How Do You Eat an Elephant?

Eating an elephant can be daunting and overwhelming. So can setting and achieving lifetime goals. How can you accomplish something as big as eating an elephant? By doing it the SMART way, of course … eating it one bite at a time.

Everything in life that seems daunting, overwhelming, and even impossible can be accomplished gradually by taking on just a little at a time. If you can learn how to break down large goals in to smaller more manageable goals, you will be well on your way to reaching your lifetime plan.

However, this method only works if you keep on eating bites! One by one, bite after bite. Now let’s apply the elephant-eating conundrum to music.

  • How do you learn a new tune? You learn it one note at a time, then group a few notes together until you can play a full measure, next a phrase, Part A, Part B. Finally with practice, you will be able to play through the entire song. Perfectly.  But if you are a beginner and try to tackle the entire song in one sitting, you may get discouraged and put the entire project to the side.

  • How do you prepare for a performance?  Imagine you want to play at the nursing home on a regular basis. But you know you could only play for about 10 minutes and then you would be done. How would you expand your repertoire?  Obviously, just one tune at a time. In the past, I have created my playlist and then tried to play through all the songs in one sitting. But it didn’t work for me. I had to go back and tackle polishing just one tune at a time. ... one by one until the entire program was ready.

    A confession … when I got the job playing Christmas music all day at the Butterfly Palace in Branson, I only had 3 Christmas tunes polished and ready to play in public. I played all three tunes for the audition and got the job! Whew!   But … uh-oh, now I needed to be able to play for 7 hours straight. Experience taught me to just add one new song every few days and, by the end of the Christmas season, I had a repertoire of 30 Christmas tunes that I could play well.

  • Take bites consistently. Keep taking bites ... one by one, day by day.  In other words, practice daily.  Commit to it. Check it off on your calendar when you have practiced each day. You might need to connect with an accountability partner if you find yourself slacking off. But one of the most important things you can do to get proficient on the dulcimer is to make sure practice happens every day – even if it’s only for a few minutes.

  • Set goals. But make your goals realistic. One of the biggest pitfalls to success is making a goal too big. You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew. Take time to think carefully about your musical goals for the day, for the week, for the season … and be sure they’re reasonable and realistic.

Motivational coach Zig Ziglar once said that a goal properly set is a goal halfway reached.  And he is right! Setting a goal is just like eating an elephant. Bit by bit, bite by bite, you make possible what at first seemed impossible. By setting goals for your dulcimer, you will gradually get a little bit closer to playing your best.

I KNOW you’ve got what it takes. So get busy and turn those dulcimer dreams into reality!

Happy dulcimering,



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