When I was a kid, my dad worked for Anheuser-Busch. This meant that my family got free tickets to Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida — which was very exciting for a kid under 10-years-old. I loved the log flume, the bumper cars, the overpriced drinks with the twisty, curly straws, the animals…
Oh, the animals! Busch Gardens always had the coolest animals. And then, there was the elephant ride. Here’s how it worked:
1. Stand in line in the sweltering Florida humidity for an undetermined period of time.
2. Finally, it’s your turn!
3. Climb atop a towering elephant (complete with swarm of flies)
4. Ride elephant in a circle
5. Get off elephant
6. Wonder “what the hell was that?”
So, here’s today’s Bitch Slap: I’m not going to ride your fucking elephant.
This one’s for all of the people who — knowingly or inadvertently — invite people in their lives along for the ride. So think about who those people are in your life right now. You can name them, can’t you?
I wake up every day knowing that I have a finite amount of time on this planet — and unbeknownst to me, it might be more finite than I might think. So what I’m not going to do is ride your elephant. I’m not going to waste my time going around in circles while you figure out what it is that you want or need to be doing. I’m not coming along for the “view from up there,” because my view from atop my kickass Ibex is fine-as-frog’s-ass-hair dandy. I am done with letting people waste my time and hold me up because I let them sell me a bill of goods.
And here’s the bitch of it: I’m the one who climbed right on top of that elephant every damned time. Like it would be different! As if some type of divine intervention wasn’t going to lead this massive beast in a circle yet again and I’d arrive at Nirvana instead of right back where I started from:
climbing on your fucking elephant and knowing that the only place I’d end up going is in circles.
I can skip seeing that circular path from 20 feet up in the air. I really can.
And it’s not like I don’t like elephants — I have one tattooed on my left arm, for all that’s holy. What I am going to start doing is looking at the elephant in the context of its symbolic imagery: a representation of wisdom.
Here’s how I think the elephant ride really goes:
Elephant: I have no idea why these people are lining up to sit on my back. I’m just going to walk in circles.
Guy riding the elephant: We’re just going in circles.
So — that’s it. Quit riding other people’s elephants. And tell them the truth when you turn them down: I’M NOT GOING TO RIDE YOUR ELEPHANT! And then tell them why.
I don’t believe in what you’re doing.
Your projects never run on-time and take away from me running my own business.
You’re shitty at project management and I feel like it’s a never-ending infomercial where I’m watching three monkeys trying to hump a soccer ball.
Or simply…say no.
But the bottom line here is, YOU are the only one who makes the decision to climb on someone else’s elephant in the first place. No one’s forcing you. You’re the one who has to make it stop.
Stop waiting on others.
Stop living other people’s Shoulds.
Stop following the paths of others.
Start living your Musts and get yourself a motherfucking Ibex. An Okapi. Whatever it is, get one of your own. Business — and life — gets from point A to Fuck Yeah by building a herd. Run with people who have goals, dreams, and Awesomeapotamuses that help you thrive so you can help them thrive in return.
Because you’ll never get to Fuck Yeah by riding other people’s circus animals.
You’ve been slapped. And you should thank Jennifer from Downing Street PR for the phrase “I’m not going to ride your elephant.” She dropped this pachyderm-flavored gem on me over coffee yesterday.
Where oh where do I begin with this one. Just before my career as a full time dad began, and just after I completed my role as government witness in an eight year prosecution against my former employer, I got a call from a former colleague asking me to help them write a business plan. I wrote the plan, but forgave half my fee because I wanted in. The idea was cool, nothing ground breaking. There were competitors and we wouldn't be reinventing the wheel. But still, I saw it as my way out of finance and into something fun that could be my second career. Long story short (-ish), shit economy, a few false starts, and two times back to the drawing board we weren't any closer to achieving what we had set out to do. Ideas exchange, promises made, and like an idiot I waited and waited. Twice I called to give drop dead dates for when things had to get moving or I was out, but I got sucked back in both times by different opportunities, new investors, other angles to get where we wanted to go. Yesterday, after three weeks of radio silence and over four years of dicking around, I gave up waiting. I sent an email saying I was out, had my own thing I was going to pursue and best of luck. Deleted numbers and email addresses and purged a cache of files that had been accumulating on my hard drive. A graveyard full of ideas, some good, some bad, but mostly half baked. I have an idea, again one not terribly ground breaking, but one I'm going to put together myself over the next few weeks. I have a very long to do list to launch a business that will undoubtedly be unpopular with a great many people, and with any luck what I'm going to build will be like Chick-fil-a, except on the other side of the fence. This is a point that both scares the shit out of me, yet has me excited. It won't be easy, and I very well could fail miserably. But, hey, it sure as hell won't be the first time I've fallen on my face. And most likely won't be the last. So, thank you, after reading this I really feel good about my decision. It was beyond time to tell others to fuck off.
A-frickin-men! I recently had to break up with a freelance client because I've been riding her damn elephant for months: constant last-minute rush projects, not paying on time, brainstorming a million fantastic projects for us to work on and then never doing any of them, sending me snippets of her mind dumps as she wrote, which I was supposed to do what with? It felt SO liberating to tell her I'd had enough of her shenanigans and wasn't doing it anymore. It also felt empowering, because I'd been going along with the ride because I figured a client is a client, and I should be lucky to have one, even if she was a hot mess. But her mess became mine, and I had nothing to show for it but that lovely "WHY am I doing this again?" feeling. I only wish I'd had your particular phrase to use in my Dear John email. Because I love it, and it would have confused the heck out of her. :) From this point forward, with her and with any other clients or drama-bringers, it is
Perfect! I have had 50% of my contractors do shit work or leave a metric shit ton of a mess that I had to clean up...time and money wasted because I said sure where do I get on your elephant. Never again will I call or use these people for work I need to get done right the first time with no clean up afterwards...I've lost 2-3 weeks of rehab on my house and therefore I have to sell much later than I wanted to. I don't have any idea where to find new contractors but I know they must exist because so many people in my business, real estate investing, use them and get their properties on the market in record time. Thanks for the read red, keep it up. I like these posts danny
Danny, That sucks! I'm sorry to hear that. I think so many people overprice their services without looking at the quality of their work, or don't look at the quality of the employees in their organization. Everyone has to be aligned with giving as good as they're asking for. I want to ask , where'd you find these contractors?
hi lauryn, well one i knew from a previous business i had and one was recommnded to me by an acquaintance and one was recommended by a friend of mine and one i don't remember how i found him...i do know that i will not ever use these people again and i'm only just beginning in this business so i'm going to have many, many more houses that need work and they won't get my money anymore. what most pissed me off was that they all left a big ass pile of shit for me to clean up like it was some construction site and some flunky was going to clean up after them...this is a house in a neighborhood with neighbors. arghhhhhhh! no problem asking for their money though... thanks for asking danny
Great message to those who still ride elephants. Here's a message to those who still are trying to get people to ride their elephant: You're dead dude. Sure maybe you can suck people in with the novelty of riding your elephant, but someday everyone wakes up and realizes that riding your elephant is just stupid. Yeah, I know, you're going to be pissed at them (how dare my customers reject my business!,) but you're the problem, not them. Here is what you don't know. People don't just wake up. Dissatisfiers build up over time. It's usually just little things. You were slow in responding, you didn't have exactly what they needed, you didn't listen to them one time, etc., etc. But then one day it all hits, often when your competition offers something better. That's it. You're dead. No 'special offers,' discounts, or change in policy will save you. That's life. That's business. RIP.
Man, you're awesome. I LOVE this. BTW I grew up as the kid of a professional musician who worked at both Circus World and Disney in Florida. Rode a hell of a lot of elephants. But I get your point entirely. Cut the energy vampires.
Totally brilliant - I've had a bunch of carnies trying to make me ride their damn elephants all week, and frankly the wafting scent of dung reminds me to keep my feet on the ground... and watch where I'm walking and whom I'm hanging with.
Imagine if elephants lined up to ride on OUR backs in some weird parallel universe, for gawd's sake.
What a coincidence, I too rode an elephant at a zoo when I was a kid. I wondered the same damn thing "What the hell was that?" at the end. Thanks for the laugh and helping me understand what the hell actually did happen!
This is fantastic. I actually did JUST this a couple of days ago in a non-work meeting. It was clear the person driving the project wasn't open to feedback or input after I tried to give some tips on making a mobile campaign more effective and just got "WHY ARE YOU ATTACKING MY MOBILE CAMPAIGN!" So I got up and left. Just said, "you know what, I'm going to go now." I didn't feel like adding to drama by giving a reason - I'm sure some people are confused and others are wondering why they didn't follow me out... but that doesn't matter. My decision. My time. My life. So I got off the elephant. And I have no intention of getting back on.