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Don’t be a squirrel…

April 15, 2012

I was taking my daughter to school recently when I spotted a squirrel running across the street from my right to the left. It was right in the middle of the road when I came real close to it. I began to slow down slightly to make sure I don’t run over it. The squirrel stopped in the middle of the road, spotted the oncoming car, thought for a second and decided to abandon its journey – it took a U-turn and went back.

The whole episode lasted only a couple of seconds but it triggered a very profound lesson in my mind. That we must not abandon our journey and revert back to a safety net when we encounter obstacles. The squirrel had many choices:

  • it could have just stayed steady (these last 2 words are anagrams:-) and hoped that I would stop and let it go, OR
  • it could have run faster to avoid getting run over, OR
  • it could have gone 90 degrees to the left and allowed me room on the right to pass.

It did none of these.

But in the face of such obstacles while building our career and brand, we must do something and not take a U-turn. We must explore creative ways to overcome those obstacles and find ways to go around them (remember the Life Lessons from Mountains and Rivers, from last week), and move forward. We may not end up at the same place we wanted to go in the first place, but we will end up somewhere close to it – a place that is newer and where we can feel a sense of accomplishment. Such a place I think, is always a better place to be, than where we started.

Luckily, obstacles in real life rarely come as fast as an oncoming car:-) If you have your ‘social antennas‘ up and have good mentors/coaches to share and bounce off what you are sensing, you can see them coming well in advance and develop a good plan.

I love nature and am passionate about preserving it. There is a wonderful native american quote that says: “We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” So, we all share a responsibility to safely deliver our beautiful planet to our future generations.

Coming back to the topic of Mountains and Rivers, I did my undergraduate at Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India where the ‘Mountains Move‘ and ‘Rivers Stay Still.’ Basically, our campus buses were named after famous mountains in India, and our dorms were named after famous rivers:-) This is more a nostalgic fact that came to my mind and not what I want to leave you with today.

Lessons from the Mountains: 

  • They stand tall and strong. As professionals, we must stand tall by having high ideals and values, and demonstrating strength of character as we build our professional brand and progress in our career journey.
  • Mountains are the first to receive water when it rains, but they do not keep the water for themselves. They retain enough to sustain the local vegetation, and allow all the remaining water to flow down the mountain. Similarly, we must also inculcate the habit of holding on to whatever minimum we need, money or things, and share the rest freely with others. Just like how we enjoy watching a beautiful waterfall, others will recognize when you share what you have, passionately and sincerely.

Lessons from the Rivers:

  • Rivers flow hundreds and thousands of miles, and nourish the land along the way. The land becomes richer because of the river flowing by it. We can do the same by making a positive impact on the people we come across everyday.
  • Rivers never flow in a straight line – they crisscross the landscape and find the best path to reach their destination. Similarly, as professionals and entrepreneurs, we also need to be prepared to navigate through life’s challenges and stay the coarse until we reach our goals.

Final words to take home –

  • Rise and Share like a Mountain.
  • Enrich and Persevere like a River.