As I write this, a squirrel is living in an outside wall of my house. When I discovered the hole in the wall, I tried a number of ways to cover. I will not detail these methods because none of them worked. They failed because my efforts, designed as temporary measures until I could call a carpenter, failed to take into account two primary aspects of a squirrel’s nature. These are imagination and persistence.

Of these, persistence is probably more important. As anyone who has ever had a bird feeder knows, squirrels do not give up. Unlike humans, they don’t say, “This problem has no solution,” “I’m tired of trying,” or “I quit.”

They never (or rarely) quit, and because of their determination, they’re able to explore many creative possibilities. Persistence fuels the expression of imagination.

I once saw a video that documented the impossibility of outwitting squirrels. One scene showed a squirrel who’d learned to trigger a candy machine in Times Square so that it ejected a candy bar. Amazing as that was, I was more impressed by its ability to navigate street traffic.

Several episodes documented the efforts of scientists to devise squirrel-proof bird feeders. The most elaborate of these was a twenty- or thirty-part section obstacle course that included chutes and ladders, doors that had to be sprung a certain way, seesaws, and various other ingenious obstacles. It took the inventors of this course a month to design it. It took a squirrel less than a day to outwit it.

Some humans have squirrel-like tenacity. When asked by a reporter if he felt like a failure for not having yet discovered how to make a light bulb that worked, Thomas Edison replied, “Young man, why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitively over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost within my grasp.” After over 10,000 attempts, he succeeded.

You might not be up to 10,000 attempts. I’m not. My only goal is to make one more attempt before I give up. And then another. And another. And when I wonder if I’m wasting my time, I ask myself what else I was going to do with it.

Then I remind myself that if I quit now, I’ll have a lot of time for regret.

And I’ll have to live with the knowledge that when it comes to manifesting one’s goals, a squirrel is smarter than I am.

One thought on “How To Succeed: A Squirrel’s-Eye View”

  1. What a lovely and inspiring post! I vow to think of squirrels the next time that I feel down about my writing career, such as it is… Squirrel! Wonderful!

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