I usually avoid watching animal programmes because they have a habit of making me cry!
Nevertheless, I felt compelled to watch a documentary about the first nine months in the life of a baby penguin living in the Antarctic. Despite the harsh conditions, Emperor penguins spend their entire lives on the ice or in the surrounding waters of Antarctica.
Whilst the subject of the documentary was cute; nothing about the baby chick’s first months was surprising. Whatever the species, all babies rely on their parents for food, warmth and protection; until they’re old enough and wise enough to fend for themselves.
The part that got to me was just how hard it was on the parents. Their battle for survival whilst trying to keep their chick safe was relentless. Each parent had to take it in turns to make a treacherous journey of over 40 miles back to the sea in order to stock up on food.
Assuming they don’t get taken out on the way, there’s every chance that the chick will die of starvation whilst waiting for its parents to return. What’s more, this journey is a two month round trip which means one parent has to stay with the chick; keeping it safe, whilst withstanding the worst weather conditions on earth. During that time said parent goes hungry; as what food they have is used to keep the snow chick alive.
I know these penguins act on instinct and don’t know any other life but still; that’s harsh.
In their colonies penguins huddle together for warmth and protection. And yet when they’re on the move it’s each to their own. If you’re smaller or slower and can’t keep up with the rest then you’re literally left out in the cold. Finding yourself separated means probable death and the colony certainly won’t wait for you.
It reminded me of business life to some degree and the important balance to be struck between teamwork and individual responsibility. Hiding behind your teammates only works for so long – no-one likes a shirker. On the other hand, persistently acting as a lone agent will alienate your co-workers; and people have little patience with a smart aleck.
The answer is to find a middle ground; to demonstrate your value to the team whilst retaining your own identity and sense of independence. Not easy to do; particularly if you’re a penguin.