The Ant and the Elephant

There aren’t many authors in the world of motivational literature who aspire to be different. I know this sounds quite counterintuitive since every author unflinchingly positions himself and his book as a breed apart. With fancy titles and high-falutin’ tag-lines, a majority of these books promises to bestow upon the readers some kind of seraphic power, thus, turning them into alchemists.

The truth, however, is quite grim and disappointing. Once you have read 3-4 motivational bestsellers, any book you read afterwards smacks of plagiarism.

The same ideas that once stirred an adrenaline rush and instilled in its readers a sense of purpose sound oft-repeated and clichéd with every subsequent motivational book. I would like to digress a little here. Sometimes, the overwhelming number of motivational authors, consultants, coaches, guides and what you have, boggles my mind.

I can fathom out two reasons for this boom – either it’s a highly lucrative profession so much so that almost everyone aspires to be into it or it’s the easiest of professions to get into. One in which saturation point may never be reached.

Let’s face it. Leaders or beacon-holders have always been in strong deficit. People tend to live in self-created oblivion and need someone to show them the light and guide them out of proverbial darkness.

Vince Poscente dares to be different. ‘The Ant and the Elephant’ is not your typical self-transformation manual. Rather it’s a beautiful parable with the plan of self-leadership embedded in it.

The characters of this parable – Adir the Ant, Elgo the Elephant and Brio the wise Owl – are both adorable and engaging. Poscente’s genius lies in not only being a good motivator but also in the manner in which he injects his transformative lessons into the parable. He is thought-provoking as well as captivating as a storyteller.

I can imagine the agony of filling up the tables, completing a questionnaire, scribbling into charts, logging onto URLs mentioned to download the presentations. All these aspects are peculiar to the number of self-help and motivational literature.

Much to my amazement, Vince Poscente steers way clear of these to-dos. He takes the reader on a journey which lasts till 100-odd pages yet packs quite a punch when it comes to learning quotient of the book.

My Key Takeaways from ‘The Ant and the Elephant’

The unconscious part of the brain lies dormant most of the time, and the onus is on the conscious part to invigorate it (the unconscious brain). Basically, author is suggesting to use the unconscious brain to drive the efforts of the conscious brain.

Poscente weaves his allegory around our lack of awareness about the underlying prowess of the unconscious brain (the Elephant). In words of the author, if we enable our conscious brain (the ant) to work concertedly in tandem with our unconscious brain, the possibilities of what we can achieve could be endless.

  • Before any individual becomes a great leader to others, he must first understand himself. Only then will he be able to motivate and empower others.
  • Make fear your friend, not your master; fear can be a powerful motivator only if you learn to manage it.
  • You must open your mind to know what you don’t know. Be open to all possibilities. Like they say most overlooked opportunities are often the ones that are most obvious.
  • Before you start any journey, you must know ‘why’ the journey is worth undertaking. Your core – the answer to ‘why’ – will remain the same throughout your life.
  • Fear is like quicksand. Once you step in it, it will just pull you down. Think of an instance when you were overwhelmed with someone’s awe so much so that you almost went into a shell. And then think about the moment, when you had the wind at your back and were ready to challenge the world on the silliest of the topics you were confident of.
  • The conscious and the unconscious domains of the brains are inseparable. What we think (consciously) gets communicated to the unconscious brain? According to Poscente, “there would always be some reaction if your thoughts and Unconscious brain’s dreams match up.” This vibrant feeling is what Poscente calls “Elephant Buzz”.
  • To accomplish things in life, one must tame the inner conflicts.
  • Even with no milestones in sight on your journey towards your goals, you need to trust that you are getting closer to your goal. Change is gradual. Efforts should be consistent.
  • You should fight the pressure for instant gratification and focus your radars on the long-term. Worthiest efforts consume loads of time and energy before they bear fruit.
  • Shift your focus from ‘wanting’ to ‘having’. Focus on having something and eventually, you will have it.
  • Visualize your success even if it’s yet to be accomplished.
  • Keep interrupting negative patterns in your mind. Don’t let them come home to roost. One negative thought can set off a chain reaction of myriads of such thoughts resulting in erosion of confidence. Positive outlook and a sunny face can move mountains.
  • Be committed to the process of commitment. Once you have fulfilled your commitment, reach down and commit even further.
  • Learn to expect the unexpected. Imagine yourself in situations you haven’t faced and devise your response to these challenges. According to Poscente, this will make you stronger and far less ruffled should you ever have to confront those difficult situations.
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