About a month ago my column featured useful lessons learned from animals.  It certainly touched a nerve, as I received tremendous response from people who told me about what they had learned from their dogs, cats and pets of all descriptions.

Over the years I’ve used a lot of animal analogies because 1) life lessons come from many sources, and 2) you don’t have to name names.   Here is round two.

Personal growth:  The Japanese carp is commonly known as the koi.  If you keep it in a small fish bowl, it will only grow to be two or three inches long.  Place the koi in a larger tank or small pond and it will reach six to 10 inches.  Put it in a large pond and it may get as long as a foot and a half.  And when placed in a huge lake where it can really stretch out, it has the potential to reach sizes up to three feet.  The size of the fish is in direct relation to the size of the pond.

Relate that growth to people.  Our growth is determined by the size of our world – not the earth’s measurable dimensions, but the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical opportunities we expose ourselves to.

Lesson:  Unless we expand who we are, we’ll never have more than what we have now.

Teamwork vs. ego:  The danger of excessive pride or an excessive ego is evident in the story of the hitchhiking frog.

A frog asked two geese to take him south with them.  At first they resisted; they didn’t see how it could be done.  But the frog suggested that the two geese hold a stick in their beaks which he could hold on to with his mouth.

So off they flew.  People marveled at this demonstration of creative teamwork.  That is, until someone asked:  “Who was so clever to discover such a fine way to travel?”

Whereupon the frog opened his mouth and said, “It was I,” and plummeted to the earth.

Lesson:  If you want to take the credit, you also have to take the lumps.


Inability to let go:  An expedition of scientists was on a mission to capture a particular species of monkeys in the jungles of Africa.  It was important that the monkeys be brought back alive and unharmed.

Using their knowledge of monkey behavior, the scientists devised a trap consisting of a small jar with a long, narrow neck with a handful of nuts placed inside.  Several of these jars were staked out, while the scientists returned to their camp, confident of catching the monkeys.

Scenting the nuts in the bottle, a monkey would thrust his paw into the long neck of the jar and take a fistful of nuts.  But when he tried to withdraw the prize, he discovered that his clenched fist would not pass through the narrow neck of the bottle. So he was trapped in the anchored bottle, unable to escape with his treasure, and yet unwilling to let it go.  When the scientists returned, they easily took the monkeys captive.

Lesson:   Sometimes letting go means a much greater gain.

Competitiveness:  Have you noticed how many dead squirrels you see on the roadside in summer and how few you see during the winter?

In summer, nuts are plentiful, and it’s easy for even the slowest squirrel to survive.  The squirrels get fat and lazy and cars pick them off one by one.

In winter, things are just the opposite.  Nuts are few and far between and they must hustle to survive.  The fat and lazy squirrels have all gone to their maker.  The survivors are sleek, fast, and smart.  Few cars catch them unaware.

Lesson:  Businesses that become complacent and stop trying their hardest leave themselves vulnerable to business predators that soon put an end to their wellbeing.

Danger of Greed:  An old method of catching wild turkeys can be an excellent lesson to all of us.  To trap the turkeys, corn was scattered on the ground.  Then a net was stretched about two feet high over the grain.  When the wild turkeys sensed that no human was near, they would approach the corn and lower their heads to eat it.

When they became full and tried to leave, they lifted their heads and were immediately caught in the net.

Lesson: Don’t fall into the trap of something for nothing.


Mackay’s Moral:  Be kind to animals – they teach us great lessons. 

About the author Harvey Mackay

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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