Juggling Elephants

Every once in a while you go through a phase where everything intensifies, where you go from managing the normal daily details to juggling what feel like elephants. It typically goes something like this: your workload increases, you feel the weight of the world on you and things seem to come at you from every direction; at every turn is a new demand and signs of relief evaporate like mirages in the desert as soon as you move in their direction.

There was an old commercial for the portmanteau-named “Calgon” bath and beauty products where an overworked person finally happened upon the straw the broke the camel’s back and exclaimed “Calgon, take me away!” The food in the oven was burning, the kids were yelling, the phone was ringing and then someone knocked on the door. The next scene showed the woman relaxing in a Calgon bubble bath. Effective marketing.

Unfortunately a bubble bath doesn’t cut it when the juggling moves from the easily manageable minutiae of the quotidian to the handling of elephants. Big projects, short deadlines, high demands and even higher stakes. These are the times that separate the men from the boys, the victims of circumstance from the masters of the universe. These are the times that test what you’re made of, that push you to your limits and that force you to reach deep down to stay on top.

I love these times. I wouldn’t wish them on anyone, neither would I like to be caught in them indefinitely, but when they do come along I never fail to recognize and appreciate the enormous potential for progress and development inherent in them. That said, recognition and actualization are two different matters entirely. Anyone can see the potential but few it seems possess the ability, character and perspective to move safely and swiftly from seeing the potential and taking it to the bank.

The times I’ve failed to connect the two typically came because I did not trust myself enough, where I questioned my abilities or doubted the faith others had in me. I make it a point never to blame my resources or those who went through it with me, because at the end of the day I only have control over myself. That said, I do take the opportunity (invariably made available by the temporary increased in pressure) to help those within my sphere of influence rise to new levels in their expression, but blame…never.

When these times come upon you, have no fear. Meet each matter with the full force of your attention as it comes onto your radar. Delay, procrastination or hiding during these times is deadly. Avoid internalizing the pressure; share the load as possible. Get rest when right for the cycle. Stay calm; frenzy, panic and doubt are your greatest enemies.

One final point: when these times are upon you, never go to someone who will agree with how badly off you feel, how unfair the situation seems or how unlikely it is that you will make it through in one piece (without an elephant landing on you). Instead, seek the counsel of those who will push you to excel, those who refuse to give you an unhealthy escape mechanism and those who will demand that you give only your finest.

If you don’t have someone like that in your corner, drop me a line. I’m happy to point you in the right direction.

6 thoughts on “Juggling Elephants

  1. Zach

    These type of times can be tough, but they’re so exciting! I think my usual tendency is to procrastinate, or in other words paralysis by analysis. I have found that the ticket out of that is to just start. Start anywhere. The nature of the high-pressure scenarios is that once some momentum is made, progress comes quickly, and pretty soon there is no more procrastination because you get in the moment.

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  2. Brad

    “masters of the universe”…takes me back!
    Great post!…and timely!! just getting to my response now because I’ve been juggling elephants solo all day – just wised up and asked for help….ahhhhh!

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  3. Steve Ventola

    Thanks Gregg,
    I gather that it great to appreciate those juggling elephant times as well as those times where the intensity is not as intense. Just to have a spirit of appreciation for the life we have puts us in position to move with the rhythms that present themselves in our lives. There was a notably quote by one of the NYC workers who is part of the massive hurricane cleanup for the subway system where he said we will roll with it and get things done.

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  4. Chuck Reddick

    Thanks Gregg for reminding me that the times in my life that I was the most creative and inspired (and hopefully inspiring to others) were those blessed times in my life where it seemed that all I had were elephants to juggle. Pressure is wonderful and we should embrace it instead of repel it, for it is one of the elements that can lead to greatness.

    And your advice about the type of agreement one seeks is right on – life changing actually, one way or another.

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  5. Lady Leo

    I certainly can identify with your thoughts. I never think of giving up. I say to myself, “If you don’t do this thing yourself, it won’t get done. You are the safety net.” I do consider the strain on myself and look to support it with whatever rest is possible and also eating as well as I can. I ascribe to the thought (and I’m not sure if this is true ), if it’s come to me, it’s mine to do, so I must also be able to handle it. And I’ve always thought the only way to eat an elephant was a bite at a time; so I also will try to see my situation as a task list as much as possible. I have also been blessed with companions that see tough times as the time to ally, not scatter. I agree that blame is counter productive. It’s the pressure release valve that will most often dissolve resources.

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