squirrel strategy

225 Success, Squirrel-Style

squirrel strategy
Flickr photo courtesy of Matt McGee
squirrel watering hole
A small condensation drain provides water for the squirrels.

Yesterday I pulled into the driveway and noticed, for the umpteenth time, a squirrel darting from the house across the driveway to the large bushes on the opposite side. I see this all the time from Spring time throughout the Summer. But yesterday it was different. I saw where the squirrel was before I startled him. Enter the epiphany!

There is a piece of PVC pipe that goes from one of the air conditioner units to drain the condensation to the outside. The water that drains from that HVAC unit provides water for the squirrels. That explains why every time I pull into the driveway I see a squirrel dart from the house to the bushes.

Our yard is full of big trees that provide a great habitat for squirrels, lizards and birds. Animals have an innate sense of things. They’re not smarter than humans. Well, let’s be fair to the critters. They’re not smarter than most humans. Still, I can watch with amazement at how clever they can be. They can find food, shelter and water because their life depends on it. Enter another epiphany. For a man just searching for epiphanies, I’m on a roll now.

Their life depends on it.”

I’ve watched enough of these survival reality shows to know that those three elements of life are critical to survival: food, water and shelter. Every single time the survivalists land in a new place they take inventory of what they’ve got. What items did they bring with them that can be used to help them survive? What are some things they can see in the environment that will help them survive?

Survival (And Success) Is About Managing Resources

The squirrels in my yard need water. I’m sure they get water when the sprinklers go on. And there’s a dog bowl filled with water in the backyard for Rocky and Rosie. Nothing irks them more than catching a squirrel trying to grab a drink from their bowel. I’ve even caught squirrels straining to lean forward to grab a quick drink from the pool. But when you’ve got two West Highland White Terriers, squirrels need good cover. So when you’re thirsty and need a drink and you’re in a yard patrolled by aging Westies, well, it pays to find resources outside the yard where those dogs can’t reach you. A place where there’s low or no foot traffic. What better resource than a condensation drain on a side of the house where there are no windows or doors and there’s monkey grass for cover?

I started wondering how squirrels can even find such a resource, but then it dawned on me.

What else have they got to do?

If you’re a thirsty squirrel, I suspect you go hunting water and you don’t stop until you find it. Else, you’ll die!

Whenever anything is being accomplished, it is being done, I have learned, by a monomaniac with a mission.”

Peter Drucker wrote that in his autobiography, Adventures of a Bystander (1979).

Those squirrels I see dart across my driveway are monomaniacs with a mission to get water. 

What’s your single focus? What’s your mission?

The single focus foils lots of people. Today people pride themselves on mutli-tasking. It gives people a false impression about productivity. Just because we can text on our phones while surfing the net, while listening to podcasts, while watching a YouTube video doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Besides, it’s tough to figure out just one thing. We want to do lots of things. At the same time. As for mission, well…that’s easy. Make money. Lots of it. Today! If that’s not the only mission, people will often add, “I want to impact as many people as I can.” Or, “I want to follow my passion.”

Lamer Than A Squirrel

Forest How Squirrel
Flickr photo courtesy of Peter G. Trimming

The squirrel’s mission is more important – and specific. He wants to survive another day. He wants to live. He wants to be safe from predators. He wants to eat. He wants to drink. He wants to mate. In that order. One thing at a time.

It’s clearly working, at least in my neighborhood. The squirrel population is insane. The squirrel population is on the uptick so they’ve got their business model problems ironed out. Maybe the summer and this Texas drought will throw a wrench into their plan. It’s about time they experienced some disruption like the rest of us. That’ll force the beggars to adapt and iterate.

Anybody wanna bet against the squirrels? Me neither. The rascals are resilient. If one source of water, food or shelter disappears, the squirrels figure something else out. The only thing that will stop them is death. It reminds me of an online poster I saw the other day…

You Can’t Eliminate Income Inequality Until You Eliminate Effort Inequality”

Squirrels don’t measure their income in dollars, but in food, water and shelter. Maybe there are some lazy squirrels, but you don’t see them. They’ve gone off somewhere to die. The dead squirrels I see are those jittery, indecisive ones who can’t decide if they’re going to cross the street or go back. They get hit. But they’ve got food and water in them when they do, so I could argue they died doing what they love…playing. Game over!

Tenacity, The Squirrel’s Super Power

Some close friends, a young couple we know at church, moved into a different house recently. They’ve got a great yard with big trees. One of the trees is a Japanese Maple. Odd thing is, much of the bark is missing from various limbs, endangering the life of what’s thought to be a 50 year old (or older) beautiful tree. Evidently, squirrels do this as a source of food or water.

For about a month now the homeowners – my friends – have tried various tactics to outsmart the squirrel (or squirrels; they’re not sure if it’s just one or a herd). Thus far, the squirrel has proven smarter than the humans who own the tree. They bought a wildlife trap hoping to trap the critter and relocate him. They put enticing food inside. It seemed like an ideal, logical approach…until they watched the varmint reach up, close the trap door, then reach inside through the cage to snag the food. If not for the threat against the cherished tree, it’d be funny.

Whether you love trees or not, you’ve got to tip your cap to the ingenuity, resourcefulness and tenacity of the squirrel. And not just this particular squirrel. It’s part of their clever nature I guess.

Why Aren’t We That Clever? Why Aren’t We That Determined?

Cause we’re not squirrels. 😉

There are other reasons, too.

We’re humans and we’ve got a lot going on.

I can’t prove it, but I strongly suspect squirrels don’t go around comparing themselves to one another. I’m pretty partial to my side of the street. Maybe the squirrels in my yard think they’re better than the ones living across the street. But I doubt it. I think that’s likely a human hangup. That gives the squirrels a leg up on us.

We’re busy comparing ourselves to each other. That means we’re busy being jealous. It means we’re growing increasingly discontent with our life. Translation: “Your stuff is better than my stuff. I want your stuff, or stuff like it. I hate my stuff, or my lack of stuff.”

It’s hard watching all the squirrels in my yard as they scurry around thinking they’re guilty of envy, jealousy and comparisonitis. Maybe they are, but it sure doesn’t look like it. They don’t act like they’ve got time for all that nonsense. But we do. We make time for it. The squirrels are too busy looking for food, water and shelter.

I love books and all kind of instruction (including podcasts). Squirrels run around my yard chirping in squirrelese, “I ain’t got time for that.” People make time for all the stuff they don’t yet know…but are convinced they need to know. Squirrels are too busy to stop searching for resources. People are too busy trying to learn how to be resourceful. There’s just no time left to actually be resourceful. Maybe tomorrow.

Squirrels won’t have a tomorrow if they fail today. They wake up every morning to Larry The Cable Guy’s mantra, “Get ‘er done!” It’s that or die. When you’re facing two distinct different choices it must be easier to make a smart decision. We wake up every day with a million choices. Most of us aren’t facing life or death decisions. If we’re hungry, we go to the kitchen. If we’re thirsty, we have to figure out what we’re going to drink, not how we’re going to find water. Water, juice, soda, coffee, tea – what do we want to drink?

Maybe Life In The Gray Is Killing Our Success

“With him, everything is black and white,” we hear somebody say about a person who seems inflexible. Well, nobody is as inflexible as a squirrel. These critters are binary. It’s a one or a zero. It’s live by finding food, water and shelter or it’s die because you failed. No, the inflexible person has a full gray-scale palette going on in their life when compared to the squirrel.

Don’t do this. Do that. Or, do that. Don’t do this.

We make lists. We daydream. We think. We ponder. We procrastinate. We seek distractions. We get scared. We get angry. We struggle to do the most important things because we mostly enjoy the unimportant things.

We fail.

Or we don’t succeed as much as we could.

And you know what else? We don’t have as much fun either. When the squirrels in my yard aren’t searching for food, water or shelter…they’re chasing each other like crazy. I suspect much of that may be part of that other activity, mating. They seem to be having the time of their life.


Success, Squirrel-Style


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