* It is only a Little!

This article looks at what ‘a little’ can do using three metaphors

  • The earth bound balloon
  • The dusty mirror
  • It is only a drop!

 The Earth Bound Balloon

We took our 4 year old daughter to a nearby village fair, walking with friends. Daughter bought a gas balloon and enjoyed playing with it, till we reached home. Once home, she lost interest in it. Left to itself, the balloon floated to the ceiling with the string hanging down. Looking at it made me curious.

The balloon had gone up because the weight of the gas inside it is lighter than air in which it is still floating, thus creating an upward force which is higher than the combined weight of the balloon and the string. If I attach a sufficiently heavy string, the balloon will come down close to the floor. Then I would trim the string a little at a time. What will happen? As I continue trimming the string a little at a time, the balloon will be going up a little at a time and a stage would be reached when the upward force trying to lift the balloon will equal the downward force due to weight of the balloon and string. When that happens, the balloon should have no tendency to either go up or come down. It should remain suspended mid air at whatever height I place it, neither going up nor coming down. Good in theory, right?

I began testing the idea by attaching a heavier and longer string and brought the balloon closer to the floor. Then I cut a little string, at a time. The balloon started going up a little, every time I cut the string. It reached a height of about 3 feet with only a fraction of an inch of string lying on the ground. After a few tiny cuts, only the tip of the string was touching the floor. Then I cut only a tiny bit of string, excited with seeing my dream of the balloon suspended mid air. Guess what actually happened?

The moment I cut the last tiny bit of string, the balloon went up quickly and touched the ceiling. My dream was shattered. I tried to redo the experiment by adding more string and cutting the tiniest bit I could. Even after many attempts to refine my technique I could never cut just the right bit of string to keep the balloon and string suspended mid air. Either the balloon touched the ceiling or the string touched the floor. After many attempts, I gave up on my dream, reconciled to the fact I could never exactly match the upward and downward forces.

The unexpected phenomena I witnessed set me thinking. Just before I cut the last bit of string, the balloon was close to the floor, unable to go up. When I cut almost invisible bit of string, the floor-bound balloon soared up quickly and touched the ceiling. If I did this experiment in open air, it would have gone into the clouds and still higher into the sky.

What does this mean? Because of the last tiny bit of string, the balloon appeared to be incapable of going up. The moment the balloon shed ‘a little’ bit of weight, it went up quickly to an unbelievable height!

Into Real life 

Let us bring this concept into real life. It could be that our performance in any field of life is low and we consider ourselves a failure because we are burdened with a little bit of downward pull – lack of motivation, not enough concentration, not enough effort etc. We may not be even aware of these little burdens pulling down our performance. The moment we shed this ‘little negative’ stuff, our performance may reach unexpected heights (sky high?) which we never even imagined possible! There are two preconditions for this sky-high performance to be realized.

First, this magical going up after cutting a little bit of string happens only at that critical stage when the upward force is almost matching the downward force, being just a tiny bit less. It is only when this ‘little less’ upward force becomes a ‘little more’ than the downward force that the magical going up happens. Till this state very close to perfect balance is reached, the balloon is cursed to be earth bound.

Looking at our failure to improve our performance, in spite of making serious efforts, we may think that we have a major handicap. We may feel like an utter failure. This may not be true. Like in the case of the balloon, our performance may be at the threshold point and when we trim a little negative downward pull, it may go up. We may be ignorant of the threshold status and what is that last bit we have to shed. If we keenly observe what is going on, we can see that every time we cut the string, the balloon goes up a little and the tail of the string lying flat on the ground gets smaller. This observation should give us hope that something positive is going on by cutting the bits of string and keep on cutting more tiny bits. Same concept applies to our performance.

Secondly, the little net uplifting force should be present all the time (24/7) for the balloon to continuously go up. It is not enough to give it an upward push once in a while and expect it to not come down when the push is not there. Applying this concept it to our performance, the practice of going the extra mile should be continuous and never ending.

When both of the above conditions are achieved, nothing can stop the balloon or our performance from reaching great heights.

The Dusty Mirror

Imagine a mirror covered with a thin layer of dust. You can hardly see your face in it. If you can’t clean it quickly and see your face, you may conclude that the mirror is useless. You may walk away from it, feeling frustrated. The mirror costing a lot of money is treated as useless, just because of – a thin layer of dust! Imagine the power of these worthless tiny particles of dust over the costly mirror!

What is the weight of the layer of dust compared with weight of the mirror? If you gather all the dust together, it can be held between the tips of the thumb and index finger.  So little! The weight and volume of the dust is an infinitesimal part of the weight of the mirror but it has the power to make the whole mirror useless! What do we need to do to make the mirror useful again?  A paper towel, a little water and a couple of minutes of cleaning effort are all that we need to do to restore the mirror to it’s glory!

Seemingly ineffective or useless people may also be covered or bugged by tiny bits of negative thoughts or behaviors. All that may be required is a little effort on their part to clean those out. Then their performance may shine like a clean mirror. The time and effort required to clean out the negatives may be very little, as little as that required for cleaning a dusty mirror.

It Is Only A Tiny Drop

Imagine a big plate of food filled with delicious food items set before you. You are tempted to eat immediately. Just then  someone told you that a drop of deadly poison had fallen on it. Suddenly all the intense attraction you had for that plate of food disappears. It is replaced by terror.

The tiny drop of poison is an insignificant part of the total weight or volume of the food items. But all their value is destroyed by that tiny drop.

In a like manner, a person’s or an organization’s value or goodness can be destroyed or greatly weakened by a small but persistent lapse in performance. How can one avoid such potential drops of poison? The best insurance is to be totally receptive to smaller lapses and errors seen by own self or reported by others, take them as blessings and correct our thinking and action patterns. We may thereby avoid the danger of such drops of poison destroying our plate full of strengths.

Related pages
A lifeless gets a grand new life
It happened suddenly
Androcles and the lion

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Parent page: Articles on ‘Improving self and achieving goals’ 

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