Somewhere in the Orient a king had a special military department. This brigade contained an army of elephants. When the leading elephant grew too old to go into combat, they let him free to live on his own in the jungle.
One day the elephant went to the river to drink and got trapped in the muddy shore. He tried to lift his foot but could not move and got stuck. He used his trumpet to call for help and the servants of the king came to see what’s going on. No one could move this huge animal.
The king asked a wise man what could be done for the former leading elephant. The old man pondered for a moment, then said: “Beat the war drums!”
The army was called forth and they did as told, they played the war drums.
The elephant heard the call. He mustered all his strength and finally liberated his leg. All by himself. The war drum reminded him on who he was – the strongest animal in the forest!
Too often we beat ourselves up for our weaknesses. And on many occasions we are advised to work on our weak spots. But many times, the winning path is to making the most of our strengths. It’s the other way round.
No one in history ever accomplished anything by being a little bit better at what they are lousy at. Every remarkable personage came to be extraordinary at what they were already good at.
I like to ask my students about their strong points in making music. What do they love about their own play? What are their strengths? What is it they are naturally good at?
Usually, what I find is a blank stare and some kind of an “I have no clue” expression.
The answer is: silence. No idea.
We do not learn to see our own strengths.
We do not learn to acknowledge our own abilities.
We learn only looking at our flaws is appropriate.
When things go smoothly, it’s no big deal to have no real sense of who we are.
But when life gets rough it’s difficult to carry on.
The quicksand of life can catch us and without the remembrance of our own strength we might give up and question if we will ever get back on track.
It is very useful to know how to beat our own war drum.
When you think you are a failure, keep telling yourself what already works.
Think about what you are good at, right now, this moment.
And think about what you love doing.
There you find the treasure of self-knowledge.