Preparing For The Charging Elephant

By: Detri McGhee

Remember the feeling when you face a difficult situation or confrontation, and you think of the perfect comeback…too late?

A photographer went on safari with the goal of photographing the African savannah elephant so closely he would capture the tiny skin parasites between the folds of skin. The guide warned him repeatedly not to get too close. The elephant is not an aggressive animal unless you venture into his space. Then, he will push back.

The photographer inched closer and closer, all the time the guide warning him he was getting too dangerously close. Finally, the huge bull elephant turned and charged the photographer. With no place to run, no trees to climb, the photographer stood still and tall. At the last moment, he flung his camera aside, grabbed the ivory tusks, and the elephant slammed him to the ground. The force knocked him unconscious for a few moments, but the tusks hit the ground, keeping the elephant from crushing him.

No longer feeling threatened, the elephant turned and walked away. As the guide shook him to, he was also asking “How did you know to do that? That’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen! HOW did you know to DO THAT?”

As soon as he could speak, the photographer shared his secret. “I was prepared for him to charge. You see, I’ve been charged by bull elephants just like him a thousand times…in my mind.”

He anticipated the situation that could arise. He decided what outcome he preferred, and thought through how to accomplish HIS goal, versus letting the others involved decide his fate.

Life is about choices. We all have hundreds of choices we make daily. What we wear, what we eat, where we go, how we respond to others, and much more. Many of those choices don’t really affect our lives in measurable ways. Some choices change them forever. Choice. Anticipation. Planning. Thinking.

We have many choices – but we cannot choose the consequences. My goal is to make wise choices so the consequences are more likely to be ones I am pleased with weeks, months and years later.

Principle: Take time to analyze potential problems and consider the best desired outcome.

Oh, yes. Just a side note about those quick “one-up-them quips”: I can only speak for myself, but even worse than cutting my critic to shreds is when I think of the perfect comeback that silences them, temporarily puts me above them in the word battle, and yet almost immediately leaves me ashamed that I let that fly from my mouth. Maybe they did deserve it. Maybe it was sharp – even funny. Maybe it cut them deeply at the moment. But for sure, it ended the confrontation with me looking worse than they did. It left with me causing hurt that, perhaps, was even worse than what they intended for me. And, hurt that cannot be undone. Now, my goal is to hold my tongue when I am angry until I have time to “carry every situation to its logical conclusion.” Sometimes a temporary “win” is a permanent loss.

Principle: Keep in mind the first two words of the excuse: “I LOST MY TEMPER!”

By: Detri McGhee

Certified Life Underwriter, Chartered Financial Counselor