The Heart of a Mouse…

English: Stadium Nelson Mandela Bay, in Port E...
English: Stadium Nelson Mandela Bay, in Port Elizabeth, South Africa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mentoring Letter 334 – The Heart Of A Mouse

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

“City Facing Water Crisis After Two Feeder Pipes Burst” (EP Herald)

Port Elizabeth Infrastructure and engineering acting executive director Barry Martin said the pipelines that supply the city with water from the Churchill and Impofu dams had collapsed and the reservoirs were expected to run dry by midday.  Martin said water from the remaining two sources – Loerie and Gariep Dam – was being rerouted to limit the number of areas affected.  The repairs were already under way and large construction equipment had been moved to the damaged pipelines for work to begin.  Martin appealed to residents and businesses to limit their water use, particularly over the next five days.  He said the water usage was expected to normalize in about two weeks.

This was the news that greeted Port Elizabethans this past Friday.  The interesting part has been to watch how people have responded to this.  So what do you think happened?  Here is the headline from a follow up article:

“Supermarkets and stores across Nelson Mandela Bay are fast running out of bottled water as the water crisis affecting the Metro deepens.”

It reminded me of the millennium bug scare around the year 2000 when people were storing up canned foods and candles as they expected the world to come to a standstill as the new century was born.  Here we go again!  A slight bump in the road and panic sets in.  Suddenly water is sold out and so are plastic containers.  I am keen to see if the emigration numbers shot up this weekend.  Now please excuse a little cynicism, but surely a small setback shouldn’t unleash a wave of fear throughout the city?  Is this symptomatic of how fear rules our lives?  Some will say they were just taking precautions; playing safe.  For me it demonstrates how easily fear grips our lives.

An Indian fable talks about a mouse that was constantly in fear of cat.  So one day, a magician changed the mouse into a cat.  But then the cat was afraid of a dog.  So the magician changed the cat into a dog.  But the dog was afraid of a tiger.  So the magician changed the dog into a tiger.  But then the tiger was afraid of a hunter.  Finally, in exasperation, the magician said, “Be a mouse again, you have only the heart of a mouse and I cannot help you.”  If we have the ‘heart of a mouse’, we can expect to act like a mouse in response to the things that life throws at us.  Fear will dominate our thinking and will immobilize our actions.

The problem of fear is nothing new.  We all have to deal with it.  A John Hopkins University doctor says, “We do not know why it is that worriers die sooner than the non-worriers, but that is a fact.”  In fact, many specialists estimate that 90% of today’s chronic patients have one common problem – fear.  Fear of losing their jobs, old age, being exposed, of facing the future etc.

If power could deliver us from fear, then Joseph Stalin should have been fearless.  Instead, this infamous Russian premier was afraid to go to bed.  He had seven different bedrooms.  Each could be locked as tightly as a safe.  In order to foil any would-be assassins, he slept in a different one each night.  Five chauffeur-driven limousines transported him wherever he went, each with curtains closed so no one would know which contained Stalin.  So deep-seated were his apprehensions that he employed a servant whose sole task was to monitor and protect his tea bags.

So how do we deal with this destructive human emotion?  How do we strengthen the ‘heart of a mouse’?  Here are a few suggestions:

Firstly, understand that fear starts with worry.  Although worry is not in the definition of fear, it is actually a type of fear, too.  We could define it as fear of future events.  Worry is a useless emotion and doesn’t help you move beyond rational fear.  Worry always falls into one of two categories:

1. Things you can’t control – If you have no control over the outcome of a situation, why worry about it?  You can’t change or control other people.  What will happen, will happen.  Worrying won’t make a difference at all in the situation.  It will only add to your fears and prevent you from taking care of the things you can control.

2. Things you can control – If you can control the situation you are concerned about, then it’s simple: take action!  If you’re doing everything you can, then you no longer have any need to worry.  Worry slows you down, makes you second guess yourself, and could even lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.  In the end, facing your fears head-on will give you more self-confidence, provide valuable experience, and make you stronger.

Secondly, make sure that the rewards of your success are more powerful than your fear of failure.  Ambrose Redmoon said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.”

Thirdly, be prepared to face your fear.  Nelson Mandela said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.  The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Fourthly, take positive action.  Dale Carnegie said, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear.  Action breeds confidence and courage.  If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it.  Go out and get busy.”

During World War II, a military governor met with General George Patton in Sicily.  When he praised Patton highly for his courage and bravery, the general replied, “Sir, I am not a brave man. . . The truth is, I am an utter craven coward.  I have never been within the sound of gunshot or in sight of battle in my whole life that I wasn’t so scared that I had sweat in the palms of my hands.”  Years later, when Patton’s autobiography was published, it contained this significant statement by the general: “I learned very early in my life never to take counsel of my fears.”

Finally, embrace the benefits that facing fear brings.  Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.  You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”  When we overcome having the ‘heart of a mouse,’ challenges, opportunities and possibilities are no longer dangers or crises and roadblocks.  We can face anything that life presents us with a glint in the eye, a steel will and a confident gait.

Choose a heart of courage over the heart of a mouse.

Have a great week

Your friend


If you have any questions or feedback about “The Heart Of A Mouse”, please email me on, I would love to hear from you.  Antony Jennings is an international trainer, consultant and motivational speaker based in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.  Antony writes this free weekly mentoring letter to support and encourage those who are serious about taking charge of their lives.  You will find an archive of his letters at or


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