After waking up with a sore throat, my oldest daughter got a positive strep test back from the clinic the other day. We were sent home with a bottle of liquid penicillin and a 24 hour quarantine.

My daughter has a notoriously limited list of foods she finds acceptable—most of her favorites range in the white to slightly off-white color spectrum. So we weren’t surprised this morning when we found her staring at the tablespoon-serving of medicine with a pained look on her face trying to will the whole situation away.

She’s capable of maintaining this posture for hours at a time.

I broke it down for her: 

“You can gulp the medicine down now and get back to happily reading your books. Or, you can stall, put a half hour of worry and anxiety in your pocket, and then take the medicine.

Which option do you like better?”

She’s a smart kid: she choked down the meds.

Mark Twain is credited with the line, ““Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” 

Actually, Nicolas Chamfort deserves the true credit for the line and in his version it was a toad. Nonetheless, the notion behind it is to start your day with something terrible in the aim of moving towards something great.  

Often the frog rule gets misconstrued as a masochistic ritual of self-torture. While I think there is benefit to taking on some tasks simply to remind ourselves we can do hard things,—I don’t think that’s where the core value of the “frog rule” lies.

All projects, even the ones that we know will make us better, come with distasteful parts. There’s often no getting around those bits—they need to happen. Swallowing one small frog each morning is a way to spread them out, to drink the whole bottle of medicine one tablespoon at a time.

Here’s a suggestion:

Try taking a few index cards or sticky notes and write a “frog” on each one. The frog should help get you closer to some key goal you’ve got. It may be around a professional project you’re working on, some physical or psychological health goal, or a relationship you are trying to improve.  Chances are, you already know several key steps towards getting you to those goals and at least one or two of them don’t taste too good.

Don’t make this a mental list—write them down. Things often lose some of their emotional potency once they’re on paper. 

Put them on individual pieces of paper. You’ve got to make them bite-sized. One frog you can handle. A crate-full of them living on one legal-sized sheet of paper is overwhelming and will get hidden under that stack of memos, articles, and parking tickets you don’t want to think about either.

Pick one frog each morning and “eat it” by the end of the day. Do it in the morning, and you can go through the rest of the day without the anxiety.

Any great endeavor is going to come with some frogs. You can eat them sooner or later, but you’ll have to eat them. Might was well get it done with and enjoy the rest of your day.



Headshot Subscribe by email

© Andy Zimney and Leading Off the Cuff, 2015.



If you enjoyed this post, please like it, share it, or leave a comment!

Andy Zimney is a Senior Advisor and Team Performance Coach at Employee Strategies, Inc., a boutique firm that partners with leaders to develop highly effective cultures that drive outstanding results. Contact ESInc to learn more about how they can assess your current culture and design customized and effective development experiences for your team. Or reach out to Andy directly.