Last Updated on August 25, 2020 by karwisch

This morning I was reading through the About page of my friend Justin Blackman over at where I was reminded of a wonderful poem by Shel Silverstein.


Hippo’s Hope –a poem by Shel Silverstein

There once was a hippo who wanted to fly —
Fly-hi-dee, try-hi-dee, my-hi-dee-ho.
So he sewed him some wings that could flap through the sky —
Sky-hi-dee, fly-hi-dee, why-hi-dee-go.
He climbed to the top of a mountain of snow —
Snow-hi-dee, slow-hi-dee, oh-hi-dee-hoo.
With the clouds high above and the sea down below —
Where-hi-dee, there-hi-dee, scare-hi-dee-boo.

(Happy ending)
And he flipped and he flapped and he bellowed so loud —
Now-hi-dee, loud-hi-dee, proud-hi-dee-poop.
And he sailed like an eagle, off into the clouds —
High-hi-dee, fly-hi-dee, bye-hi-dee-boop.

(Unhappy ending)
And he leaped like a frog and he fell like a stone —
Stone-hi-dee, lone-hi-dee, own-hi-dee-flop.
And he crashed and he drowned and broke all his bones —
Bones-hi-dee, moans-hi-dee, groans-hi-dee-glop.

(Chicken ending)
He looked up at the sky and looked down at the sea —
Sea-hi-dee, free-hi-dee, whee-hi-dee-way.
And he turned and went home and had cookies and tea —
That’s hi-dee, all hi-dee, I have to say.

Did you read the poem all the way through? Good.

Question 1: Which choice was your knee jerk reaction as the way the hippo should go?

When you read the choices, did you think “Well if it were me, I would…”? I know people that fit into both the “try” and the “chicken” category.

  • I know those who would try because they believe that they can succeed even if their project or idea seems like a hippo who is about to break all his bones.
  • I know those who would go home and be fine that they were called a chicken because they survived. Let someone else take crazy risks, I’ll be smart and live to stay safe another day.
  • I also know those who would want to go home but would bristle at being in the category of “chicken” and that would spur them on. These are the Marty McFly’s of our world. They are not going with their own instincts but instead allowing themselves to make a choice based on the thoughts and opinions of others.

Question 2: Which was the most satisfying ending for the hippo?

When you read that there was a chance the hippo could fly, did you lean toward that being the best ending? He wants to fly, he risks everything and succeeds?

Was it more satisfying to see the hippo break all his bones? Serves you right hippo… What made you even consider you could fly?

Or perhaps you enjoyed the final ending most. Would you rather the danger be averted entirely? Perhaps just feeling the tension released for the hippo was more satisfying than the idea that he might succeed and fly.

Question 3: Do you give others the same advice you give yourself?

When you answered the first two questions, did you choose the same approach as you did ending? If it is someone else taking the risk would you rather see them take the plunge than taking the risk yourself?

If you are watching someone in your same position make a choice, do you believe that they should go for it, even if you would probably play it safe?

Take another look at the poem.

  • Do you give others the same advice you give yourself?
  • Do you advise your children to play it safe when you yourself tried to fly? Vice-versa?
  • Do you see a difference in how you would give advice now than at another season in your life?
  • When someone else is taking the risk, do you tell yourself a story that they are more likely to succeed?

Finally, do you think that you will regret the moments where you did not try to fly? 

Shoulders of Giants (what does this mean?)

Photo by Stefan Steinbauer on Unsplash