Perseverance: Life or Death?

There must be thousands of stories telling us how important it is to keep on keeping on. Never, ever quit. If you don’t succeed at first… and on and on.

In most instances, our desire to quit a project we’re working on or give up on a relationship isn’t really that big a deal. But occasionally, there are times when giving up might be the difference in life and death.

While you may never be faced with a life or death situation, no doubt, there’s always that possibility. One of my favorite perseverance stories is about a wild animal trainer. As you read the story below, put yourself in his place, and see if you could handle as well as he did.

Back in the early days of television, a new show was introduced that featured circus acts – parading elephants, horseback riding, and clowns in tiny cars. Of course, no circus would be complete without the death-defying performances – trapeze acts, a crazy man shot from a cannon, and the wild animal shows.

Most all television in the early days was live and this worked particularly well for the circus show. Since some of the acts were indeed quite dangerous, the live performances helped maintain the very real threat of danger in the minds of the viewers.

One of the very first shows featured a tiger act. The show begins as the trainer runs into the middle of the cage and begins cracking his whip. The tigers start filing in, all six of them, growling and snarling as they run around the perimeter of the cage while the tamer continues his loud and frightening whip-cracking.

Now… as Siegfried & Roy will tell you, tigers are unpredictable animals, no matter how long you’ve been working with them. But on this particular day, something unexpected happened. All the lights went out!

Unfortunately, there were no emergency generators, no battery-powered back-up lights, just one man cracking his whip in the middle of a cage filled with not-so-happy tigers.

What’s a trainer to do? Out of habit, this one kept cracking his whip AND, he shoved his brain into high gear.

First, he realized, there was just a tiny bit of light seeping in somewhere, perhaps a split in the tent. This served to alarm him even more, as he realized that the tigers possessed an incredible night vision, and he didn’t. They could probably see him, but he couldn’t see them. Not good! But he kept on cracking his whip.

Would you have gone into full panic at this point? Not our trainer. He kept thinking and that’s when it hit him.

OK, the tigers can see me, but they don’t know I can’t see them. The solution… keep on cracking the whip! A minute, five minutes, almost ten minutes passed, and thankfully, finally, the lights came back on. The tigers were still circling, but not running quite as fast.

Most of us don’t tame tigers for a living, and very few of us face life-threatening risks in our daily lives, but the level-headed reasoning of this trainer carry some valuable lessons for us.

  1. When things don’t go exactly your way, don’t panic. Make sure you fully understand the problem. It may not be the dismal situation you think, or it may only be a temporary problem.
  2. Keep your cool. Once you’ve got your head wrapped around the problem and all its frustrations, begin to consider your options. Do not throw up your hands and say, “I quit.”
  3. Try looking at your problem from the perspective of others. Our trainer put himself in the tiger’s brain and then realized there was no way the tiger could know the tamer couldn’t see him. You may be too close to your problem to see all the possibilities.

In my advertising work, I often find that clients suffer from the “Curse of Knowledge.” They simply know too much. They’re unable to see the product or service they offer with the limited knowledge their customers possess, and therefore unable to communicate with them effectively.

Next time you’re faced with a difficult situation and you feel the urge to throw in the towel, just keep on cracking your whip, crank up the old brain, and see how many solutions you can find. The next blog will cover the “Invention Convention,” and is sure to help you get your creative juices flowing.

In the meantime, if you’ve reasoned a solution to one of life’s perplexing problems, please share. We’re all struggling with the little, and sometimes not-so-little, problems that life presents.






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One Response to Perseverance: Life or Death?

  1. Kelly says:

    “They’re unable to see the product or service they offer with the limited knowledge their customers possess, and therefore unable to communicate with them effectively.” –> How true! And I believe this is a large part of the reason my profession (genetic counseling) exists! The geneticist I work for is an anomaly and is actually an excellent communicator, but in general I think this is true. And, as you said, the families we see are faced with seemingly insurmountable problems, but with education, perspective, and support most of them are able to cope amazingly well.

    Looking forward to that Invention Convention post you mentioned!

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