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In This Way, Be Like An Ant (and not Ant-Man)

Have you ever watched a line of ants going about their business. They walk in one line, directly to their goal, trekking along over obstacles without stopping to drink or eat. They have a singular goal in mind: get to the food.

Now, if you see a line of ants in the near future, just draw the tip of your finger across the imaginary path they follow. What happens? With some variation depending on the type of ant, there is consistency among all ants that the ant becomes confused and walks around in a circle, rushing about within a small circumference, looking for its path. In their search for the pheromone that marks their line, they will bump into the remnants of your scent left by your finger, acting as an invisible wall that blinds the ant from its path.

Yet, the ant after pushing, bumping, and walking around, eventually find their way through the invisible wall and back onto the path laid out by those before him. But how could they know to battle through their momentary blindness when they have almost nothing for a brain when compared to us humans?

The ant's behavior can be instructive. Lets imagine the ant's path as any of our long term goals, and a finger's swipe of the path as some comical god's efforts to break the path, then the ant's behavior is appropriate because it almost always works.

With a problem, explore alternatives. As with the ant, we only need to keep trying out alternatives and options until the wall is no longer invisible. Alternatives and options was the way Thomas Edison, two-hundred tries later, produced the light bulb. Alternatives and options is how Albert Einstein, through hundreds of possible mathematical equations, produced the General Theory of Relativity.

Congruent with the first lesson, the second lesson is that with a problem, persist through it. As with the ant, we also don't need to use a lot of mental energy to push through a problem, just consistency and persistence in the goal until the path becomes clear once again. Our lack of emotional control often interferes with the ability to persist on a task and be consistent. Emulating the ant, our emotions would then be checked until later, after the goal has been achieved. The emotion that accompanies the internal dialogue of "I don't want to wake up" or "I just want to stay home" is not given any importance or legitimacy. The ant appears panicked when it looks for the pheromone marker, as if it is thinking "OMG! I need to get back on my goal, I need to get back on my goal!!"

The third lesson is to look to your community for suggestions when you encounter a problem. The ant will pick up on the scent that another ant who had pressed through the invisible wall right before it and it will quickly get back on track. Similarly, from members in your community, such as your professional group or hobby group or an older mentor/coach, who you can ask questions or who can tell you of a similar problem they solved, giving you needed insight into your own solutions.

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