A six-mile wide chunk of cosmic trash came screaming toward us faster than a missile. In 10 minutes, the face of the earth changed forever.
No one could have seen it coming, telescopes being short in supply at the end of the Cretaceous period (and T-rexes not being very good at fiddling with the focus knobs).
The year that followed was literally hellish. The Gulf of Mexico vaporized nearly instantly. A rain of molten debris set off forest fires that engulfed half the earth’s wooded areas. Uncontrolled swarms of insects hatched to feast on the corpses of the 76% of the earth’s species that had suddenly become extinct. And a cloud of soot and space dust created a night that lasted for six straight months.
(Thank you, PBS. Have I ever mentioned my love of nature programs? Heroes and Lost have nothing on this.)
Is there maybe a teeny tiny little part of you that thinks this is a pretty good metaphor for the cascading crashes we’re seeing right now in the economy?
Who survives the unsurvivable?
So what made it? Some birds, a lot of bugs, a few weird looking little proto-mammals, and crocodiles.
It turns out that crocodiles are exceptionally good at surviving unimaginable awfulness.
So can a tough, formidable lizard teach you something about making it when things get really, really bad? Maybe.
Adaptability is king
Any dinosaurs that might have survived the initial meteor impact (and subsequent tidal waves and forest fires) were probably killed off by the six months of darkness. Plant-eaters don’t do too well when there’s no photosynthesis. And predators don’t do too well when there are no more plant-eaters to munch on.
Crocodiles, on the other hand, eat both live and dead prey. Their stomachs can tolerate just about anything. All that gross bacteria in dead stuff? Not a problem.
P.S., they can see in the dark. While T. Rex was stumbling around looking for a light switch, crocodiles were efficiently eating their way through an all-you-can-eat buffet.
It’s easy to assume crocodiles are as stupid as most reptiles, but they actually can learn new tasks surprisingly quickly. (This according to studies carried out by extremely brave scientists. Let’s face it, putting a crocodile through a maze has got to be trickier than doing it with a lab rat.)
Crocodiles may not go through the philosophical and playful mental gymnastics that we primates do, but they’re surprisingly wily at solving the problems they need to solve.
A crocodile can also, if pressed, go about two years without eating. So things can get pretty darned bad for quite awhile, and they’ll pull through.
The original 80/20 rule
Crocodiles don’t do a damned thing when there’s nothing worth doing. If there’s no food around, they lie there. (It probably helps that they can slow their heart rate to 3 beats per minute.)
When there is food around, they become incredibly fast. When it’s time to act, they act, with horrifying efficiency. When it’s time to lie low, they lie low.
Crocodiles don’t thrash around in a panic when there’s no point. Instead, they lie there (in that creepy way they have) getting ready for the next opportunity.
Sometimes it’s useful to just be a mean SOB
Crocodiles don’t spend a lot of time wondering if they deserved to survive the worst thing that ever happened on earth. They don’t mourn all the other cool species they used to hang out with. They don’t spend their time missing the tender and delicious creatures they used to snack on in the good old days.
Crocodiles take what’s available and they make it work. I’m not advocating adopting a crocodile’s meanness, but we could all do with their lack of self pity.
So should we be crocodiles?
I don’t think I’d like the life of a crocodile. It’s too narrowly focused, too selfish, and too heartless.
But I’m willing to adopt some of their more admirable traits. I’m willing to expand my repertory of ways to make a living, and to develop multiple strategies that will work together so I can thrive no matter where I find myself.
I’m willing to learn to navigate weird new environments.
I’m willing to scale back when that makes sense, and to scale up again when the time is right.
I’m willing to save my energy for projects that will pay off, instead of racing around squandering my energy on ego-driven tasks that will never bear real fruit.
I’m not willing to be mean, but I am willing to move aggressively toward what I want. And I’m willing to quit whining about how easy it used to be.
How about you? What traits are you calling on to survive the great meteor blast? Let us know in the comments.
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Flickr Creative Commons images by Tom@HK
Good post! Unfortunately, now I am slightly alarmed by previously unsuspected crocodile abilities. I find their utter stillness somewhat creepy, although to be fair, if I hadn’t eaten for 2 years, I’d be pretty quiet, too.
To keep them with animal theme, I guess I’d try to emulate an octopus. They’re very smart, interested enough in their environment to constantly rearrange their surroundings, and have the problem solving skills to escape from or to change uncomfortable situations.
Er, “to keep with the animal theme,” rather.
leannes last blog post..What it’s Like to Be Preggo In 500 Words
Timothy Coote says
Well now, if it meant life or death I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be blathering about the advantages and disadvantages of “new media” vs. “old media” that’s for sure.
If it’s about how far I’m willing to go in the everyday fight for business then I follow a set of guidelines which enable me to kiss my wife and kids and go to sleep at night.
Timothy Cootes last blog post..Why No One Cares About Your Business.
Thanks for a nice article.
Judy Dunn says
Read your tweet about the PBS show. An interesting analogy you have drawn here.
You know, Bob and I had another term as we struggled with the beginning years in our business (now in our 16th year). Our daughter even developed a certain fondness for the term. We called ourselves “The Cockroach Family.” We would not be denied (or stepped on or squished, just live real cockroaches).
The traits that were key for us were perseverance, determination (although my mom called it “stubbornness” when she saw it in me when I was a child), and creativity (what other ways could we do this to achieve more success?).
I love the way you think.
Jeff Rogers says
Have you ever read Lucifer’s Hammer. Its an older book, but very well done.
Articles like this along with other trends seem to bespeak a growing tendency for people to be fatalistic about human chances of survival. Evolutionists seem to be more susceptible to the fatalistic bug, while a lot of Creationist, though many of them are a bit starry eyed, are more positive about the future.
Jeff Rogerss last blog post..Fundamentals of Powerful Business Networking
chris zydel says
Thanks for a great post and love those photos. The idea of taking on “crocodile medicine” is actually quite relaxing. It’s an opportunity to slow down, sit back and cultivate patience. To pare down to what is absolutely essential and to learn to practice necessary frugality. And in this “after the bomb blast” new economy I no longer have to feel pressured and guilty about not ever achieving a seven figure income!!!
chris zydels last blog post..WHEN I WRITE….a very short play in seven acts
Sonia Simone says
@Leanne, I think it would be much nicer to be an octopus. My ability to write this post was somewhat impaired by the fact that crocodiles COMPLETELY FREAK ME OUT.
@Judy, my sister and I affectionately call our dad The Cockroach. It took us years to get up the nerve to tell him that, but he got it & was flattered.
@Jeff, haven’t seen it yet, but I’ll put it on my Amazon list.
@Chris, now that’s looking on the bright side!
Paradise @ lastminuteacademic says
I was a little confused at first, but having read to the end I totally agree. At the end of the day, feeling sorry for yourself all the time doesn’t really help, and makes you more miserable.
My new favorite animal shall now be the croc!!
Also wanted to say that I do quite like your style of writing. Am looking forward to exploring this site more.
I liked this article. It made me smile. It made the cockles of my heart warm over.
And if there’s a truth that this article illuminates, it is the fact that too many people lack reflective skills. Or make the time to reflect on their lives, their choices and their futures.
Whatever – I just know that it is not wise to anger a hippopotamus.
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Melodee Patterson | Virtual Assistant says
I think during this bad economic time, a lot of people are feeling like it’s the end of the world. I agree with Judy – perseverance, determination, and creativity – are wonderful attributes to have. I would add the need to stay positive while those around you are whining their heads off 🙂
Melodee Patterson | Virtual Assistants last blog post..A Simpler Way
Kathleen Murphy says
brilliant reminder: lie low. no point; panic averted . . . . thank you!
I happen to think the end is nowhere in sight. Well perhaps i think that way since i live in Karachi lol where we have a wee bit more to worry about other than the crashing economy. However I think the best thing to do in these desperate times is to stay positive, hopefully this too shall pass.
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