Are You the Flea in the Lidded Jar? Am I?


“You have to aspire to something so great that you have to have God’s help.” ~ Steve Harvey

I am planning for 2019 and in so doing, I have heeded to oft-repeated call to set goals so big that they frighten me. The trouble is this… they frighten me. I am genuinely afraid. Afraid of failure. Afraid of getting it wrong. Afraid of falling flat on my face. Afraid of disappointing myself. Afraid of disappointing others. I could go on.

Because of that, I have had my eyes and ears open for some sort of inspiration/reassurance/answer to my fear. It came in the surprising form of Steve Harvey’s “Think Like A Success. Act Like A Success.” I must be honest, until 2 days ago, I had no idea Steve Harvey had written more than one book.

Steve says a lot of inspiring and funny things in this book but what I felt was the biggest idea in the book or, perhaps, the one I resonated with the most was the concept of a flea in a jar. A flea is born with the ability to jump up to 150 times its own height. That is the equivalent of a 1,8 meter tall human jumping over a building 146 meters high. That is remarkable.

An interesting thing will happen when you put a flea in a jar with a lid. The flea will attempt to jump as high as it knows how until it hits its head. When it hits its head, the flea will adjust its jump so that it stops just below the height at which it hits its head. In other words, it will stop attempting to jump up to 150 times its own height. Even more interesting is what happens when two fleas in a jar have babies. The babies are born with the ability to jump up to 150 times its own height. However, because they never see their parents jumping that high, they never do either… Even when they are taken out of the jar. 

Steve draws a parallel between the behaviour of those fleas and the behaviour of people. When we grow up and never see a person like us do certain things, we dare not dream of doing those things.  Often our age, race, sex, or economic background unconsciously limit our dreams.

Have you ever heard the expression “the 4-minute mile”? Here is where it comes from:

At the beginning of the fifties and before, the common belief on earth was that a man could not run a mile under 4 minutes. There were tests and anatomical equations that “conclusively proved” that the human body was not capable of running that fast. In May of 1954 along came Roger Bannister and conclusively disproved this theory by running a mile in 3 minutes 59 seconds. Since then many more of people have run the mile in under 4 minutes, including high school kids. Why were so many people suddenly able to run a 4-minute mile? The theory is that Roger Bannister, by showing it could be done, broke the psychological barrier in other people’s minds thereby allowing them to do it too. In more colourful language, he showed the other fleas what they were actually capable of.

According to Steve, fear is an inevitable part of the journey. Seeking out experiences, like-minded people and already successful people that broaden your vision will fuel your passion and belief in your dreams enough to go for it despite the fear.

“You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.” ~ Tina Fey

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