Antelopes, Field Mice, and the Loch Ness Monster (#696)

In their excellent book, Buck Up, Suck Up, and Come Back When You Foul Up, James Carville and Paul Begalia share the following analogy to illustrate the reason why most people fail to achieve the level of success they would like:

Imagine a lion, searching for food on the African Savannah. If he goes after a field mouse, he will use up more energy in that pursuit than he will get back from eating the mouse. Yet if he goes after an antelope, even if he expends far more energy in the hunt, he will be able to live well off the fruits of his success for many weeks to come.

The point of the metaphor is that given that you will inevitably spend at least a portion of your time pursuing something, you may as well pursue something worthwhile as trivial and large instead of small.

However, in the years since I originally read that analogy, I’ve realized that while some people play too small with their dreams, projects, and goals, some take things to the opposite extreme and think “well, if an antelope is more (ful)filling than a field mouse, why not spend my energy chasing the Loch Ness Monster?  After all, I only have to catch it once and I’ll never have to hunt again!”

These are the people who try to make a million dollars in 30 days when they’ve never earned more than $10,000 in a year, or expect to become a movie star in their first week in Hollywood.  They are the ever-hopeful self-help authors for whom I want to write a book entitled Getting on Oprah is Not a Business Plan and who spend their time and seed money reading online marketing letters headlined “I Caught the Loch Ness Monster in my Spare Time… and You Can Too!”

Now, if you’ve been chasing a Loch Ness Monster of your own, please understand my intention is not to belittle you or your dream.  While I am taking a (hopefully) gently chiding tone, my real purpose in writing this is to encourage you to slow down and start where you are.

  • If you want to create more money, how about starting by doubling what you have and then when you’ve done that, doubling it again?
  • If you want to make great strides in your career, how about getting into action by simply taking the next step?

In my experience, a diet of either field mice or Loch Ness Monsters may well lead to the premature demise of your business, career, or project.  On the other hand, a steady diet of antelope will lead to all the success and fun stuff you can handle!

Today’s Experiment:

1. Take out your “to-do” list for today. Alternatively, make a list of all the projects you are currently working on.

2. Next to each item on the list, put an A if it is related to an Antelope project (i.e. something with substantial rewards), an F if it is related to a Field Mouse project (i.e. something that will take high effort for low rewards), or an LM if it is related to a Loch Ness Monster Project (i.e. an escape fantasy that would mean you “never have to do anything hard ever again”).

3. Spend as much time as possible working on your “A” priorities today!

Have fun, learn heaps, and may all your success be fun!


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