Nature’s Lesson on Success
Termites are reminiscent of humans in terms of the structure of their lives. Like humans they are a community based creature, depending on the efforts of each member to build, protect and sustain the brood. The basic termite community is made up of the Reproductive(Queen), Soldier and Worker. The Queen or reproductives which consist of the original pair which started the colony are responsible for reproduction, colony expansion as well as replacement of vital members of the brood. The Soldier’s task is simple, to protect the brood from outside invaders, to take care of the Workers outside the next, they are the peacekeepers of the termite community. The Worker’s responsibility is to scout out new food sources, report back and gather the much-needed resources back to the colony.
As you can see, each caste in the termite community plays an important role, no caste can survive on it’s own without the other. Workers are prone to attacks from predators while foraging for food and resources, they rely on the Soldiers to keep them safe. Soldiers though tough and mighty, can’t survive without the food that’s collected by the Worker. The reproductives or commonly known as the Queen is reliant on her subjects to keep the colony safe and well stocked with food. She’s also responsible to know the conditions of the colony, her population, in order to be able to produce and replace lost members of the brood and keep a healthy and functioning colony.
Just as termites are starting a new nest, the Queen starts out on her lonely journey to find a secure spot to lay her eggs. As the eggs hatch and produce the various members that make up the termite community, so does her mound.
As with any endeavor we partake in, we usually start out small. We may start out as an individual or a small tight knit group of friends between 2 to 5 people. It’s ok to start small, even Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs started small in their garage.
We usually start out with a passion, but it’s hard to find like-minded people who share that passion, so we start small and we work on building our knowledge, skills and expertise. We invest in grooming ourselves and building the things that drives our passion and we start to reach out to other like-minded individuals to form our team.
Gather Strength in Numbers
Build Your Team
Termites being small creatures rely on teamwork and numbers to survive. Each member has their role to play. Soldiers will protect the nest, Workers do the heavy lifting and forage for food while the Reproductives expand the termite kingdom by establishing new colonies elsewhere.
Just like a termite colony was not built in a day, Rome was not built in a day, and certainly not by one man, as such it is essential to have a reliable core team. Your team members should complement each other in terms of knowledge, skills, and experience. Team members need to complement each other’s weakness with their individual strengths, as such it won’t be an easy task to find these people.
The team building process can be a tedious one, so take your time, find the right people, observe them before making a decision to bring them into the team, budding teams are fragile and will easily crack under the pressure of even the smallest disagreements among team members. So don’t rush it and build your team wisely.
Communication is key
Take notice of termites or ants crawling on the ground in a line and you will see that they communicate with each other quite often. They communicate by leaving a chemical trail or exchanging liquids and pheromones so that the line follows the same direction. If you don’t believe what I said you may try to wipe in between a line of marching termites/ants and notice that they will pause for a while to find back the trail.
It is clear that communication is important for a team to perform effectively, without good communication the team may lose direction and get lost. Make sure team members are updated regularly and that communications channels are functioning to avoid any member being kept in the dark. A missed email, message or call can cause devastating effects in the future. So communicate, and communicate well!
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Take charge and be a good leader
As a leader of a group, one needs to take charge and be a good leader. Just as the Queen of a colony takes charge of her colony by being in the know of population, food supplies and external threats. This is vital in order to replace much needed Soldier or Worker ants who have perished in the line of duty.
If you are the leader of your group then you too will need to take charge and know every aspect of your team. You will need to understand each individual member as if they were your soul mate (well maybe not to that extent but you get the idea). You will also need to understand the resources you have, the shortcomings of the team and what needs to be done to fill the gaps. Also, as leader, you will need to chart the course of your ship, so that the crew will stay the course with you. As we’ll come to next.
Stay the path and march on steadily
Stay the Course
We need destination for our journey in life, be it our personal life, career, or even a corporate entity, this is to allow us to chart a course in order to reach that destination. The direction which we are headed to is important to guide our actions. However, having a destination and direction alone is not enough. We need to stay the course and plough through the difficulties along the way, and as a leader you will need to stay the course along with your team.
The course however is going to be a bumpy road, there will be ups and downs, small hurdles, big bumps which will inadvertently bruise our members. There will be times when you feel like giving up or straying away from the charted course due to some distraction. However bruised or distracted we get, we still need to be brave, stay the path and march on steadily until we reach our destination and achieve our goals. As such we need to be like the termites and march on, no matter the obstacle ahead, they will find a way across it through teamwork. A leader’s role is important in such situations and need to lead by example for the team to emulate and follow, as we will get to next.
Lead by example
Lead by Example
We are often faced with two types of people, the bosses and the true leaders. Bosses do not lead, instead they boss people around, giving orders and instructing their subordinates to do his bidding. A true leader however, leads by example, getting their hands dirty and being in line first to face any obstacles head on.
Just as the humble termite, a lone scout may venture out into the wild searching for a new food source, once they have found it they will mark a trail back to the colony and lead the other Workers to it. As a leader you too will need to take the lead, venture into the unknown and report back when you have made progress. A leader does not shy away from hardships or are afraid to get their hands dirty, a leader gets their hands dirty first before requesting the assistance of team members. Now with your team backing you, it is time for you to dream as big as you can.
Dare to dream big
We all have our dreams, it is the dreamers who are able to expand their capacity to achieve big things in life. We stop fighting the moment we stop dreaming, as we will lose our focus and reason to continue fighting. Dare to dream big, just as the little termite works to build their gigantic nests, we too need to have big aspirations. We will find a way to make the dream into reality, however without one, there can be no reality either.
So, let’s all dream big and with the support of our team members, find a way to make this dream into reality. That is if we don’t lose our direction midway…
Don’t lose direction
Don’t Lose Direction
It is all too easy for us to lose direction; however, we need to find out way back on course every time. Just as a line of marching termites might lose direction momentarily if you disrupted their path, however they never fail to form back that line quickly.
The bumpy road may tempt you to use the easy road, or you may lose focus due to some external distraction, however we need to always find back the direction we were following and go back to our planned course, if not we risk dropping out and losing our direction permanently. Find an anchor to help guide you back on to the original path, it could be a team member, a task, your reason for starting on the journey in the first place or it could be the destination itself. Don’t lose direction and keep coming back everytime you lose direction and success will soon be in your grasp.
Just as how the tiny termites started small and grew in numbers to slowly build-up their colony eventually succeeded in building a metroplex of a nest for their community, success awaits all who persevere. As we have seen, there are many lessons to be learnt here, from the most unlikely and insignificant create in this world. Who would notice a small termite crawling on the ground, not until it has brought ruin and destruction to your property and furniture, or until you notice this huge mound in your backyard.
We as humans are the same, we start small and slowly grow our team, nobody takes notice of us in the beginning, but as long as we communicate with our team, take charge of our responsibilities, stay the course through leading by example, we can dare to dream big and never lose direction until we have achieved success eventually.
I hope you enjoyed this lesson from nature, and from a creature so tiny that we would normally not take notice of, for all our wisdom and knowledge, there is still much wisdom in nature’s creations. Till the next nature lesson.