Mother taught me to eat an elephant at 5 years old

Mother taught me to eat an elephant at 5 years old

It all started when I was about 5 years old in a house in Harlesden, North West London. My mother was alone, pregnant for my first sister, unable to work and she had to look after me. So she, who like most single mums had to get creative.

In the late 70’s I’m not sure the term entrepreneurial was used very often but looking back at what my mother did to make ends meet, she was just that – entrepreneurial.

I remember a delivery man would come to the front door and drop off these huge boxes. I remember seeing 100’s of shiny gold strips with double-sided sticky tape at the ends of them. My mother would show me how to make bows with the gold ribbons. I’d make about 4 ribbons then put them all together to make what I now know were gift bows for presents.

I would sit with my mother for hours putting bow after bow together and fill up the empty boxes on the other side of our living room. It was my mission to keep going until those boxes were filled because I knew that once they were, the man would come back and take them away. I didn’t know exactly what it meant but I knew it meant something important was accomplished.

I asked my mother recently how it all worked and she said that she responded to a leaflet that came through the door to work from home. She said that once a week a van would turn up with these boxes. She would make about 200 bows a night after I went to sleep between 10pm and 3am. She got 4 hours sleep and was up at 7am to get me ready for school. She was paid about £20 per box with 100 bows per box.

On weekends is when I would sit with her and help out. For a 5 year old it was an activity with my mother, quality time I spent with her and I loved it. For her it was free labour! So if you ever had any wonky gift bows in the 70’s – sorry that was me!

Looking back on it, my mother was doing what she had to do and had no idea what she taught me. Turning a single strip of gold ribbon into a pretty bow and filling up box after box taught me focus. It gave me the ability to focus on tasks that seemed enormous at the time and for a 5 year old, almost impossible. But I realised at 5 years old, that if you ignored the enormity of the task and concentrated on one bow at a time, the box would eventually be filled.

The sense of achievement was my driver and made me want to do it again and again. Knowing that in some way I was helping my Mother to do something that was important reinforced the reason why I kept going.

So how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time…

I realised later on in life that my ability to focus on a task no matter how big it seemed and to eat an elephant “one bite at a time” was key to me being successful in starting my business.

So why was this exercise important for me, writing this blog, to understand my early influence? Because just as we have positive influences that enable us we also have influences that disable us.

In summary I think it’s worth considering what’s made us who we are today and how we can realise our potential for the future.

To your success!

Julian Hall – The Ultrapreneur

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