The Squirrel That Learnt To Swim

iStock_000011878152XSmallThis month I’d like you to consider how doing something different and for some of you even something surprising may have an impact on you and those around you. Rather than my usual style, this month’s tip is told from the perspective of an unsuspecting squirrel that I encountered towards the end of last summer. I’d virtually forgotten the incident until last weekend and thinking back through it I, like you, will find some interesting new thinking and possibility within it:


Not so far from you lives a squirrel. Let’s call him Sammy for that seems to fit for most squirrels. He could have been a boy, she could have been a girl and for the sake of our tale you can choose whichever gender he or she is. I’ll refer to him as he. So there he was, a bright September afternoon going about all the usual things that squirrels do: searching for food, walking his territory, keeping an eye on the other good and not so good looking squirrels in anticipation of next year’s breeding season, sunning and preening himself but essentially just being a squirrel.

He’d lived a fairly ordinary life so far. Was born and grew up nearby with his brothers and sisters. Went from blind, deaf and naked at birth to bright eyed and bushy tailed at 10 weeks by when he left the nest (drey) to seek his life through adolescence and into adulthood. Studied at the school and university of Squirrel Life and left them with all the usual grades and accolades. Had done all the usual squirrely things that young squirrels do: parties, holidays, nightclubs, overspending, staying out all night and so on.

Now a capable and self-sustaining adult Sammy would rise early and retire at dusk, do a good days work in between and be content if he paid all his bills, had food in his tummy and some nuts stashed around the area for the winter months. Everything seemed ordinary and usual – and that’s way most of his squirrel kind like it – but for Sammy there was always a sense that there could be more to life than just this.

Yes, there were things that he thought that he might like to do one day and things that he might like to have. Dreams of a great big drey in the biggest oak tree around, human neighbours with the highest washing line for acrobatics and tight-rope walking, the most beautiful partner and most delightful kittens, respect in the community and good standing in his social circles. And maybe even a little bit of adventure or a tiny bit of risk beyond the norm.

But that isn’t what most squirrels do. And as friends would often say, if they do they’re the ones you see lying on the roadside having jumped for a branch above the street that was just a little bit too far out of reach. Or they’re the ones that are devoured by the neighbourhood dog having stayed just a little too long near the bird feeder to steal some juicy peanuts and then left it too late to make their getaway. Yet they were the ones that Sammy dreamed of being – even just a little bit and even for just a little while. A little braver, taking a little more risk, breaking away from routine. Something to get the adrenaline pumping, something to whet the appetite for new adventures, something to aim for, something that could even be life changing.

And then one day it happened. Without warning, without planning and without death. In fact it opened up a whole new set of possibilities for Sammy. Others may have dreamed of it, others may have planned for it and some may have already been preparing for something similar having signed themselves up for a gentler introduction through a public course or an on-line programme. But for Sammy immersion was the answer!

As he scampered along the footpath alongside the canal, from beneath the bridge emerged the dreaded form of human-kind. Thankfully no dangerous dog in tow but in some ways worse: a human dressed in t-shirt, shorts and sports shoes. Tall, red-faced, sweating and puffing. A Runner!!! With very little time to spare Sammy had to consider his options. If he ran to his left he’d end up in the water and he had no idea if he could swim. If he ran to his right he’d have to leap the fence and who knows what could happen over there because that’s where the nasty digging machines live. With no tree in immediate reach what was he to do?

And then in that moment he did what some other squirrels may have already done but for Sammy there was no guarantee of the outcome or what would happen next. And to the runner’s complete surprise (and to anybody else who may have been watching) Sammy launched into the canal and ably swam the 4 metres to the other side like an Olympian whereupon he pulled himself out, shook himself off and paused to take in the amazing feat he had just achieved.

As he strode proudly back to his patch (after the evil runner had continued on) Sammy felt braver, more confident, more alive. He could see himself building his next drey better than he had ever built a drey before. He could hear the other squirrels talking about the new spring in his step, his standing a little bit taller. He could hear himself talking and thinking differently about his abilities and capabilities. Life and the world seemed different now.

Whether Sammy made any significant changes to his life we will not know, squirrels aren’t the kind of creature you can invite to a follow up interview. My gut tells me that if it was you then you may not have suddenly left your job to pursue the new career of your dreams (although some of you might); you may not have suddenly raised your income levels 10 fold or bought the new car you’d always dreamed of (although some of you might); you may have gone back to your day-to-day and dealt with it differently. You may be giving more time to your children, more loving to your partner, more committed to your job, more dedicated to your studies. You may have just taken up a new hobby that you never thought that you would enjoy or just swam 100 metres, run your first mile, climbed your first mountain, booked the first holiday in a long time and in so doing made a difference to you and those around you, however big or however small (and all of you can do that).


So what will you do for the first time this week, this month, this year? Something out of the ordinary or something that you’ve always fancied having a go at yet something new and different all the same.

Let me know how you get on.

Continue to “Live and love your life!”