Merge's Blog

An unexpected lesson from a sea otter

A couple of weeks ago, on my morning walk along Victoria’s Inner Harbour walkway, I was very fortunate to observe a sea otter dive down into the ocean to catch a crab and then swim up to the shore to eat it, approximately 15 feet away from where I was standing. I caught about 30 seconds of this amazing encounter on video which I’ve posted below.

This infrequent experience was exciting in itself, but what I found particularly interesting was that the sea otter took just a couple of bites of the crab, leaving the majority of the carcass behind on the rocks as he swam away. Why didn’t he finish this meal that he worked so hard to obtain? Was it because it didn’t taste very good? Or was there a more delicious morsel he spotted just on the other side of the rock? Maybe it was because he saw us watching quietly nearby. Or perhaps it was because the seagulls were already circling and he wanted to share his bounty (or couldn’t be bothered to fight them off).

The otter made a choice

No matter what the reason, the otter made a choice to let go of what was in front of him because it no longer served him well – either because staying with it could cause him harm, or because leaving it would take him to something better not far on the horizon.

So should leaders!

At this time of the year, when many of people look forward with anticipation, contemplating goals and future accomplishments, this lesson from the otter is certainly worth heeding. As a leader, what do you need to let go of that is no longer serving you (or your department or your organization) well? What are you or your team currently doing that is slowing you down or impeding your progress? Will discarding a specific task or choosing to give up control of a controversial point of view give you the freedom to seek out something superior?

The otter I met on that crisp cold morning two weeks ago was undoubtedly clear on what he wanted, and he was willing to give up what was in front of him in order to achieve his goal. Are you? Please share your perspective by adding a comment below.

6 thoughts on “An unexpected lesson from a sea otter

  1. Thank you – sometimes making changes to what is currently working for you is hard. Change never is easy, but as you say, change is necessary when it no longer services your needs. Taking the risk to move forward and find a better solution is a risk but may be more rewarding than you ever dreamed.

  2. You’re welcome Antoinette. You’re right about change not being easy — I use this phrase often – “people don’t change until the pain of where they are becomes greater than the pain of where they might be”. It’s hard to let go of the known and venture into the unknown!

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