//Eat the Elephant One Bite at a Time
Eat the Elephant One Bite at a Time

Eat the Elephant One Bite at a Time

Iyanla Vanzant, the hot New York Times bestseller recently said in an ABC Good Morning America Interview, “Don’t try to eat the elephant all at once. Eat the elephant one bite at a time, and hopefully you won’t start with the tail.”

Since we don’t have any apparent abundance of elephants in Maine, you might wonder why I chose to use this quote as the start of this month’s article (And I don’t want to hear any of those old elephant repellent jokes—you know, my elephant repellent must be working ‘cause there aren’t any around here).

A related story: My best friend Robin died last week. She was a remarkable person, but, best known for her abilities at relationship building. She was so good that she regularly scheduled lunch meetings with her friends who invited people the others wouldn’t know. Her purpose? To make sure these new people spent the entire lunch talking about her and her already known friends. The result? Valuable feedback about what perceptions existed regarding her and her friends. The new people always became new friends and were part of the huge network that ultimately meant: Whatever the task at hand, Robin had a willing force of people to get the job done—and done well. She will be sorely missed by me. But, since her death, she has caused a couple of old friends to reunite with me and close the gulf in time and relationships between us that should never have existed. Robin is doing her magic beyond the world we all hang to closely. She is a genius.

No, she knows how to eat the elephant in small bites.

In our zeal to get to be the most successful whatever we want to be and however we want to define success, we fail to reflect on this simple genius. A relationship is a small bite to take, but it is an enormous interjection (remember that from school grammar lessons?) into the lifeblood of the world. No small action, if truly meant, stops there. There is no dead end to a small genuine action—it in fact takes on a life of its own. If you give of your self and take time to listen, more than tell, you are truly creating a relationship that will be forwarded amongst other relationships ad infinitum.

A recent article in PR Reporter quoted Richard Edelman, president of Edelman PR Worldwide in New York City regarding his “Go-Direct Model” as a public relations strategy. In essence he says:

  1. Go direct
  2. To key stakeholders, surgically targeted
  3. Via opinion leaders
  4. Using the organizational family, including spouses, retirees, vendors & any others available
  5. Always remembering that all issues are local, or interpreted locally.

This strategy of a national public relations executive is another way of doing what Robin did and is exactly what Iyanla is suggesting in her anecdote. We think we have to have an outside grand silver bullet to make things happen. We don’t! Worse yet, our perception of the silver bullet is akin to eating an elephant in one bite. We can’t! Only by taking one small step (bite) at a time through true relationship building with people who should and do care can we make quick work of our communications efforts. All the other stuff we do may be helpful in making people aware, informing them of the opportunity and reinforcing where they have decided to go with you—but, it does little to change the relationship and desired behavior.

Edelman says do this to pass Go!

Iyanla says do this to eat the elephant!


Robin lived her life demonstrating the beneficial reality of taking small bites!

Hope you gain from their wisdom!

Originally published in the Kennebec Business Monthly in March 2000 as part of a monthly guest series on public relations and marketing.