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What’s the Deal With the Potatoes and the Elephants?

Here is a question I hear over and over again. “How do you do that?” they ask.

It may have to do with balancing your life between your family and your work. At other times the puzzled questioner can’t see how a busy person handles a variety of tasks successfully. Frankly, any one of us could at some time or other ask the question.

On a day when you have more to do than you think you can do or when you are facing a series of difficult days, you can feel totally overwhelmed, get a case of nerves and be dog-tired when night comes. That seems to happen pretty often.

But here’s a lesson we would do well to learn. A father said to his son, “Do you know how the chef at a large restaurant peels potatoes?” When the son didn’t have the answer, the dad said, “He peels the entire pile one potato at a time.”

One of my grands said to me, “Do you know how to eat an elephant?” Although it didn’t seem to me that I would ever order elephant for lunch, I relented and said, “No, I don’t know.” Then I was advised that the way you eat an elephant is “one bite at a time.”

Now maybe we should forget about putting elephant on the banquet table, but let’s not forget about the potatoes. With purpose, patience and persistence you can get a lot done, if you will go after the whole project one day at a time (one potato at a time).

You can’t build a strong marriage ten years at a time.

You can’t raise good kids a week or a month at a time.

You can’t maintain a flourishing business one season at a time.

You can’t build a solid, strong and successful church a year at a time.

You can’t keep your Christian life where it needs to be months or years at a time.

All of these things must be broken down into days, hours and minutes. Giving attention to the needs one tiny step at a time keeps things right, keeps them growing and keeps you from the frustration of trying to swallow the whole elephant in one gulp.

So let’s dig in and give ourselves to all of these important matters. Let’s forgo the wringing of the hands and the paralysis of analysis.

This little essay may seem frivolous, but I found the humor refreshing and the lesson it taught has been helpful to me. If you will tackle your greatest tasks “one potato at a time,” you will be well on your way to the victory circle.

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