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Story: The Baby Elephant And The Assumed Constraint

How your beliefs are holding you backThe following story comes from Joe (Blu-Blockers) Sugarman’s book “The Adweek Copywriting Handbook”… 

“Have you ever looked at a circus elephant anchored to the ground? If you have, you might notice that the elephant has a metal collar around its leg to which it is attached a small chain. And the chain is attached to a wooden peg driven into the ground. Pretty good protection?

“Pretty lousy, if you ask me. That 12,000-pound elephant could very easily pick up its foot and with one fell swoop yank the peg out of the ground and walk away. But the elephant doesn’t. Why? I’ll explain.

“When that elephant was still a baby, that same collar and chain and peg were used to hold the elephant in place. The restraint was sufficient to hold the baby elephant in place even if it wanted to break way. And break away is indeed what the baby elephant tried to do.

“So every day while the baby was chained up, it would pull at the chain and pull and pull and pull until finally a cut appeared on its leg exposing the sore sensitive layers of deep skin tissue. It hurt to pull like that and soon the baby elephant, realizing the effort was both futile and painful, stopping trying to escape.

“As the baby elephant grew older, it never forgot that bad experience with the chain and the peg. And so whenever it was anchored down in a spot, it would think, ‘Hey, it’s impossible to break away and besides, it hurts.’

“The adult elephant had what I call an ‘assumed constraint.’ And all of us have the same problem to one degree or another.”



1. In what areas of your business or life are you being held back by “assumed constraints?”

2. Let me ask you in another way: are you sure that some of the constraints in your business or life aren’t just in your mind?


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Photo by wolfsavard

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About Scott Aughtmon (1864 Articles)
I’m author of the book 51 Content Marketing Hacks. I am also a regular contributor to and I am the person behind the popular infographic 21 Types of Content We Crave. I’m a business strategist, consultant, content creation specialist, and speaker. I’ve been studying effective marketing and business methods (both online and offline) since 1999. ===> If you would like to see ways that we could work together, then please click here to learn more.