There's More Left in the Tube
Our biggest breakthroughs often occur when we think there's nothing left in our tube.
by Jeff Keller
When I shave each morning, I use shaving cream that comes out of a small "travel size" aerosol can. The can is only about three inches high. I'd been using that little can for several weeks, when I realized the can was getting very light. I immediately thought, "Can't be much more left in here." I was just about to throw it in the wastebasket when I figured I could eke out another shave or two.
Much to my amazement, the shaving cream kept coming out day after day after day. I ended up getting 19 more shaves from that little dispenser! And to think that I was just about to throw the can away.
I'm sure you've experienced the same thing with a tube of toothpaste or shampoo. It looks like the tube is just about empty, but you keep folding the tube and squeezing — and you get days or weeks of extra use from the supposedly empty tube.
There's a lesson here for all of us. We work toward a goal and sometimes get frustrating results for a long time. Things aren't working out as we had anticipated. We think there's not much left in "our tube," and we give some thought to quitting. The reality is that we have a lot more left in the tube, if we'll only continue to believe in ourselves and keep moving forward.
In fact, our biggest breakthroughs often occur when we think there's nothing left in our tube. You see, there's a polarity to life, and when you experience setbacks and disappointments, these are often balanced by significant achievements. Yet most people quit before the "turnaround" happens.
Napoleon Hill, one of the most insightful success writers of all time, described this phenomenon in his classic self-help book Think & Grow Rich. In the early 1900s, Hill spent decades interviewing more than 500 of the most successful people in the United States — people like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Andrew Carnegie. Hill reported that hundreds of these successful individuals told him that their greatest success came just one step after they suffered their greatest defeat.
Harriet Beecher Stowe put the principle this way: "When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you until it seems that you cannot hold on for a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn."
About 10 years ago, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen began pitching their book to various publishers. The first 30 rejected their book. They could have thrown in the towel then, believing the tube was empty. Then they got the 31st rejection ... and then the 32nd rejection. Was the tube empty? They didn't think so. On the 140th attempt, they finally got a publisher to say yes to their book. That book was Chicken Soup for the Soul, and it spawned a series of books that has now sold more than 80 million copies!
The challenge is that we do not know when pushing ahead a little bit more will give us a breakthrough. The trick is to maintain a positive expectation and focus only on the next step or two. How do we know whether we are being persistent or pig-headed? The larger the goal, the more noble the endeavour to reach it. When we try new approaches, gather new inputs and help, it is more useful than if we simply keep plodding along. Something like smarter hard work instead of simply hard work or smart work.