Learning how to eat an elephant

We all have our own elephants.

You know that feeling when you’ve got something to do, but that something just feels too big to complete? You might want to lose 20lbs, or write a book, or learn to speak Spanish. It could be to renovate your basement, or sort your attic, or read every book in the Top 100 Books of all Time list.

They’re big things which aren’t going to happen overnight and sometimes you never get round to starting them because the prospect of trying to achieve the goal is just too big.

They’re your elephants.

Big beautiful, graceful things, that leave us in awe of their power, but which are so big that if someone asked you to eat one the prospect is just too crushing and so you feel it’s pointless to even start nibbling away.

But people eat elephants every day, or at least little bits of them. Let’s think of them as elephant burgers.

This approach enables us to make small steps of progress towards our ultimate goal of consuming our elephant.

If you want to lose 20lbs, then having smaller stepping stone goals (elephant burgers) will eventually, through their gradual achievement (consumption), mean that we reach our 20lb main goal (or full elephant consumption).

If writing a book is your elephant, then your burgers might be 250 or 500 words a day.

If sorting your attic is your elephant, then your burgers might be 2 boxes every weekend.

If reading the Top 100 books is your elephant, then your burgers might be a book a week.

Every elephant can be broken down into burgers. And the eventual consumption of each burger will result in the knowledge that your elephant challenge has been conquered.

Note: This analogy was first described to me about twenty years ago, when sensitivity to animal welfare wasn’t necessarily as big as it is now, so you’ll have to forgive me for the imagery I’m conjuring up.

Written by

Helping people kick start their product management career at gettingstartedinproduct.com * Product person at Watchfinder

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