The spoonful of fleas the scientist dumped in the glass jar reminded me of my house when the kids were young.  All sorts of creatures bounced off couches, climbed up the walls, and spilled Koolaid on the new carpet.

If I had the same kind of vertical leap that a flea does – up to 200 times their height- I could almost clear the Eiffel Tower in a single bound; now those are some serious ups. Many of the fleas jumped out of the jar and started looking for the nearest dog which, I’m assuming by the creature at my feet who is currently scratching, was my dog.

The scientist put a lid over the jar and left ventilation, but no escape route. The fleas kept jumping and the tink-tink-tink of them hitting the lid, at first, sounded like a miniature machine gun.

But after a while, the tink-tink-tink stopped. The fleas were jumping, but they had developed migraines from hitting their heads too many times without helmets.  So they jumped almost to the top. Not quite, but almost. With bloody noses, their ears ringing, and the NFL players union trying to protect them from another concussion, they jumped just short of the lid.  They may be tiny, but they’re not stupid.

The researcher then took the lid off and not one flea jumped out. They all continued to jump, but only to the level they had grown accustomed to jumping. They had been conditioned to perform at reduced capacity. I often wonder how many times we operate at reduced capacity because someone held a lid over us for a while and we just got tired of trying?

What are some of the lids on the glass jars that keep people from operating at full capacity?

Economic- the nature of my job frequently takes me to some of the most impoverished areas in the world where refugees walk hundreds of miles for safety and food.  Telling them to “be all they can be” is the most ridiculous thing you could tell them.  Starving or hungry people operate at severely diminished capacity.

Educational- Education is the key that unlocks the lids that keep people suppressed.  Dictators love uninformed, uneducated people because education empowers people.

Critical environments– if a child is consistently criticized or a spouse is constantly berated or an employee continually reprimanded, they will learn to operate at diminished capacity.  Why should they try if everything they do is wrong? People will just give up trying after they’ve hit the lid of a criticism too many times.

I’m curious; what other lids do you see? What kind of limitations do you see imposed on people that keep them from operating at full capacity?

What would you say to the fleas to get them to jump higher?

I think I’d just tell them two words:  Try again!

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