Leaders and Elephants Captive by Weak Rope

Leaders like elephants can become captive by weak rope. When going through the stages of life: childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, and adulthood we encounter a variety of scars and wounds. The journey of life can provide unexpected paths. If we allow these situations to define us, they can hold us captive causing us to become ineffective leaders. It can become the cap to your life and leadership. The story of the elephant and weak rope can illustrate how what might seem like strong chains holding us hostage are really weak ropes.

If you attend a circus you might see an elephants leg tied down by a weak rope. When you see this you might ask why the strong elephant, who can easily break free from the rope, does not escape. The reason is that when an elephant is very young a trainer puts a strong chain around their leg, forcing them to stay in the length of the chain. Even though the elephant might want to and try to break free from the chain, they would not be able to due to the chains strength. They test the strength without any luck so they give up trying.

When the elephant gets older, they remember that they are not able to break the chain so even though a weak rope is now tied to them, they don’t even try to escapes or break the rope even though they easily could.

Your past harmful or negative situations can do the same with you. Even though what might have happened to you was life shattering or altering, you have the choice to forgive and move away from what has happened. Remember, the healthier you are physically, mentally, and spiritually the more effective you will be as a leader.

We can’t change what has happened to us in the past or what will happen to us in the future but we can always choose our response. Determine not to allow the past to hold you captive from the future or your potential. Chose today to become the best person and leader you can by breaking free from the weak ropes (even though they might seem or feel like chains) that could hold you back.

Question: How can a person or leader break free from life’s past negative situations?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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36 thoughts on “Leaders and Elephants Captive by Weak Rope

  1. I love that elephant story. I remember reading it in a Geoff Tompson book over 10 years ago but until today, had completely forgotten about it. Thanks!

    I personally break free from negative past influences by reminding myself of where I want to go.

  2. A person or leader can break free from life’s past negative situations first by becoming aware of where they are, including their limitations (weaknesses) and their strengths. They need to be aware of their self talk (inner dialogue) as well as of what they allow to influence their thoughts. We cannot live as islands but must seek wisdom and understanding of where we are and how we need to change, grow and move forward. Refusing to give up and being teachable are important in this process, but we also must have a firm truth on which we establish our convictions. This is a passionate topic of mine, Dan, and it’s one I am focusing on in the book I’m currently writing. I tell my youngest, who is adopted & had a really hard start to life, to learn from his past but to refuse to let it determine his future. In other words, be aware of it, learn from it, and move forward. Lots to say on this! Great topic.

    • Great thoughts Kari, being realistic and honest about past and current situations is essential.

      I never new you adopted child. I have worked with youth who where in the “system” (Foster care/now parents) for the past several years and really appreciate that you chose to do that. It’s sad to see some of the kids that have gone through such a traumatic life. I think the one of the key is to show that we care and love them.

      • The word that has gotten us through the whole process of bringing an older child into our home through the process of adoption is “consistency.” This makes all the difference in the world, and it’s actually a word that has spread to all parts of our lives. Adopting our son has been one of the most difficult and most rewarding parts of my life. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Thank you for working with these kids. They truly do just want to be loved and cared for in a consistent way by someone who won’t desert them like everyone else in their lives has.

  3. Great topic Dan. I think a key point is to understand that I am not the only one with chains from my past. I am not a victim of some “special limitation.” So this means on the positive side that I have just as much potential as anyone else. This was a key for me early on in my life. We also have to learn to see beyond and work past our current circumstances. Granted it is not always easy, but if our only focus is on the problem of the day there we will stay. We have to lead forward.

    • Thank you Jon:)

      That’s a great thing to keep in mind, it can allow us to join with other (scared) people to move forward. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schudle to comment.

  4. Excellent analogy, Dan! I guess the only thing I could think of to break the ties of old scars or anything even physical is to never quit trying. We don’t lose until we quit trying.

  5. To take the analogy a step further, visualize yourself cutting the rope! Think about what is holding you back from moving forward, what strings may still be attached to your rope??? Visualize those fears as the strings that are still attached to your rope that is holding you back, many small threads or one or two thicker strings, what ever it may be. Then, visualize yourself taking a pair of scissors or a saw, depending on how thick it is between the two sections and CUT!!!! Cut it and let the rope fall. It is no longer attached to you, you feel free. You feel like you’ve taken the ropes off of your back and you are released!!! You can do this daily if you have to but after a while the rope will be missing in your life!

    • What great thoughts Gail! Going through your suggestions can truly help (and I believe it’s such an important element). We have to take time to reflect and release our past negative situations. It’s great to hear your thoughts on this post. Thank you for reading and sharing.

  6. We have so much more power than what we realize.

    Just the other day I was tempted to get angry with someone, instead I forgave them. When I did, I felt so much better.
    By forgiving them I set myself free.
    They never even knew I was momentarily upset with them. (or at least I don’t think they knew).

  7. Excellent post Dan. In order to break free from the past, we must change our input and the voice inside our own head. We are prone to relive the past by playing tape recorders of our past failures. It’s a process that involves prayer, reading and listening to inspirational material, seeking wise counsel, and venturing out of our comfort zone.

    • I totally agree, our self-talk and thoughts greatly direct our actions and attitude. If we keep replying our past bad situations that’s what we will get in the future. Thank you for adding to the discussion.

  8. I think the leader has to test the strength of past limiting beliefs. By slowly stepping out and seeing how much hold the beliefs still have over them, they’re able to eventually break that rope.

  9. I think it often takes the help of good friends around you to break free of these things. Usually it’s my wife or co-worker who can see what is holding me back and help me to understand that I really can break free.

  10. I am currently reading the book Influence by Robert Cialdini, and there is a transferable advice from the book for leaders. Our ‘Click’ ‘Whirr’ response to life situations needs to be consciously and constantly evaluated. We have to learn to break the glass ceiling.

    How to do that depends on the nature of the fear or circumstance. How I do it is to seek God’s face regarding it, ask myself tough questions, and seek advice from trusted friends and mentors.

    • That sounds like a great book. I’m going to check it out.

      God is the ultimate source of power and strength. He is the person who can fully heal us from our past. Thank you for adding to the discussion.

  11. Really enjoyed this Dan, especially the line “You can choose how you respond.” I was talking with a good friend going through a tough time due to the death of his brother. Not knowing what to say, I simply said, “Your brother’s legacy lives or dies with you. You either carry it on or let it die with him.” He found it very encouraging.

  12. I love that you perfectly encapsulated the idea of learned helplessness in your example :) I think the best way to overcome that negativity (which often leads to discouragement) is to create a series of small wins for yourself. I think that works wonders in boosting your confidence and drive, which will make everyone around more confident and driven in you as well.