The Earth Bound Balloon
We went walking with our 4 year old daughter to a nearby village fair. Daughter bought a gas balloon and enjoyed playing with it till we reached home after which she had no interest in it. Left to itself, the balloon floated to the ceiling with the string hanging down. Looking at it made me think.
The balloon has gone up because the gas in it is lighter than air, creating an upward force higher than the combined weight of the balloon and the string. If I attach a heavier and longer string, the balloon will come down closer to the floor. Imagine that I first attached a heavier string, let it come down and then trimmed the string. What will happen? As I keep on trimming the string a little at a time, a stage would be reached when the upward force trying to lift the balloon will exactly equal the downward force due to weight of the balloon and string. When this happens, the balloon should have no tendency to either go up or come down. It should remain suspended in air wherever I place it, at any height. It should remain there – neither going up nor coming down. Good in theory, right?
I started testing the idea by attaching a heavier string and brought the balloon closer to the floor. Then I began cutting the string a little 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 with great anticipation of fulfilling my dream of seeing the balloon and string hanging mid air, neither the balloon touching the ceiling nor the end of the string touching the floor. Guess what actually happened!
The moment I cut a tiny bit of string, the balloon went up smart and quick 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 my dream and reconciled to the fact I could not 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, not able to go up. When I cut only an almost invisible bit of string, the floor bound balloon soared up quickly and touched the ceiling. If I had done this experiment in open air, it would have gone to into the clouds and higher into the sky.
What does this mean? Because of the last tiny bit of string the balloon was unable to rise to the sky. The moment the balloon shed ‘a little’ bit of weight, it could go up freely to a great height!
Let us bring this concept into real life. It could be that our performance in any field of life is low or we consider ourselves a failure because we are burdened with a little of some little downward pull – laziness, lack of interest or concentration or effort so on. We may not be even aware of it. The moment this ‘little’ negative is shed, our performance may reach remarkable heights (sky high) which we never even imagined possible.
This concept needs some clarification. There are 2 preconditions for this sky high performance to be achieved.
First: This magical going up after cutting a little bit of string happens only at the critical stage when the upward force is almost matching the downward force but just a little less. It is only when this ‘little less’ upward force becomes a ‘little more’ than the downward force the magic takes place. Till this state close to balance is reached, the balloon is cursed to be earth bound. Looking at it’s failure to go up as desired by us, we tend to think there is something major wrong with the balloon. It could be that the balloon has the potential to go up the moment a little negative is cut off. We may be ignorant of this threshold status.
Similarly, our performance at this moment may be at the critical stage and can quickly go up but we feel like an utter failure because it is low. 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 on the ground gets lesser. This observation should give us hope that something positive is going on by cutting the bits of string.
Second: 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.
Applying it to our performance, the practice of going the extra mile should be continuous and never ending.
Appearances can be deceptive like the balloon ready to go up looks like it can never go up to sky. Our performance may not be going up but has the potential to dramatically go up.
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 very thin layer of dust. You can hardly see your face in it. If you can’t clean it quickly and see your face, you feel the mirror is useless. You would walk away from it feeling frustrated. The mirror costing a lot of money is treated as useless thing just because of ……what? A layer of dust!
What is the weight of the mirror and what is the weight of the layer of dust? The weight and volume of the dust is an infinitismal part of the weight of the mirror but it has the power to make the mirror totally useless. Even if you gather all the dust together it will be less than a pinch.
What is required to make the mirror useful again? A wet tissue paper and a few seconds of cleaning effort is all that is needed to restore the mirror to it’s full usefulness.
Seemingly ineffective or useless people may also be covered or bugged by insignificant layers of negative aspects. 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 items set before you. You are tempted to eat immediately. Just then some one told you that a drop of deadly poison (potassium cyanide) had fallen on it. Suddenly all the great attraction you had for that plate of food disappears and it is replaced by fear.
The tiny drop of poison is an insignificant part of the total weight or volume of the food. But all their value is destroyed by that tiny drop.
Just like that, 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 to 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 make corrections to our thinking or actions. We may thereby avoid the danger of such drops of poison destroying our plate full of talents.