The Persistence of One Squirrel


Fed by Determination

Meet Joe the squirrel. I love Joe, but like all squirrels he has an insatiable appetite. I put up a new bird feeder outside my office to watch the birds while they’re feeding. I take pleasure in this. It must be the Italian mother gene from somewhere in my past.

The feeder I chose is supposed to be squirrel-proof, but not totally trusting that, I put a squirrel guard on the post that holds the feeder. This worked beautifully for about three months.

Then Joe came along.

Obviously, Joe was never meant to win the Darwin Awards. To the contrary, he’s a very determined little guy. Even when the odds were against him he kept trying. I watched his antics from my window and they made me laugh many times.

At first Joe tested the squirrel guard, but he couldn’t get over it. Then he tried jumping from a bush nearby but the branches wouldn’t hold him. He fell many times.

Finally, Joe sat on the ground under the feeder. I imagined him scratching his little head, perplexed… and thinking. As I watched, I couldn’t think of any other way he was going to get up on that feeder. And that day, I was right. Joe left disappointed. It seemed THE FEEDER had won.

The Leap of Faith

The next morning I came to my office to find Joe hanging precariously on the bird feeder. Evidently, Joe has learned the importance of taking a “leap of faith”. He discovered that if he jumped from the ground, which is about 5 feet from the feeder, he would land on top of the feeder. I have no idea how many times he must have missed, but he learned how get on the feeder.

Unfortunately for Joe, he still couldn’t get to the food because the designers of this bird feeder had anticipated the arrival of squirrels just like him. The feeder has a bar that closes automatically when something equal to the weight of a squirrel sits on it.

Did this deter Joe?

NOPE. He kept experimenting, leaning over the side and balancing himself without totally shutting the feeder. After a lot of perseverance, Joe got to the food. I felt like giving him a high five, but I don’t think he’d have let me.

Now most mornings when I come to my office, I look forward to watching Joe eat, which oddly enough I enjoy just as much as watching the birds. I have accepted that my bird food allowance will need to be increased.

Success Starts with Believing

I admired Joe’s persistence and his ability to learn from what didn’t work. Joe was successful because he didn’t give up, even when he appeared to be defeated. He just went back to the “squirrel’s drawing board” and tried a different approach.

We can learn a lot from Joe. I don’t know about you, but there have been times when I’ve given up on something because I didn’t believe I could succeed. I chose to let doubt and fear of failure stop me.

Joe made his choice because of a natural instinct for survival, with no doubt or fear of judgment.

It makes me pause to think that a tiny squirrel whose brain is the weight of 6 grams is more determined than I have been.  After all, he figured out how to get food from a bird feeder INVENTED BY HUMANS to prevent him from getting the food.

Given that we have brains that weigh about 1,300 grams and are much more complex, you’d think we could figure out how to let go of our doubts and keep on trying until we ARE successful!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

What about you? How do you deal with doubt or fear of failure?

What helps you to stick with something until you’ve accomplished it?

Have you ever experienced a time when you regretted giving up on something?

Have you ever had an experience where you completed something when you wanted to give up?

Come visit my site on Monday for Story Photo Day. I’ll have a special challenge for you!

Our Deepest Fear: Acknowledging Our Power!

openthedoorI met a woman at a conference years ago. We got to talking and she shyly told me she had written a book that had been recently published. I was impressed and told her so.

Instead of being proud of what she’d done, she downplayed it by making excuses for what she had accomplished. She didn’t seem to believe she deserved success.

I asked her about this.

She said it made her nervous and fearful to acknowledge that she was A SUCCESS, especially since she had not sold any books yet.

Before we could talk more about this, the workshop moved on and I didn’t have a chance to talk with her again. I wished I had.

I would have said to her, “Wait a minute! What’s wrong with feeling powerful and strong about what you DID accomplish? You wrote a book and it was published!  What’s wrong with believing you deserve every piece of that success?”

Most of all, I wished I had asked her what made her afraid of success.

But I didn’t.

Today, as I was clearing out files on my computer, I came across a passage entitled, Our Deepest Fear, written by Marianne Williamson. I’ve had it for a long time and I was compelled to read it again.  It reminded me of the woman I’d met at the workshop.

Since I have no way to contact her, I’m doing the next best thing.  I’m posting this passage on my blog and trusting that it will get to her if she still needs it.

If not, maybe someone like her will read it and fully celebrate who they are and what they’ve accomplished.

Maybe even you.

If you haven’t read it yet, now is your chance.  If you’ve read it before, read it again.  It’s worth it!!!!

Our Deepest Fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?
Actually, who are you NOT to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won’t feel unsure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.

As we let our own Light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson

Now it’s your turn to share:

What have you done that made you feel “powerful beyond measure?”

How did you acknowledge what you did?

How does fear stop you from “letting your own light shine?”

Building Self Confidence: Count Your Successes


A friend of mine recently told me a story about his young son.  Evidently, the boy wanted to purchase a Nintendo DS, which costs almost $100.  With no birthday coming up, his father told him he had to earn the money.

So, his son began doing extra chores and other odd jobs, but it was a slow process.  Wanting to help, my friend offered the jar where he puts his pocket change, which he hadn’t emptied for almost a year.

They took the jar to a place that converts the change into dollars for a fee.  As the boy kept adding coins, my friend’s eyes began to grow large in surprise.  Before he knew it, the pocket change he had tossed away in a jar added up to over $50!  His son was ecstatic, needless to say.  In one fell swoop, he had half of the money he needed!

My friend laughed in retelling this story saying he had no idea the small change he’d been putting in the jar could ever have reached that amount.

This story got me to thinking about how many times we are successful during a year.  Yet, both our small and large successes frequently get put aside because we move on to other things.  Over time, we forget how many successes we actually had.  They become like my friend’s pocket change.

Then something happens and our confidence makes a nose dive.  Perhaps it’s the loss of a job, a relationship that is ending, or something we failed at.  Losing self confidence can be hard to recover from.  We tend to let it haunt us, like a ghost.

Here’s where my friend’s story intersects with building back your self confidence.  What if you set up a way to collect your successes?  It might be like my friend’s jar for pocket change, or a special box.  When a success happens, whether big or small, write it down on a piece of paper.  Fold the paper up tightly and put in your jar or designated success holder.

Do this every time something feels like a success! Keep in mind that success means doing something you are proud of accomplishing. So, it could be anything from winning a big account to cleaning up your messy office. You get to decide what goes into your success holder.

The idea is to keep your successes so that when your confidence takes a tumble, you can go to that place, pull out your written notes and remind yourself of the many times you have been successful.  Then, just like my friend’s son, you can convert them into rebuilding your self confidence.

Now, it’s your turn.

What would you use to save your successes?

Persistence: A Key to Success


I read a post by Barbara Swafford entitled,“A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words.“ In this post, she challenged her readers to pick a picture and then write about it.

I decided to take up the challenge.  It didn’t take me long to find the photo I wanted to write about.  It was one I had taken in Switzerland of a lovely little plant growing out of rocks high up on a building’s wall.

When I saved it, I named it “persistence.” I must admit, however, that I have mixed feelings about this word.

During my coaching studies, we were advised to take the Authentic Happiness VIA Strengths Inventory, which lists your top five strengths.  My top strength was PERSISTENCE  and, to be honest, this particular strength seemed a bit unfriendly.

After all, the dictionary defines persistence as “tenaciously continuing despite problems or difficulties; being obstinately persistent.”  I wasn’t sure I’d liked the idea of being “obstinately persistent.”

In addition, compared to the top strengths my fellow students got, such as gratitude, wisdom, kindness, and hope, persistence seemed rather commonplace; more like the dandelion among the roses.

Since then, however, I have learned more about persistence and it’s got some very good qualities.  Here are a few reasons I think it’s an important key to success:

  • It keeps people moving forward, even when they want to quit.
  • It helps people find alternative paths when they reach dead ends.
  • It gives people the determination to overcome obstacles or difficulties in their way.
  • It helps people succeed who may not be as talented as they are determined.

But I’m not alone in recognizing the importance of persistence.  It’s been used by many famous people, including John Quincy Adams, John D. Rockefeller, Thomas Edison and Helen Keller, just to name a few.  They have attributed their persistent as a significant reason for their successes!

Over time, I’ve learned to value my own persistence. It has helped me to succeed, even in situations where others had more talent and ability. It’s also kept me going through some difficult times when I wanted to quit.

This may be why I like photographing wild flowers growing in difficult places. Unlike their hothouse buddies, these flowers have to be tough and determined to survive, given where they put their roots.

And I believe that’s the real meaning of persistence.

It’s the ability to keep going when faced with what seems like insurmountable obstacles.  It’s refusing to give up, even when things don’t go your way.  As Thomas Edison says, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

I believe the seed that planted itself in the stone wall of my picture had to be persistent.  Otherwise, how did it expect to grow in such unforgiving circumstances?  But it did grow and thrive!  And anyone who happened to look up at that stone building got a special gift of pretty pink flowers growing out of a wall.

Think of those flowers the next time you’re ready to quit something that seems too difficult. Let them remind you to be “obstinately persistent.”  It may be your best key to success!

What about you?

Can you think of a time when persistence paid off for you?