I haven’t yet met a single person who doesn’t love the Dumbo cartoon. I guess I saw it at least 50 times in the last 3 months, but somehow I find myself liking it every time I watch it. I confess I didn’t know that cartoon until I bought it for Bianca, my 3 year old daughter and she is the one responsible for making me watch it for so many times even when I’m not quite in the mood.
In today’s post I’ll share my discoveries about how Dumbo, the tiny little elephant with huge ears can help you discover your greatest power, improve your self-respect and become the person of your dreams. If you smiled while reading this, it’s ok, it means we’re actually getting there. 🙂 Personal development is not always a serious, rigid and rigorous process. It really can be a joyful and enjoyable adventure. In fact, if doing something is not at least a little bit of fun, I usually don’t do it.
The Dumbo Story
Dumbo is a little and cute elephant born in a circus somewhere in Southern Florida. He’s in every aspect identical with all other elephants in the world, except for one fact: Dumbo has huge ears. And I mean, really really huge ears. So big that it soon begin to be mocked around by kids who constantly tease the little cub. In a matter of days it become the number one subject of the gossip in the circus.
One day, the kids who were attending the show become so violent with teasing Dumbo, that his mother, in a very normal, parental attempt to protect its child, started hitting them. The circus manager put her in isolation, and from that moment Dumbo is all alone. The little elephant is forced to play in a dangerous circus act in which it has to jump in a bucket filled with water from a house on fire. One night after this show, a little mouse came to Dumbo’s place and they become friends. The little mouse talk with Dumbo trying to cheer him up and even take it to see its mother in the isolation wagon.
Once they’re back from Dumbo’s mother, they’re drinking some water from a bucket in which a wine bottle has been forgotten by some circus clowns. From this moment, Dumbo’s life is going to change. After drinking they’re having a famous “pink elephants” moment in which they’re seeing fabulous creatures dancing and blending in each other (they’re drunk, of course) and after this fantastic show they wake up in a…. tree.
The birds in the tree are mocking them too and they have to leave. But the little mouse, Dumbo’s only friend, is realizing that they couldn’t possibly got to that tree other than… flying. The birds are laughing and mocking them even more, but after a touching speech in which the mouse is brilliantly protecting his friend, the “socially finished” elephant, the birds decide to help Dumbo learning to fly. By using “psychology” and a feather stuck in Dumbo’s nose, they succeed. Dumbo is actually flying.
The rest is history: after his new skill is perfected, Dumbo returns to the circus and he’s assigned to the same show in which it has to jump from a tall building. This time, the mouse is getting ready to show the new flying talent of its friend, but somehow, they lose the magic feather that made Dumbo believe it can fly. They’re both in the air, falling down faster.
But suddenly, Dumbo realizes that his power doesn’t lie in the feather but in himself, stops the falling and starts to fly in the circus, getting even on those men who were mocking at it.
The cartoon ends with Dumbo flying above his own personal train in which of course he has all his new friends.
Personal Development With Dumbo
That’s a nice and happy ending story. But what’s even nicer it’s what Dumbo can show us from a personal development perspective.
1. Your Biggest Flaw Can Become Your Bigger Asset
Dumbo’s huge ears made him a fantastic elephant, but only when it realized it can fly using them. Until that specific moment, those ears were only dragging it down, making it unhappy and frustrated because it was different. But different is good, different means you’re unique.
Don’t hunt for things that makes you identical with other people, assess what’s unique and different in you. It might be frustrating in the beginning because you can be rejected. But that’s the only way you can contribute: by what’s unique in you.
If Dumbo was trying to cut its ears to the normal size its life would have been dull and insignificant. But keeping its own specific gifts made it become a miracle. Maybe you’re not a fantastic beauty by all standards, but you’re unique and precious. Nobody can be you. Your biggest difference can become your biggest asset.
2. Real Friends Take You For What You Are
The tiny little mouse was the change agent for Dumbo. The tiny little mouse was its friend. And it was a very honest and carrying one. Never tried to convince Dumbo it could be better without those years. In fact, it always tried to bring Dumbo at peace with itself. Your friends are not your competition, your friends will never try to change you, your real friends will always take you from what you are. It’s easy to forget that and chose your friends like you chose your clothes: by their fashionability.
The tiny little mouse is the actual progress maker, it is the one which push Dumbo to go over the limits. It’s the one which help the elephant to fly. It become its manager in the end, but hey, you would prefer a manager who taught you to fly before, or a manager who will try to rip you off by telling how “brilliant” you are every 5 minutes?
Friends are honest. Friends are supportive no matter what. Don’t push those guys away from your life.
3. Transformative Experiences Are Always Difficult
Dumbo is starting to fly after its “pink elephants” episode. It become unconscious and wake up in an uncomfortable environment, in a tree. An elephant in a tree, imagine that! It has to really deal with its new environment, it has to adapt. And it learns to fly.
A transformative experience is most of the time a difficult one. If Dumbo wouldn’t followed the “pink elephants” in the sky it would never discovered it can fly. Its life would have been so quiet and humble without this episode. But it followed the “pink elephants” and woke up in a tree.
I really don’t wanna say that you have to get drunk in order to trigger a transformative experience and I’m sure you already know that. What I’m telling is that getting out of your comfort zone is always rewarding. Extremely difficult, but always rewarding.
4. Trust Yourself Not The Magic Feather
After Dumbo came back to the circus, when it wants to showcase its talent, the little magic feather that made it think it’s a bird disappear. Dumbo find itself in air, falling down, without a magic feather. It has only 2 choices: to trust the feather and fall down, or to trust itself and fly. Trusting the feather was not an option anymore, because it lost it. So, Dumbo chose to trust itself and start flying on its own.
We all have scaffolds which help us achieve some difficult goals. We all have our own “magic feather” which puts us in the position to overcome difficulties. Our magic feather might be our daily motivational mantras, for example. Saying to yourself each and every day that you’re a better person will eventually make you a better person.
But that’s only a feather. You have to learn how to be a better person by yourself, without a magic feather. At one moment, you’ll be in air, falling down and with your mantras forgotten. At that moment you’ll only have yourself.
Trust in you.
Running For My Life - from zero to ultramarathoner
The spooky thing about depression is that it sneaks in. There aren’t really trumpets and loud voices announcing: “Hail, hail, this is depression entering the room, all rise!” Nope. It’s slow, silent, creepy. It doesn’t even look like depression. It starts with small isolation thoughts like: “Maybe I shouldn’t get out today, I just don’t feel like going out”. And then it does the same next day. And then the day after that and so on. And then it starts to whisper louder and louder in your ears: “Why would you go outside, you loser? Didn’t have enough yet? Want more people to make fun of how much of a big, fat loser you are?”
And then you start to breath in guilt and shame, instead of air. Every breathe you take is putting more dark thoughts into your body.
Until you get stuck. You can’t move anymore. At all.
If you want to know how I got out of this space, eventually, check out my latest book on Amazon and Kindle.