Ep. 3 – The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse: Timeless Tidbits of Wisdom

Today’s episode delves into The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, a beautiful book that teaches about charity, relationships, fear, and vulnerability.

The next episode will discuss chapter *A* from The Holy Ghost from A to Z: What the Spirit Can Do for You. And you can get ready for the episode after that by reading Atomic Habits by James Clear!

Outline

  • The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is a children’s book published in 2019
  • Charity: Success is “To Love”
    • “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “Kind.” “What do you think success is?” “To love.”
    • Success is not measured by your career, money, or social acceptance—God is no “respecter of persons”
    • Kindness should be our ultimate goal in life, and we shouldn’t let our ambitions get in the way of that
  • Relationships: “Doing Nothing” is Never Doing Nothing
    • “Doing nothing with friends is never doing nothing, is it?”
    • Care more about being present than being productive
    • Elder Uchtdorf: “In family relationships, love is really spelled t-i-m-e.”
    • Example of whittling—you can either mindlessly whittle away your time, or you can intentionally use it to create the life—and the relationships—that you want
  • Fear: “Just Take This Step”
    • “Most of the old moles I know wish they had listened less to their fears and more to their dreams.” “Imagine how we would be if we were less afraid.” “Just take this step. The horizon will look after itself.”
    • Elder Cook told us to “live by faith and not by fear.” And President Monson said, “Fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.”
    • The “7 Levels Deep” exercise: analyze your fears by asking yourself why you’re afraid of something, and repeating that 7 times, and analyze your “why” in the same way
    • Doing this exercise can help you realize flaws in your own thinking and replace them with the truths that the Spirit teaches you
  • Vulnerability: “We’re Less Scared Together”
    • “What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever said?” “Help.” “When have you been at your strongest?” “When I have dared to show my weakness.” “Asking for help isn’t giving up. It’s refusing to give up.”
    • We often put up a facade, showing people the best of us while hiding away the things we struggle with
    • We can’t “comfort those that stand in need of comfort” if nobody admits they need comfort
    • Don’t wait for a “happy ending” before sharing your struggles—be open with your story as you’re living it
  • Takeaways
    • 1. For one day, make an active effort to be kinder to everyone you cross paths with, and then reflect on how that influenced them and you
    • 2. Carve out a specific amount of time to spend with the people you love
    • 3. Do the “7 Levels of Fear” exercise and the “7 Levels of Why” exercise
    • 4. Open up to somebody about something you’re struggling with
  • Episode next week: A – The Holy Ghost Can Bring *Abundance* to Your Life
  • Episode in two weeks: Atomic Habits by James Clear

Transcript

What do you think success means? What would happen if you listened less to your fears and more to your dreams? These are just a few questions asked and answered in the book The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse. Keep listening to hear some timeless tidbits of wisdom about charity, relationships, fear, and vulnerability.

I’m Liz Kazandzhy, and you’re listening to the cozy little podcast “Latter-day Saint Book Nook,” where we talk about books from a gospel perspective. Whether fiction or nonfiction, religious or not, great books are like wells of wisdom just waiting to be drawn from, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. So if you love books, and you love the gospel of Jesus Christ, you’re in the right place. Come and learn from the best books to help you live your best life!

Welcome back! In case you haven’t seen the reading schedule on ldsbooknook.com, every month there’s going to be a different genre that we cover, and this month it’s children’s books. So the last book was The Little Prince, and now we get to talk about The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse. Now, these aren’t just children’s books—they’re really for any age. So kids can enjoy them at their level, and adults can kind of delve in more and enjoy them on a deeper level.

Alright, so The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse was written by Charlie Mackesy and published in 2019. And when I saw that publication year, I was like, “Holy cow, that was like last year!” And then I was like, “Oh wait, that was actually three years ago.” It just feels like we’re all still stuck in 2020.

Anyway, it’s a beautifully illustrated book with over 100 drawings, and you can read it in less than an hour. There’s also an amazing audiobook recording, which I actually listened to first before reading the book, and I really liked it—actually even more so than the hard-copy book. The author’s voice is just so soothing, the music is beautiful, and the sound effects just make it seem like you’re right there with the characters. And also, the author’s narration of the illustrations helped me experience the plot better. Now, if you want to get super fancy, you should totally listen to the audiobook while reading the physical book, because then you’ll get the best of both worlds!

So just to give a quick summary, the book is about a boy, a mole, a fox, and a horse. I know—bet you couldn’t guess that, right? Well, it starts out with a boy meeting this quirky but wise mole, and they kind of go back and forth, asking deep questions and giving meaningful answers.

After a while, they meet a slightly bitter fox who gets stuck in a trap, but after the mole frees him, he slowly softens his heart and joins the other two. He doesn’t talk much in the story, but it’s really cool to see his gradual journey of learning to love and trust his new friends. And then finally they meet the horse, who’s also gentle and wise and kind.

Now, like I said before, a lot of the dialogue is in a kind of question-and-answer format. And today, I wanted to just talk about a few of my favorite quotes that I’ve arranged into four categories: charity, relationships, fear, and vulnerability.

[3:18]

Charity: Success is “To Love”

So first, here are a few about charity.

The very first question the mole asks the boy is “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and the boy says, “Kind.” On the next page, he asks, “What do you think success is?” and the boy answers, “To love.”

Well, I knew I was hooked just from reading those two pages. Because those answers are so different than what the world considers success. I mean, in the eyes of the world, your profession is a sign of your worth, and success is measured by money and prestige and social acceptance. But in the eyes of God, none of those things matter. In His eyes, there’s no difference between a CEO of a Fortune 500 company and the janitor that cleans that CEO’s office. He really is no “respecter of persons,” which is pretty amazing when you think about it.

I’m reminded of this really sweet Mormon message called “A Father Indeed,” because it’s about a garbage man. But not just a garbage man but a righteous man—a loving father, a devoted husband, and a kind, patient, hardworking man. He understood that the greatest success in life comes not from a career but from kindness.

There’s this great quote from President Boyd K. Packer that goes along with this. He said, “Do not ever belittle anyone, including yourself, nor count them, or you, a failure, if your livelihood has been modest. Do not ever look down on those who labor in occupations of lower income. There is great dignity and worth in any honest occupation. Do not use the word menial for any labor that improves the world or the people who live in it.” I just love that.

And just to clarify, there’s nothing wrong with being wealthy or professionally successful. Because those things can really help someone have a huge positive influence on the world. The only problem is if we let those goals overshadow our main goal to be Christlike. The apostle Paul made a similar point in 1 Corinthians 13, when he talked about how nothing—not even spiritual gifts—can act as a substitute for charity. He said:

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

What a great reminder to make charity our ultimate goal. Because the mole and the boy are really spot on—that true success is all about having charity.

[6:05]

Relationships: “Doing Nothing” is Never Doing Nothing

Alright, now let’s move on to our next topic, relationships—which is similar to what we just talked about, but we’re gonna kind of zoom in more and apply it to personal relationships.

So, when the boy, the mole, and the fox finally meet the horse, the illustration shows the four of them basically just hanging out with each other—walking around, riding on the horse, just enjoying each other’s company. And on the next page, it says, “Doing nothing with friends is never doing nothing, is it?”

When I first read that, I immediately thought of my 5-year-old daughter, Katya, who loves to spend time with me just doing whatever—”doing nothing,” you could say. And when I ask her why she loves me, her answer is always “Because you play with me!” And when she writes a thank you note, it says, “Thank you for playing with me.” And if were I ask her, “How do you know that I love you?” her answer would be “Because you play with me.” Because that’s her world right now—playing! But how much time do I actually spend in that world with her? Definitely not enough, I’d say. I mean, we can be with our kids all day long, but are we really with them, you know? Do we take the time to just “do nothing” with them? Because doing nothing with the people you love is never actually doing nothing.

Elder Uchtdorf said this: “We build deep and loving family relationships by doing simple things together, like family dinner and family home evening and by just having fun together. In family relationships, love is really spelled t-i-m-e, time. Taking time for each other is the key to harmony at home.”

And let me tell you about an experience I had in college that taught me more about relationships. I was living in an apartment with five roommates, and I shared a room with my friend Erin. One night, we were both studying in our room when our other roommate Sheyenne came in to chat for a bit. We had some really funny conversations (because Sheyenne is hilarious) and we just talked and laughed together for a long time, and it was great. Well, eventually Sheyenne left, and when I turned back to my schoolwork, I nonchalantly said, “Well … back to life.” And then Erin said, “Uh, Liz … that was life.”

Well, that definitely stung—not because I was offended but because she was so right! I was so focused on being a student that I had forgotten how important it was to just be a friend. And it makes me wonder, How different would the world be if we cared more about being present than being productive? If we took the time to really be with each other instead of being so busy that we hardly connect with those we care about the most? Barbara Bush once said, “At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, a parent.”

And I know that we all have things we need to do—we have to work, we have to run errands, we have to do the dishes and eventually put away those five baskets of laundry. But I also know that, at least for me, I do a lot of things that needlessly eat away at my time.

It reminds me of whittling. Have you ever seen those little wooden figures in gift shops that someone carved with a knife? So that’s whittling, and I love the Wikipedia definition for it. It says, “Whittling may refer either to the art of carving shapes out of raw wood using a knife … or a time-occupying, non-artistic process of repeatedly shaving slivers from a piece of wood. It is used by many as a pastime, or as a way to make artistic creations.”

So just imagine—you’ve got two people, each with identical blocks of wood and identical knives. One whittles away mindlessly and is left with a pile of wood shavings, while the other is left with this beautiful wooden figure of an owl or an elephant. And it’s the same way with our time. We all have 24 hours in a day, and it’s up to us if we’re going to mindlessly whittle away that time, or if we’re going to intentionally use it to create the life—and the relationships—that we want to have. Like Elder Oaks said, we should judge our time in terms of “good, better, and best” and strive to keep the best.

So, getting back to the book, deep down it’s really a story about relationships—how the boy, the mole, the fox, and the horse grew in friendship and love. And beyond just that one quote I shared about “doing nothing with friends,” there’s a lot you can learn about relationships as you read this book.

Alright, two down, two to go! Let’s go ahead and take a quick break, and we’ll come back in a minute.

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Welcome back to our gospel analysis of The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse. So far we’ve talked about charity and relationships. Now let’s learn some things about fear and vulnerability.

[12:00]

Fear: “Just Take This Step”

This next quote comes from the mole as well. He tells the boy, “Most of the old moles I know wish they had listened less to their fears and more to their dreams.” And a page later, he says, “Imagine how we would be if we were less afraid.”

I love this theme of overcoming fear because it’s actually the reason this book exists—because the author overcame his fear of putting himself out there. In the introduction, he says, “When I was writing the book, I often wondered, Who on earth am I to be doing this? But as the horse says: ‘The truth is, everyone is winging it.’ So I say spread your wings and follow your dreams—this book is one of mine.”

I just love that. I mean, it’s imposter syndrome at its finest, and I think we can all relate.

Now, the gospel gives us plenty to think about when it comes to fear and faith. Elder Cook told us to “live by faith and not by fear.” And of course there’s President Monson’s well-known quote, “Fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.” And those are great quotes, but … what if fear and doubt are clouding your future? What can we do to overcome our fears?

Well, here’s one thing I heard recently at an author’s conference—it’s called “The 7 Levels Deep” exercise, and it’s a way to kind of analyze your fears, especially when they’re keeping you from doing something good. So you start by answering the question, “What is the fear that is stopping you?” Then you would answer, “I’m afraid of A because B.” Then the next question you’d answer is “Why? Why are you afraid of B?” “Because C.” “Well, why are you afraid of C?” And you keep going, 7 times, zeroing in on exactly what you’re afraid of. And as you do this, you’ll notice things—you’ll notice flaws in your own thinking—and at the end of the exercise, you can combat those cognitive distortions by writing down your truths. And those truths are what’s going to help you overcome your fear.

I should also add that I got this idea from Tamara K. Anderson. She hosts the podcast Stories of Hope in Hard Times, which is a wonderful and uplifting podcast that you should totally check out sometime.

Anyway, just to give you an example, I want to share a little bit about when I did this activity a few months ago, about starting this podcast actually. And maybe it’s strange to tell you this because you’re now listening to this podcast, but I’m just going to put myself out there and share this. So here it goes.

I’m scared to do a podcast because I’m afraid nobody will listen to it or care.

Why am I afraid nobody will listen to it or care?

Because I will feel like it was all a wasted effort.

Why will I feel like it was all a wasted effort?

Because I judge my success based on how many people I influence.

Now, I’m not going to take you down all seven of my levels, but it ultimately led to this: I was afraid that I’d only influence a handful of people when I actually want to help a lot more. It was enlightening to me to realize that, but the real power came when I started listing my truths.

For example, I realized that numbers and statistics can never tell you the whole story. Yeah, they might tell you how many people read your posts, or watch your videos, or listen to your podcast, but they will never tell you what people actually do because of what you created—and what kind of impact it had on them and the lives of others.

Another truth I discovered is that as long as you’re striving to follow the Spirit and do the best you can, God is not going to be disappointed with you if your “influence” doesn’t extend as far as you want it to. It’s like the parable of the talents, when the servant with 5 talents and the servant with 2 talents both doubled what they had. And did the Lord care that one guy ended up with 10 and the other only had 4? No, He didn’t! In fact, He said the exact same thing to both of them: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” What mattered is that they both did what they could with what they had, and the Lord blessed them for it. And I mean, if God wants to take my little loaves and fishes and feed thousands, that would be awesome. But even if those loaves and fishes feed just a few, that’s totally fine too—because God really cares about those few.

Anyway, sorry to go off on that little tangent. The point is, our fears are often based in untruths—which are totally put there by the adversary—and the “7 Levels Deep” exercise can help you expose those lies and replace them with the truths that the Spirit teaches you.

Also, when you’re done with your seven levels of fear, you can do the same thing but with your seven levels of why. For that, you start with the reason you want to do something, then you pretend like there’s an annoying little 3-year-old next to you who keeps asking you “Why?” Like “I want to write a book.” Why? “Because I think I have an important message to share.” Why? And you keep doing that 7 times until you get down to the root of your desires. And why is this beneficial? Because, as Friedrich Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

Well, to finish up this section about fear, I wanted to share just one more quote from the book that really touched me. It’s when the horse, I believe, says, “Just take this step. The horizon will look after itself.” So whatever it is you’re afraid of—whatever is holding you back from pursuing your dreams—just start by taking one step.

[17:39]

Vulnerability: “We’re Less Scared Together”

Alright, well let’s finish up with some thoughts about vulnerability. This topic will come back in a few weeks when we cover Brene Brown, but vulnerability basically means taking off your “emotional armor,” so to speak, and letting yourself be seen for who you really are. It can be super liberating … but it’s also terrifying, because without that armor, you can get hurt. And that can be hard.

And I hope you understand what I mean by armor. It’s like this facade that we show other people to make them think we have everything under control. And actually, I recently learned that the word “facade” literally means the face of a building, like the front part that looks out onto the street. And that makes so much sense to me because it’s so easy to present this beautiful front for others to see, rather than actually inviting them inside where things are, well … less beautiful. It’s like the Encanto song “Surface Pressure” (which is now going to be totally stuck in my head.) We may look like we have everything under control, but “under the surface,” there’s an entirely different story there.

So, why am I talking about all this? Because there are some awesome quotes in this book that are related to this. For example, when the boy asks the horse, “What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever said?” he replies, “Help.” And when the boy asks “When have you been at your strongest?” the horse answers, “When I have dared to show my weakness.” And finally, he adds later that “Asking for help isn’t giving up. It’s refusing to give up.”

I think the reason asking for help is so hard is because it means admitting that you actually don’t have everything under control. It’s letting people see that you’re human and that you can’t do it alone. Maybe you don’t want people to think you’re weak or dumb or needy, or whatever it is that your facade is hiding. But it is so important to allow yourself to be helped.

I mean, just think about the baptismal covenant. Mosiah 8:18 says that we covenant that we’re “willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” Guys, how are we supposed to mourn with those that mourn if everyone hides that they’re mourning? And how are we supposed to comfort those that stand in need of comfort if nobody admits that they need comfort? Every time you ask for help—and every time you accept help—you are allowing others to do God’s will by serving you.

Sometimes I see these kind of “half-vulnerable” social media posts where people share some trial they’ve recently encountered but then they immediately follow it up with how they overcame it. And don’t get me wrong, those posts can be pretty inspiring—and it’s definitely better than not sharing at all—but I wish we didn’t always have to wait for a happy ending before sharing our problems with others.

I mean, can’t we just be open with our stories as we’re living them? Not just “I’ve been struggling with depression again, but I recently found a great way to deal with it” but also, “I’ve been struggling with depression again, and I feel like I’m barely holding on to my life right now. Does anyone have any advice for me?” In fact, if I look back at my social media posts, by far the most popular, most commented-on statuses were when I was vulnerable and asked for help—not when I shared about how I overcame something by myself.

And remember—every time you choose to open yourself up and be vulnerable—even at the risk of getting hurt—you give others permission to be human too. Because, as the horse said, “Everyone is a bit scared. But we’re less scared together.”

[21:21]

Takeaways

Alright, before I end, let me extend some invitations to you. There were four topics today, so I’m gonna offer you four takeaways, though I suggest you only “take away” one or two that you think would help you the most.

So first, charity. For one day, make an active effort to be kinder to everyone you cross paths with. At the end of the day, write about how that influenced both them and you.

Second, relationships. Remember the analogy of whittling a piece of wood, and “carve out” (pun intended) a specific amount of time to spend with the people you love. For example, give your child 15 minutes of distraction-free, child-directed play in their world, giving them your full attention. Or plan some extra time with your spouse doing something you both enjoy, or just doing “nothing” because, as we learned, that’s not actually doing nothing.

Third, fear. This one’s pretty simple—do the “7 Levels of Fear” exercise I talked about, and bonus points if you also do the “7 Levels of Why” exercise.

And lastly, vulnerability. This week, open up to somebody about something you’re struggling with. And that doesn’t mean you have to like post a picture of your dirty laundry on Instagram. I mean, this could mean being more honest on social media, but it could also just mean talking to a close friend or family member and letting them know what’s going on inside of you—not just on the surface.

Well, friends, that’s all I’ve got today. Next week will be a short Holy Ghost episode about how the Spirit can help you have an abundant life. And in two weeks, we’ll delve into Atomic Habits by James Clear where we’ll discuss how small and simple things (like our habits) can bring great things to pass. I hope you have a fantastic rest of your week!

Thanks for listening to Latter-day Saint Book Nook, hosted by Liz Kazandzhy! If you enjoyed this episode and you’d like to support the podcast, please share it with others, post about it on social media, or leave a rating and review. You can also visit ldsbooknook.com to stay up to date with me and the podcast. Thanks again, and I’ll talk to you next time!


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