how to eat an airplane

Do your own goals intimidate you?

How to eat an airplane!

Sometimes things appear daunting and intimidating. You come up with a great goal – and then decide it’s a bit too big for you – and then give it up. Or work piles up and you can see no way of handling it. Or there are too many demands on your time. Or you want to go for that promotion or that new job but hold yourself back thinking you’re not up to it.

What’s common to each of these is “yes-but” thinking. Yes, I want it.  But, no, I don’t think I can do it.

It’s not the task – it’s the thinking

If the task or goal can be done by a human being and you have the time and the skills to do it then it’s likely that it’s your thinking that is daunting you.

Happily NLP has lots of tips and insights into how turn to this around. With NLP we can examine or “model” how other people do things well in order to adopt some of their strategies. So let’s look at Monsoir Mangetout...

When you want to eat an airplane

What do you do to challenge yourself when you’ve eaten glass, razor blades, bicycles, television sets and shopping carts.  (By the way, that’s ‘eaten’ as in chewed, then swallowed and then digested. Not just swallowed and re-gurgitated.)

This thought occurred to Frenchman Michel Lotito. His answer was to eat an airplane: a Cessna to be precise: fuselage, engine, wings, carpets, seats, propeller. And he did this at the end of the 70s.

Michel, also known as Monsoir Mangetout (Mr Eat-it-all), began eating unusual objects in 1966 when he was 16. He was okay with light bulbs and razor blades – he’d just chew them before swallowing. But for larger objects such as bicycles and TV sets his strategy was to first dismantle them into bite-sized chunks which he would then eat over a number of meals. In 1978, for example, he ate a bicycle weighing 15 lbs over the course of 12 days, washing it down with a bottle of mineral oil and 2 gallons of water per sitting!

He used the same strategy to scoff the Cessna. Rather than put the aircraft on a giant plate and begin chewing he dismantled it into bite-sized chunks or 1-2 cubic centimetres and ate it in the two years between 1978 and 1980.

The bite-sized chunks strategy

You and I can achieve a lot more than we believe we can – if we don’t defeat ourselves with sloppy thinking. Michel must have found the task a bit daunting when he stood there and looked at the Cessna. But he just got on with it – one bite at a time.

Modelling his strategy we can see 5 pieces:

  1. Goal: he had a clear goal – he wanted to eat the airplane
  2. Chunks: he broke the job down into bite-sized chunks
  3. Time: he worked at a pace which suited him
  4. Ease: he used things to make the task easier (in his case mineral oil and lots of water)
  5. Belief in self: he believed he could eat anything.

How to apply Michel’s strategy

Let’s say you wish to get fitter

(1) Goal

Well, first of all, being fitter is too vague. You need to precisely define the goal to be achieved and by which date. In this case the goal could be measured by resting pulse rate, blood pressure measurement, ability to run or walk a certain distance in a specified time, and so on.

(2) Chunks

Once you define how much fitter you will be your next step is to ‘dismantle’ the task into small, easily achieved, steps or chunks e.g. I will walk 2 miles extra each day, then 4 miles extra, then I will switch to running one, etc.

(3) Time

This is closely linked the chunks: you allocate a realistic time for completing each chunk. If you break the task down into manageable steps it stops being daunting. If you’ve dismantled the task of getting fitter into 12 chunks you now decide when you will complete each chunk of the goal.

This means you won’t be overwhelming yourself with the immensity of the task – you simply work towards completing the chunk. And this maintains your motivation: each chunk completed can be an achievement to be celebrated.

(4) Ease

Yes, you could drive yourself relentlessly along the route. But this can have side effects – including burnout or loss of motivation. All work, no play isn’t such a good idea – except for very short periods. As you work towards your goal it’s a good idea to also be kind to yourself in terms of work-life balance, health maintenance, fun, close relationships, and social time.

(5) Belief in self

There is a saying “whether you believe you can - or you believe you can’t – you’re right!” Now this may not be literally true but it does make a good point: if you believe you can’t do something then you’re unlikely to even attempt it – it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You’re defeated before you begin.

You do need to believe in yourself to achieve the big goals. And a first simple way to build or strengthen self-belief is to remind yourself of how much you have already achieved in your life.

Make a written list of your successes – all that you can think of – since the beginning of your life. And it must be a written list so you can refer to it from time to time such as when the going gets a bit wobbly - which it will, at times, if it is a truly stretching goal.

And, finally…

Needless to say, I don’t recommend a metal diet. In 2007 Michel Lotito died aged 57 and apparently of natural causes. However before this the doctors were becoming concerned about the wear and tear on his internal organs caused by his eating habits.

That said, and despite his lifestyle, he was careful about was mixing foods.

Especially with bananas.

He’d never eat them after a metal meal – said they gave him heartburn!



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