the chain with failure is.

Are You Like the Elephant?

Almost all of us go through this at some point. We form mental blocks and place limitations on ourselves that prevent us from reaching our goals. Essentially, we bind ourselves with an imaginary chain.

How have you shackled yourself? Do you believe you can’t quit your day job? You can’t make a living as a writer? You can’t approach certain clients?

Just like the elephant, it’s our past experiences that cause us to hold ourselves back. Maybe you reached out to a handful of prospects early on and none of them hired you. Or maybe you submitted a Spec Assignment or two and didn’t win. Now, you believe that rejection is the only possible outcome, so you don’t try anymore.

Forget Failure and Focus on Growth …

The elephant’s problem is it remembers its failure too well. It’d be better off with a shorter memory. Instead, it’s so wrapped up in believing it can’t break the chain that it misses a BIG development — its size!

The one thing the elephant ignores is its growth. It’s gone from the size of an above-average sized man to the size of a tank, with the strength to match.

Are you ignoring your growth when allowing your imaginary chain to hold you back?

Your growth won’t be so glaring, because you won’t see it in the mirror. But I bet it’s there. Just ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I write regularly (even just for fun)?
  • Have I taken any writing or business courses?
  • Have I gone to any conferences or participated in webinars related to writing?
  • Do I follow any professional writers or participate in group discussions through social media?

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, then guess what?

Your skills have grown.

And knowing most writers, even when they’re holding themselves back from things like looking for clients or developing their business, they almost all write regularly and love taking courses to increase their skill set.

The bottom line is that what’s happened in your past doesn’t have to dictate your future. Even if you’ve been unsuccessful before, you’re always getting better. Every time you put pen to paper or type away at your keyboard … every time you read an article or work through a program … every time you engage with and get ideas from your writing connections … you’re a little better than you were before.

Now, just imagine you’re the elephant.

Maybe you’re still the baby elephant right now, desperately struggling to break free. That’s okay, because it’s only a matter of time and work. All you have to do is keep practicing, keep learning, and keep trying. If you do those things, there’ll be no stopping your growth.

Then again, maybe you’re already the fully-grown elephant. You just need to recognize your growth and forget anything that’s held you back before. Now, you’ll finally realize you’re ready to rip that chain from its stake and dash away to the freedom of the writer’s life.