How to pluck coconuts?

Reducing weight or burning body fat is a common goal for people everywhere. I am one of them. Our kick boxing trainer Navin tells me some of the wonderful stories about people, how they missed their training sessions and reasons for their absence. Very few come for muscle training and most just want to lose the weight/fat accumulated over years as quickly as possible. As we get talking after our sessions, I have been privy to some hilarious incidents that he has witnessed. I sometimes think that he tries to motivate me with those stories.


Everyone wants to burn their fat in a month or three, while it has been accumulating for more than five years. A poor trainer gives you a diet chart and instructs you to do all fat burning and cardio exercises. A very few sustain this for three months and further. Most quit in a month or so.

Does this story end only in gym or yoga or fitness studio? This lack of perseverance and dedication. No, it is everywhere. I was reading this wonderful short story. Thought of sharing this with you.

It’s an old story about two Greek islanders vying to become the strongest man on the island.

The first trainee brings a newborn calf. The second trainee laughed at him. How could a calf help him train? But every day the first trainee lifted it. Every day the calf got a little bigger and heavier but he could still lift it because it was only a little bit heavier than the previous day. After a year the first trainee saw the calf was now a bull but he could still lift it. Meanwhile the second trainee has been trying to lift a bull since the beginning. And quite predictably failing every day.

There is something similar to this, that my grandfather had once told me.

Ours is an agricultural family. We have a coconut farm. Coconut saplings take 5 to 7 years to yield coconuts and they grow very tall. The tallest trees we have are more than 50 feet. When my grandfather was a kid, they were growing ragi (finger millet) mainly. Later they started planting coconut trees, now most of the agricultural land is covered with coconut trees. We use a bamboo pole tied with a sharp semicircular hard iron sickle (Kudlu in Kannada) to pluck coconuts. One end of the bamboo is tied with sickle and the other side is held in hand. Coconuts are chosen and are then cut from the tree by pulling down the sickle on them. Size of the bamboo pole increases as the tree grows. It’s easy to pluck when the tree is small. As the tree grows it will be very difficult to balance the bamboo.

Not everyone can pluck coconuts from the tall trees today. I cannot pluck coconuts from any tree taller than 20 feet. When I was a kid, I had asked my grandfather as to why almost anyone from his generation could balance the bamboo with such finesse and pluck coconuts as if it wasn’t as difficult as it is, but a few from my father’s generation and none from my generation can. His answer was very simple. They saw the coconuts for the first time. They planted them and as they grew gradually, they took care of them. They grew a little taller every day. They used longer bamboos when they couldn’t reach the coconuts. They did not realize the growth of the trees each day. They started with a 5 feet tall tree, from which coconuts could be plucked by hand. Then at 10 feet, they used a smaller bamboo. At twenty feet, used a little longer bamboo. At forty feet they used a very long bamboo. But if they had tried to use a fifty feet long bamboo to pluck a coconut for the first time, it would’ve been almost impossible. They had to grow with coconut tree.


I never understood this incident till I read the Greek islanders’ story. Both stories give the same message. Everything in life takes time. Be it an hobby, a business, studies, nurturing a thought and anything else, needs ample amount of time to find something meaningful. We are living in highly competitive societies, where everybody wants to be the first person to grab the opportunity. But if you look closely, most of the achievers (sports, music, arts, business, academics etc.). They have all have the same common trait – perseverance.

We have too many distractions today. Identify what you really want to pursue. It can change over a time which is fine. Let’s say you want to run 10k marathon in 2016. You may want to do something else in 2018. It is perfectly fine. We all change over time. So if you want to run 10k Marathon by end of 2016. Plan for it, start with three kilo meters and slowly increase 100 meters a week. And see the change! The only formula for achieving what we want is we should grow with what we want to achieve. Incremental efforts towards an aim makes success seem more reachable.

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