Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Few Basic "Rules of Thumb"

"Walking in the Wilderness"
-in the nearby mountains-

Yesterday my wife and I joined up with a community hike into the mountains above where we live.  The hike was led by a guide who knew the way.  It was quite strenuous but exceptionally exhilarating.

As we made our way up into the mountains yesterday,  I couldn't  help but think of an article I had just read in the morning paper about why birds fly in a "V" formation when migrating from place to place."

A group of scientists studied a flock of 14 northern bald ibises as they made their 600 mile migratory journey from Austria to Tuscany. They discovered that the flight behavior of these birds made use of some very precise principles of aerodynamics. 

The wing flapping of the leader at the head of the "V" generates a flow of air for the birds flying just  behind. Subsequently the wing flapping of those birds also provide a flow for the birds behind them-- and so it goes, everyone flapping their wings in order to provide a "wake" supporting the flight of one another.

The scientists observed that the younger and stronger birds took turns in the leadership role at the tip of the "V," helping the older and weaker to make the long journey. 

The scientists also observed that it would be impossible for these birds to go that great of a distance by flying alone.

When asked how the birds know how to fly so precisely, one of the scientists observed that birds seemed to have evolved into a few basic "rules of thumb" which they apply every time they make those long strenuous migratory flights.

As I walked on my long and strenuous hike yesterday, along with my fellow travelers, led by a guide who knew the way, I thought about those birds in that "V" formation. The basic "rules of thumb" for making their journey make a lot of sense to me - not just for arduous mountain hikes but for making that migratory journey we call "life."

As I walked up into those wilderness mountains yesterday, I reflected on the "rules of thumb," life lessons we, human beings, might be able to learn from those birds flying in a "V" formation. 

Here are the "rules of thumb" I came up with. 

In the journey of life:

Never walk alone
This is perhaps the most important of the rules, especially in a culture such as ours marked by such rampant and rugged individualism. Lone rangers who think they can find happiness and lead a meaningful life by excluding others or stepping on one another along the way are on a dead-end path. The life-journey is a journey with others. It's all about relationships.

Rely upon guides and mentors to help find the way
This rule is probably a corollary to rule number one. Rugged individuals think they have all the answers. In my own life journey I have come to learn that there are lots of people wiser and smarter than me. I always need guides and mentors to whom I can turn when I need help along the way.

Share the leadership
This rule is especially important for those who are in leadership roles. It took me a real long time to evolve into this rule for my journey. Everyone has different gifts in life. Recognize and celebrate the gifts of others by sharing leadership along the way. It's much less exhausting when you share the burden. 

The stronger need to help the weaker along the way
This is another one of those extremely counter-cultural rules in a "me-first" society where the "haves" lord it over the "have nots." We cannot journey well in life unless we are all concerned for the needs of one another and have the common good in mind.  Those who have greater strength, more health, more resources have a special obligation (a duty) to assist those who are having a more difficult time along the way. 

A few basic "rules of thumb" for our strenuous, exhilarating, long journey of life - it's amazing what you can learn from evolved migratory birds. 


  1. Interesting & informative, thanks.

  2. thanks Paul,..... u are always our guide
    working on life everyday ,u r helping me ..