Do you ever sense you’re in water over your head?  When starting a new job, relationship, or task, we often feel that there is too much to know, too much to learn and not enough time to do it all.  When I’m faced with such a feeling I remember an African folk tale of the frogs that fell into a milk pail.

The rising sun creased the morning sky and it was time for the day to begin. A farmer arose from his bed and went to milk his cows.  Finishing the milking, the farmer left the bucket of milk and went inside to make his breakfast.

Two passing frogs jumped—like all frogs jump—and they jumped into the milk bucket. They splashed into the milk.  “Oh no!” cried one. “We’re in a pond of milk. How do we get out?”

“Keep paddling,” said the other. “We will get out somehow.” The frogs treaded the milk again and again. But they couldn’t reach the top of the bucket.

The first frog said, “I’m tired.”

“Keep treading,” panted the second. “Don’t give up.”

But the first frog had already given up. “I’m going to die anyway,” he said and stop swimming. As soon as he stopped moving, he sunk in the bucket of milk and died.

The other frog wouldn’t give up. He paddled and treaded even when he was exhausted. Slowly, all that swimming turned the milk to butter.  The frog realized he could now jump out. He pushed his legs on the solidified butter and jumped to his freedom. He was alive because he wouldn’t give up.

When you feel in over your head and that you’ll drown in all the details, keep treading and kicking and soon the ground will rise to meet you.  If you keep moving, the confusion will clear, and you’ll find a new level of comfort that will set you free.

Have you ever felt in over your head?  Email me at and et me know how you kept swimming until you succeeded.


Tim Rhodes is a former Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Clown, an ordained clergyman and former CEO of a $100 million multinational organization.  He is an award-winning speaker, writer and coach.  To contact Tim, email

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