I was in 10th grade when I first caught a glimpse of the truth of this African proverb.
I'd gotten in the habit of spending the ten minutes between school letting out and my bus departing by running for food at McDonald's. Since the restaurant was just across the street from the high school, I'd made a game of collecting orders from a few friends and then sprinting over to fill them. Spectators on the bus placed wagers on whether I'd make it back in time.
Until that day, I always had.
As luck would have it, on this day I'd collected orders from three other friends and sprinted out of McDonald's with lunch for four. My smile said the bus was still there and I would once again be a hero to my friends. It was a simple matter of crossing the street and I'd be on my way. But then I heard the train whistle.
I faintly remembered the railroad tracks that crossed between the bus and McDonald's but I'd never seen a train on them before. Until now. Everyone on the bus saw my head jerk to the right just as the five engine train cut me off from my ride home. Dumbfounded by the unexpected event, I could only stand there helplessly holding bags of food.
And. Watch. My. Bus. Pull. Away. Between. The. Railroad. Cars.
And that's what happens when you try to chase 'two monkeys' at once. We face it all the time. Work and family. Integrity and popularity. Riches and happiness. Far better to catch all of one goal than half of two, which is the same as not catching either.
The wise person decides what goal is most important to him and then organizes his life around that vision. Then as other temptations vie for attention, he holds them up to his guiding question: "Does this temptation help or hinder the achievement of my goal?" The answer easily shows him what to ignore.
Those who never prioritize their wants become victims of the impulses of the moment. As each exciting new activity presents itself, these people march toward it until the next exciting opportunity arrives when they march toward that. Over time, they've walked the same distance as the rest of us, but have gotten nowhere. Chasing two or more monkeys inevitably leads to all of them getting away.
As I walked home that day, rich in food and poor in transportation, I had to laugh about what had happened. I could just imagine how funny I looked to everyone watching from my bus. And sure enough, I received lots of razzing the next day, not to mention some refund requests. But the event taught me a lesson I'll never forget.
Let the other kids run for food.
Mike Johnson is an energetic writer & entrepreneur. Learn more about Mike's offerings at www.MikeJohnson.biz