It’s Cambridge University. And it’s 1953.
It’s 2:00 in the morning in student Ted Hughes dorm room. Ted’s sitting at his desk – staring at a blank piece of paper. He’s frustrated beyond belief and he’s worried. He has an essay due in the morning that he’s been trying to write for days. He can’t get past the first sentence –
He doesn’t understand it. He chose his subject, English, because of his love for poetry and his ambition to become a great poet.
But for some reason it’s getting harder and harder to write those essays.
And tonight he’s a brick wall. As he sits there staring desperately at the paper, he hears a noise.
As he looks up - his door opens and he sees… An enormous fox head. Ted’s surprised as the creature pushes the door open and walks into the room. It’s either a man with a fox’s head – or maybe it’s a fox walking on his hind legs. As it gets closer, Ted sees that the fox looks like he has just stepped
out of a furnace.
Every inch of the fox’s skin is charred and blackened by fire. Between the cracks in the skin, blood smolders like molten lava starting to seep out. The creature’s eyes are shining with the intensity of its pain. When it reaches the desk, the fox stretches out its hand – a human hand – and lays it flat on the empty page.
It looks into Ted’s eyes and speaks: ‘Stop this – you are destroying us.’ When the hand is lifted, the page is covered in an intricate print of a palm, in glistening wet blood
The next morning Ted rushes to his desk to look at the bloody palm print – only to find that it had vanished.
But the impression it left was permanent. Ted went to his teacher explained that he couldn’t continue with his course. After some discussion he switched from English to Anthropology and completed his degree. He forgot all about English essays and went back to writing poems.
Four years later, when Ted’s first book was published it contained a poem called "The Thought-Fox" – a poem that became one of the best known poems of the 20th century.
His dream of being a famous poet was realized.
WHAT THIS STORY TELLS US: I love this story. Here are the messages I take from it:
- The 'expected' route to success is not always YOUR route to YOUR success. If you're feeling stuck, maybe what you thought was the 'obvious path' is actually NOT the best plan for you.
- Pay attention to inner tension, resistance, angst and stress - see it as valuable insight that you are not aligned with your current actions. Don't ignore and muscle through the resistance, USE it. Step back. Examine. Reflect and re-evaluate.
- Sometimes we forget that success is NOT a linear process. In reality there are almost always twists, turns and setbacks along the way. Don't judge the 'setbacks' or yourself - know that the contrast is just part of the process of moving forward. Re-calibrate and begin again. Don't give up!
- Pay attention to feelings of inner ease and flow. It's an indication that you are 'in the zone' and that your actions match your intentions.
Mathematician Pascal shared,
"All of man's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly by himself in a room alone." There's so much wisdom in this statement, and it's why Enter the Zone is one of five Wake Up Eager Leader Habits! (See two new podcasts about Enter the Zone, below.)
If we never sit quietly by ourselves we tend to miss important feedback, insight and answers to our questions and problems.
(Like a bloody fox visiting our dreams!) Instead of creating time and space to sit quietly by ourselves, most of us are constantly "on" - and that causes us to miss Wisdom available to us. In our busyness we end up wasting time, energy and resources.