“The real ‘problem’ why so many of us are stuck in a mediocre lifestyle is not exactly because of lack of opportunities; it’s because of the ‘cows’ in our lives,” my Spanish teacher explained. “Most people in my country live a mediocre life because of their need for ‘it to be easy’ and their belief that ‘playing it safe’ is the responsible thing to do. They make excuses why the things they should be doing are not getting done. They use justifications to convince themselves that their situation is not as bad as it seems.”
Of course I wanted to hear more. It pretty much sounded like a Universal ‘problem’, don’t you think?
This is the story, from the book ‘Once Upon a Cow – Dr. Camilo Cruz, she used to explain her point further.
A wise old teacher was trying to teach one of his students the ultimate secret for living a prosperous and happy life. Knowing the many obstacles that one encounters on the path to finding this happiness, he thought that the boy’s first step was to understand the reason why so many people get stuck in a life of conformity and mediocrity. In order for the young boy to learn this important lesson, he would have to see for himself what happens when we allow mediocrity to control our lives.
He decided to take the boy out to the poorest neighborhood and found a house that appeared neglected and abandoned.
The most incredible thing is that a poor family of 8 all lived in this small house. Their sad physical appearance, with their heads hung low and their old dirty clothes were all a clear indication of not only external poverty, but also poverty deep within themselves. In the midst of their horrible living conditions, this family depended entirely and got by with only one possession. They were owners of a cow.
Their daily routine was based around taking care of the cow and lived off its milk. The cow, other than a means of necessity, played a major purpose in their lives. It was the only thing that separated them from total misery.
Furthermore, the cow gave them a sense that their life wasn’t all that bad.
After all, their neighbors were just as poor, but they didn’t own a cow. They thought, “We can’t complain, at least we own a cow.”
The teacher chose to stay with this poor family for the night with his student. The next morning, both got up early to go back home. The young boy wasn’t clear about the lesson his teacher wanted him to learn. The only thing he experienced was the mediocrity of life this family was living.
What brought them to this state of conformity?
This is the important part of the lesson the teacher wanted the boy to understand.
As they walked out the house, he whispered to the young boy, “It’s time for you to learn the lesson we came here for.” He made his way towards the direction of the cow, pulled out a dagger from his carry on bag and in a quick, rapid movement, stabbed the cow, killing it instantly. The boy was stunned and yelled out,
“What kind of lesson is this? You’re trying to make me understand the secret to living a happy life by completely ruining the life of this poor family? What’s going to happen to them now?”
Without paying any attention or demonstrating any emotions towards the young boy’s anguish, the old, wise teacher wiped off the dagger, put it in his bag and resumed his journey, signaling him to follow.
One year later, the old teacher approached the young boy and asked if he would like to go back to visit the poor family and see how they were doing. Not a single day passed without thinking about that poor family.
“What had become of them without their only possession? Were they able to start a new life?”
He needed to find out and put his mind at rest.
A few days later, they made their way back to the poor neighborhood. As they approached the location where the family lived, the spot where the old abandoned house was a year ago, had changed. The boy was amazed to see a beautiful house that had recently been built.
His first thought was that the poor family, not being able to survive without the cow, was forced to abandon the house and live in the streets. This house was built by a new family with more possessions, who took over the land. It was too painful for him to go inside and see the new family living there. As he was about to walk away, a man opened the front door and stepped outside. He looked closer and could not believe his eyes. It was the same man that was living there a year ago. The new, clean clothes he was wearing, his shiny eyes and his cheerful attitude made it obvious that something big happened. The boy walked up to him and asked,
“What happened since last year when we came to visit that has totally changed the way your family is living?”
The man, not realizing that the boy and his teacher were responsible for the death of his cow, invited both of them in the house and explained. “The day when both of you left, something horrible happened. Our cow was killed. To be honest, our first reaction was one of desperation. It was the only security we had to survive and made us feel comfortable with what we had. After all, our neighbors were a lot worse off than we were. When we lost it, we had to overcome our fear and find some other way to survive. We sold the meat from the cow, bought seeds and planted them to grow a few vegetables to feed our children. At some point, we noticed that we were getting a lot more vegetables than we needed for our personal survival. So, we began selling them. With the extra money, we bought more seeds and planted more varieties of vegetables and fruits. Not long after, we got our own spot at the market to sell our vegetables and fruits in large quantities.
For the first time in our lives, we were able to buy new clothes and soon we earned enough money to re build our home.
This past year, little by little , we completely transformed our quality of life.”
The young boy listened to the man’s story intently. Finally, he understood the important lesson his old, wise teacher wanted him to learn. It was obvious that the death of the cow didn’t mean the end of their lives.
On the contrary, it meant the beginning of a brand new life and better opportunities.
The old, wise teacher, having sat quietly, listening to the man tell his story, whispered in the boy’s ear, “Do you believe that if this family had not lost their cow, they would have achieved everything they have this year?” The young boy thought about it for a moment and replied, “Surely they would not.” The old teacher continued, “The cow was not only their only possession, it was also the chain keeping them attached to a life of conformity and mediocrity. When it was removed, they push themselves to overcome their fears and discovered better opportunities to improve their quality of life.”
We all have cows (excuses and justifications) for not doing what we really want to do. Our comfort zone becomes the chain keeping us attached to a life of mediocrity.
Once we tell ourselves, “It’s Enough!” and chose to use our potential towards achieving our ambitions, we start feeling alive .
Have you ever killed a ‘cow’ in your life? How did your life change once you got rid of the ‘cow’?