Mackay: Lessons learned from animals

We can learn a lot of lessons from animals.

Over the years I’ve used a lot of animal analogies, and it always amazes me how much easier it is to relate human behaviors in these examples.

Don’t yield to helplessness: In cultures that depend on elephants for labor and transportation, it’s common to tie untrained elephants by their ankles to a bamboo tree, using heavy-duty rope. After three or four days of trying to free themselves, elephants give up.

From that time on, they can be restrained by tying one leg to a small peg in the ground — something they surely could escape from. But the elephants don’t try to get loose. Despite their superior size, they have learned helplessness.

Do you let your past experiences limit your choices?

Leave your mark: Have you ever seen a duck move through water on a lake? You don’t see its feet paddling under water, but let me tell you, the duck really moves. The water opens up an angle of at least 40 degrees and ripples as far as 40 or 50 feet.

The duck leaves a wake 600 times its size. That’s a lot of effect from a duck that’s only 2 feet long.

What kind of effect do your actions make?

Conquer your fear of failure: The African impala can jump to a height of over 10 feet and cover a distance of greater than 30 feet. Yet these magnificent creatures can be kept in an enclosure with a 3-foot wall. The animals will not jump if they cannot see where they will land.

As with humans, caution gets in the way of success.

Don’t say no for the other person: In the 1930s, a leading zoologist concluded after careful study that, according to the laws of aerodynamics, it should be impossible for a bumblebee to fly. That is because the size, weight and shape of its body are all wrong in relation to its total wingspread.

Fortunately, no bumblebees have ever studied aerodynamics — so they just naively keep on doing what they’re incapable of doing.

Reach your full potential: Flea trainers have observed a predictable and strange habit during the training process: Fleas are trained by putting them in a cardboard box with a top on it. As you watch them jump and hit the lid, something very interesting becomes obvious. The fleas continue to jump, but they are no longer jumping high enough to hit the top.

When you take off the lid, the fleas continue to jump, but they will not jump out. Once they have conditioned themselves to jump just so high, that’s all they can do.

Many people do the same thing. They restrict themselves and never reach their potential.

Do your share: A horseman spied a little sparrow lying on its back in the middle of the road. Reining in his mount, he looked down and inquired, “Why are you lying upside down like that?”

“I heard the sky is going to fall today,” replied the bird.

The horseman laughed, “And I suppose your spindly little legs can hold up the sky?”

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