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I’m going to speculate that when a pelican dives for its catch, it’s just going for it. Internal stories = zero. 

We can learn from that.

Last week I had the opportunity to spend a week at a yoga retreat center in Mexico. Every day as we ate our meals in the beachfront dining room, we’d watch Brown Pelicans diving for their food. They’d soar 50 feet or more above the water, and then tuck and dive. It was fascinating and mesmerizing to watch.

One morning I shared breakfast with another leadership coach, the awesome and brilliant Melanie Brittle, as we enjoyed the pelican show. We were amazed and a bit humored by what could only be called their bias for action.

Melanie said something along the lines of “They see what they want and they just go for it.”

That started a whole conversation around what the pelicans AREN’T likely thinking.

Their pelican brains probably aren’t telling them:
“I’m not good enough to dive like the other pelicans.”
“What if it’s a bad dive? What will the others think?”
“What if I mess up and don’t catch anything?”
“What do the other pelicans think of me?”
“Will the others think I’m too bossy/aggressive/much?”
“I’m not the right title/status in our flock to dive.”
“I’m a total fraud pelican and everyone is going to find out.”

Learning Life Lessons From a Pelican | 110 West Group | Cynthia Farrell
Photo by Alexis Jade on Unsplash

We definitely had fun with the conversation, but also saw the truth in what we were saying.

The pelicans see what they want and they Go For It.

The parallels to leadership–to life in general–were obvious to us.

What if we just went for what we wanted? What if we didn’t worry about messing up or failing, didn’t care what others thought, didn’t play imposter story tapes in our heads?

And if we DID miss, we’d get back up and go for the next thing.

Just think how full our lives would be.

So if you’re thinking of diving into something, of going big, imagine you’re a pelican. You see your target. Without hesitation, you dive. What magic might you catch?

(I fully anticipated I’d walk away from the trip with some metaphors for leadership. I didn’t expect the most meaningful to come from Brown Pelicans. I’m still trying to figure out the metaphor that came with snorkeling in an area filled with microscopic jellyfish. If you have any ideas on that one, let me know.)


Cover Photo by Diana Thoresen on Unsplash

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