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THE CONVERSATION: “Think Past the Rope; Don’t Be an Elephant!”

Welcome back to The Conversation. Happy Monday! This last week has been an interesting one with several challenges for our group of local leaders.

Even more so challenging has this week been for those in our local community who are business owners and will be the ones most affected initially by these new measures being put in place.

I had planned to unpack some of the suggestions made by Mr. Tom Drabble in our past 2 columns, until I spoke with three business owners in the community. These individuals all own and operate fairly large operations, and their take on things is that those pushing this agenda forward in the government are not thinking clearly in some very basic areas. So it is with this in mind we dive into The Conversation this week.  

 To begin with, it's fairly easy to understand that if a local business is charged more money to do the same job they've done in the past, but now for less, the only direction those extra charges can go is to the end customer. That is us in the public. Is there any doubt about this?

This seems to be a very basic truth that escapes those who have been on the Revenue Task Force, and one that seems to have escaped both the Senate and Fono Representatives.

This comes right on the heels of an announcement that many of those on island who are providing for their families through their jobs at our local Cannery will be dramatically affected in the upcoming months. This will of course also affect local businesses who serve those whose income is about to be sliced and diced worse than the tuna and mackerel they can no longer process…

Sometimes it's good to stop and think of it about what the long-term effects of choices we make today will be.

Are the decisions being made right now even going to work in the short-term much less the long-term?

When I say long-term, I'll be content if the conversation we're having around these issues can at least be forward-thinking enough to simply cover the next 5 years! Holy Short-Sighted, Batman!

One of the most consistent comments I've heard since starting this column in June, is that there is no point in even trying to influence those who are in positions of authority here on island. That there is no hope for change. The things are the way they are, and they will always be that way no matter what.

As you may have heard me state before, if I believed that I would not be spending my time writing this column nor attempting to advance some of the thoughts that have been shared here by myself and other community members.

I want to let you know, that I personally have never met a group of people in the world with as much potential for amazing advancements who possess the body of raw God-given talent as I have found here among my wife, her family and the Samoan people as a general group.

 I personally have friends from many nations around the globe, and have connected with people from literally every continent in my travels and during my college years. This thought is shared by many whom I have met  who have had the pleasure of meeting and befriending Samoans in other parts of the world. There is so much capacity for good and so much capacity for amazing things it is unbelievable. Yet what are you doing with these blessings? More importantly, what WILL you do with them? It is a perplexing question that reminds me of a story I will share with you now.

Fran Briggs shares:

“As a father and his son were passing the elephants at a circus enclosure, the little boy  suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious to him that the elephants could, at anytime, break away from the ropes they were tied to but for some reason, they did not. The little boy stopped and asked his Father, “Daddy, why are the elephants not able to break that little rope?”

The father thought this was strange as well, and as he saw a trainer nearby, he asked him why these beautiful, magnificent animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away. "Well," he said, "when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it's enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free."

The father and his son were both amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn't, they were stuck right where they were.

Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hanging onto a belief that we cannot do something, simply because either it’s never been done before, or we may fail if we try?

Don't Act Like An Elephant!

In India, elephants are used for manual labor.

When an elephant is small and weighs approximately 200 pounds, it is securely tied with a heavy-duty rope. In between "jobs," the elephant tries to break through its limitation. The calf whines, tugs-even tries to chew through the rope- but it is unable to break free. Finally, the elephant gives up its will. He accepts his circumstances. His spirit is broken.

The elephant believes there is absolutely no chance to free himself and overcome his "limitation." This is recognized as a "defining moment." A defining moment is the exact moment one adopts/accepts a new belief that drastically alters their life. They accept this "new belief" as a "truth," regardless if it is true or not. Because the brain accepts repetition of thought and deduction as "the truth," the rope reigns sovereign not only in the calf's immediate environment, but in his mind as well.

With this "belief" deeply embedded in the elephant's mind, his handler came up with an ingenious idea to permanently disempower him. He realized all that was needed was to tie the four-ton animal up with extremely small ropes and he would remain tied. You see in the elephant's mind, any size rope would keep him "securely confined."

Once again, don't act like an elephant. Size up and break through the confining ropes in your mind. When you're faced with change, change your perspective. When you're overwhelmed with something new, change your view.

Rather than be confined, free your mind, and the actions that follow will be amazing!

Here's a story about George Dantzig - the famed mathematician whose contributions to Operations Research and systems engineering have made him immortal.

As a college student, George studied very hard and often late into the night. So late, that he overslept one morning, arriving 20 minutes late for Prof. Neyman's class. He quickly copied the two maths problems on the board, assuming they were the homework assignment. It took him several days to work through the two problems, but finally he had a breakthrough and dropped the homework on Neyman's desk the next day.

Six weeks later, on a Sunday morning, George was awakened at 6 a.m . by his excited professor. Since George was late for class, he hadn't heard the professor announce that the two equations on the board were examples of unsolvable mathematical equations, used as mind-teasers, that even Einstein hadn't been able to answer.

But George Dantzig, working without any thoughts of limitation, had solved not one, but two problems that had stumped mathematicians for thousands of years.

Simply put, George solved the problems because he didn't know he couldn't. You are not limited to the life you now live. It has been accepted by you as the best you can do at this moment. Any time you're ready to go beyond the limitations currently in your life, you're capable of doing that by choosing different thoughts. All you must do is figure out how you can do it, not whether or not you can. And once you have made your mind up to do it, it's amazing how your mind begins to figure out how.”

I want to encourage you, just because things in the past have been that way for a long time, does not mean they will need to stay that way forever. Nor does it mean in our current situation, that what is being placed into law cannot be changed. These are things that just as they are being changed now can be changed later.

However, if we stand idly by and are passive in our approach and allow things that we know are not going to be good for either the short-term or the long-term, we will be deserving of every negative thing that comes from these measures being put in place right now. Let us not be like the elephant, a very powerful animal, possibly the most powerful animal on the planet who is trapped and snared by the idea that a tiny rope is impossible to be broken.

Cultural boundaries, old ways, and family ties are not unbreakable… As a matter of fact, nor are they inflexible! I'm not saying we have to break anything necessarily, rather work out ways that will meet both the best of the culture and the best of the current situations as possible.

But if the old ways truly are no longer serving the present, and most importantly the future, then new ways must be forged… And it’s really hard to create something new inside of an old structure…

Kind of like the the old Fono building that was just demolished over the last few weeks. Why don’t we build something new and fresh together, right now, that will serve the best for all? What a shame it would be to have a new building, only to be filled with stale old ineffective thinking.

We can do SO much better!

Just as the elephant has no equal in the animal kingdom, neither do the Samoan people among other people groups on the planet.

You’re a phenomenal, untapped resource of incredible possibilities; you’re a powerful majestic, and magnificent people; what’s a little rope got on you?

Now is the time to unite; to rise up and work towards the best future, for your children, and your children’s children.