The Wisdom of Ants

Today’s Wisdom Literature takes a snippet from Proverbs 6.  Solomon, recognised as the Wisest man among those born of women, was a Naturalist.  He drew much Divine Inspiration from Nature, and here is one of my favourite lessons.

6 Go to the ant, you sluggard; 
consider its ways and be wise! 
7 It has no commander, 
no overseer or ruler, 
8 yet it stores its provisions in summer 
and gathers its food at harvest.

The Ant truly has many lessons for us in this day and age.  So many of us have ‘no commander, no overseer or ruler’ – and rightfully don’t want one.  But such ‘freedom’ is a two-edged sword.  With one side we cut our own broad swathe through life – feeling energised, motivated, and liberated.  Yet the other side demands of us discipline, diligence, and the foresight to manage our own affairs.  The latter can be a drudge – and there is no escape from the responsibility.  So what sustains the ant to ‘store its provisions in summer’ that it may then ‘gather its food at harvest’?

I would like to say ‘Vision’ – and ‘an understanding of seed time and harvest’, but i suspect that ants don’t think in terms of such constructs.  We are not ants, however, and the concepts of ‘Vision’ and ‘The Seed Principle’ are useful for us.  On my time management programme, we talk about having, “a place for everything, and everything in its place” as a means to peace of mind and positive workflow.  The Ant shows us another aspect, having, “a time for everything, and everything in its time”.  This is echoed in Ecclesiastes when it says, “For everything, there is a Season…”

What lessons shall we take away today?

Amongst them could be:

1  lay aside provisions that you will need once the growing season of abundance is over – jam for tomorrow

2  is like no.1 – the principle of deferred gratification that is at the heart of sustainable societies (and businesses)

3  intrinsic motivation – being a self-starter, rather than extrinsic motivation – waiting for someone else to give you a shove or encouragement.

Nehemiah, the Governor of Jerusalem in a time of conflict, is my kind of man of faith.  His concept was to trust in the Lord… and double the guard!  This may lay behind the half-truth that, “the Lord helps those who help themselves”.  [I say ‘half-truth’ because I do believe the Lord and good humans help those who are in no position to help themselves.]  Having faith means working harder, not sitting back like a sluggard!  Go to the ant any time you feel like being sluggardly, and then take that next physical action step towards pursuing your goals.

The Beginning of Wisdom

Jesus said that, among those born of women, there was none wiser than King Solomon.  In fact, Solomon’s foremost request from God was for Him to give Solomon ‘wisdom’.  Thus we have an historic figure who we know was committed to learning and development.  In fact the books of ‘Proverbs’ and ‘Ecclesiastes’ are the equivalent of professional development coaching of their time.  They showed the way to get onwards and upwards in life.

Do they have anything to say to us today?  Stephen Covey seems to think so, and has made a lot of money out of relaying and replaying such wisdom literature.  So, I propose to go back to the source materials and see how they might be relevant and applied.  Somewhat conveniently, Proverbs has 31 Chapters – so I intend to read the chapter that matches the day of the month (and double up when the month is a shorter one).

Today, it is the turn of Proverbs Chapter 4.  There is a book’s worth in here, but since I will return to it each month, let’s just consider a couple of verses.

7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.  Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

8 Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you.

9 She will give you a garland to grace your head 
and present you with a glorious crown.”

Not very contemporary, is it?  A garland of grace, a glorious crown?  Yet, I’d like one!  So how do we become crowned with such glory and honour?  The answer is to invest everything we have in order to get ‘understanding’.  And ‘understanding’ is so much deeper than knowing a few facts and figures.  ‘Understanding’ (here used as a synonym of ‘wisdom’) is when the words of the learning become flesh – become second nature – become a part of our very being and daily ritual.  And that, my friends, requires Accelerated Learning… but that’s another blog!

Acting “As If…”

Messianic Mirroring…Go, Brand Thyself!

“22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.”  [Mark Ch.1 – emphasis mine]

As we enter a time of increasing uncertainty, many people are attracted to strong voices that seem confident and assured.  By way of contrast, today’s equivalent of the teachers of the law often project a lack of commitment that inspires zero confidence in their hearers.

Thus we end up with people feeling drawn to all manner of fundamentalists – both secular and religious, political and all prejudiced.  After all, fundamentalism is essentially a belief system that inspires certain patterns of behaviour.  In these contexts, I see this as a very bad thing.  Any following of any set of beliefs that prevents rational assessment is not a form of faith but a form of laziness.

However, there is a powerful flipside.  I believe, in building a personal brand, one should inspire confidence.  After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else? The Greek Philosophers encouraged us with the saying, “Know Thyself”.  I would say, “Know thy strengths – then project them with confidence!”

Any fool can pretend they know something about something they don’t – we’ve all met many of them, and, regretfully, too often in ‘sales’ roles.  I’m not suggesting that kind of psuedo-confidence at all.  I’m suggesting you harness the power of knowledge by being an expert in certain areas – become the Voice in that area.  Jesus confronted the so-called experts of his day, challenging them with the assertion that they were…”in error because you do not know the Scriptures, nor the power of God…”

Let’s do our homework and then lay aside all false modesty.  In this day and age, people respect strength.  Be bold, be strong, and then do NOT be silent!

And the First Words Were…

I wonder what the first words were out of your mouth on New Year’s Day?

I pondered this before opening my mouth this time!

Mine were, “I Am… Able!”

This made me think of Cain and Abel – in the Biblical Narratives.  Cain was jealous of his brother Abel’s abilities.  Abel was truly Able.  Whilst this, and what follows, is in no way a proper exegesis of the passage, it DID capture my imagination this morning… so I’d like to share with you.

Taking responsibility in 2011 is certainly one pathway to greater autonomy.  I believe our “I Am” statements define much of our inner and outer experience – as the inner world, so often so is the outer world.  Catch your “I am…” statements for awhile.  Do you say things like, “I am no good at…” (and you can fill in the object of the sentence)?  I have decided to focus on what “I Am Able” to tackle this year.

To me, ‘Cain’ reminds me of ‘Caint’ or ‘Can’t’!  Let’s remember that Cain slew Able.  As you watch your “I Am..” statements this year, also arrest every “Can’t” that comes into your mind before it gets onto your tongue and leaves your lips.  Even substituting the word “won’t” is better than any use of “can’t” in a statement.

Your “can’ts” will slay your “ables”!

If you’d like to begin with a new slate, write down, “I Am Able to….” 9 times, and fill in the gap with a different comment.  9 is at the top of how many matters we can track with our working memory, so more that 9 loci of attention for the year ahead will be less helpful than focusing on the essential 9 (think 9 Gifts of the Spirit and nine Fruit of the Spirit – interesting, eh?)

Of course you could write down as many positive I Ams as you like, then reduce them down to 9!

Then, if you get the buzz from this, write down any “I |Am not able…” comments you’ve caught yourself saying… and rewrite every one – transforming it into it opposite positive!

With love from your Mirror Guru