I loved studying calculus in high-school and throughout college. I even had a chance to use it for several computer systems I helped design.
One of the most fascinating terms used in calculus is infinity, depicted with this symbol: ∞
Infinity is not just a really, really large number. It’s larger than any number. No matter what number you can say or write out, infinity will be larger.
But even though I had done thousands of equations that included ∞, I never appreciated how big it really was.
Until the day my head nearly exploded.
The way that many trainers prevent baby elephants from running away is by tying a small rope around one of their legs and securing the other end around a post.
The calves try very hard to break away, but the rope is secure and eventually the elephants give up their attempts at escape.
Of course, this would never work for adult elephants, which weigh on average about 13,000 lbs (compared to 200 lbs for a baby). The adults would easily snap the rope and break free.
But they don’t.
Adult elephants are restrained with the same small rope as the calves. And it works.
It works because the elephants have been conditioned to believe that they can’t break free.
“This rope prevented my movement in the past, even though I tried really hard to get away. No sense in exerting all that effort again – it won’t work,” might be the gist of the elephant’s thoughts.
Of course, from our perspective of wisdom and superior intelligence, we know the elephants are foolishly buying into self-imposed limits.
There’s an old story about a martial arts student who wanted to become a master. He was earnest in his desire and willing to put in the practice.
He approached a renowned instructor and said to him, “Teacher, I am ready to commit my life to practicing martial arts. How long will it take me to master it?”
The teacher responded, “Ten years.”
“But I want to master it faster than that. I’ll work very hard and never miss a practice” said the impatient student.
“In that case,” replied the wise teacher, “20 years.”
In that parable lies the true nature of happiness. The more we seek for it, the more elusive it becomes.
One of the most uninteresting aspects of building a startup company is dealing with all the legal documents. Legal forms for forming a corporation, forms for employee and contractor agreements, forms for protecting intellectual property, and a Terms & Conditions policy for describing the rights of users interacting with a company’s products.
Not a single one of these documents is fun to read. In fact, they often provide a surefire remedy for nearly any form of insomnia.
There are two reasons why legal wording is so complex and dry.
The first is the law – which is of itself is very old, complex, and dry. By nature. There can’t be any loopholes, and each sentence needs to be carefully worded and logically consistent with all other sentences and all legal precedents.
The second is for intentional obfuscation. It seems that you need a lawyer to read, write, and understand most legal wording.
While I say that partly in jest, most legalese, especially of a business nature, can be summarized in far simpler terms.
Back to the Terms & Conditions that all of us often skim past anytime we obtain a new product or download a piece of software.
Believe it or not, those Terms actually create a legally binding agreement between us and the company. And that agreement essentially says that if anything goes wrong with the product or our usage of the product, the company is not responsible. We’re on our own.
There is perhaps no greater affirmation of personal restriction than the phrase “I can’t.”
I can’t do this … I’m not allowed to.
I can’t do that … I’m not physically or mentally capable of it.
Everytime we use those words we are reinforcing limitation and restriction. And in many cases, it’s a reminder that we’re not doing something that we’d like to do.
The challenge is that we often think I can’t can help us achieve our goals.
I can’t miss my exercise routine today – I really need to do it.
I can’t be late for this meeting, otherwise my boss will be really upset with me.
I can’t eat that chocolate cake for dessert – it will kill my diet.
In those instances, we think we are looking out for our best interests. But in fact, we are doing the exact opposite. We are actually inducing guilt and fear.