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A Lesson From Nature

Posted on: November 15th, 2009 by Bonnie Ross

Mother Nature is the best illustrator I know.  When faced with a challenge, I first look to natural design for inspiration.  With the challenge of recovering from the impact of a struggling economy, specifically for those faced with the loss of a job, there are lessons to be learned from the strength and behavior of bears.

As a worker in America, we take on the pattern of the grizzly bear.  Let’s look at the behavior of this animal and the lessons she provides us.  Grizzly bears are territorial, spending their life in a 100 – 400 square mile area.  They live by a seasonal cycle, eating most when food is plentiful and ripe, hibernating in the cold barren months.  Perhaps you are beginning to identify similarities to how we approach employment.  Like this bear, we also prepare for the season we are approaching. For example, we invest in a retirement, we plan to make the most in the middle of our lives when we have the most skill and strongest health.  This is our late summer, when opportunity is most plentiful. This is a time of being territorial, staying put to take care of me and mine.  We put kids through school, take longer vacations, buy houses.  This cycle is sustaining and rewarding for the grizzly bear, and for the worker when things go according to plan. 

However, what happens if winter hits in July?

To the average grizzly bear, winter looks bleak.  Nothing but a white wasteland, everything frozen and barren.  When winter comes early, a grizzly bear would try to hibernate for awhile, as she always does when winter comes, but this bear is in jeopardy if the thaw comes too late.  Where do we look in nature for the ability to endure long harsh winters?  The polar bear.  She is the bear relative who has evolved and mastered the ability to thrive in winter.

If we are behaving like grizzly bears, how do we now become polar bears?  Unlike natural evolution, we have the power to evolve thinking instantly.  Let’s look at the behavior of this amazing animal and the lessons she provides us.  We look at the tundra and see nothing to the horizon, it is an overwhelmingly hopeless feeling.  When a polar bear looks over the tundra, she sees bounty.  This is because she has skills we don’t have, but can learn from her. 

The life of a polar bear is a busy one.  She is not territorial, but is aggressive, and covers as much as 3,000 miles a year.  She is hunting year around and knows where to look.  When we look at the tundra and only see white, the polar bear sees 10,000 shades of white.  She appreciates subtlety and uses this to track game.  Another difference from her grizzly cousin is that she spends most of her time in the water.  All of these different skills provide her the advantage over her grizzly counterpart.  So enough of the nature channel, what does all this mean?

To survive this new environment takes new skills, but most importantly it takes a new mindset.  As much as you want to hibernate, it is important to embrace the strength and majesty of the evolved worker that is willing to venture beyond the usual territory, hunt year around, and know there is bounty even if not immediately visible.  There really is 10,000 shade of white, your skills are good for more than the job you left – find the subtly and use it to track new opportunities.  And finally, don’t be afraid to get wet.  Try new things more often, there is a bountiful world under the surface.  Once we have learned how to survive using the polar bear’s skills, let’s return the favor and help her to survive with our skills.  We all need each other to thrive.


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