Solomon thought so, he says to ‘go to the ant’ and ‘consider the ant’ and refers to them as little upon the earth but exceeding wise. He suggests that taking a leaf from their book will preserve us from poverty and give us wisdom. Given Solomon is the richest man the world has ever known (today he would be worth 100 times more than John D Rockefeller), some ant facts are worth knowing.
So, how do ant communities do it?
1. Strong leadership
Ant communities are headed by a queen or queens, whose function in life is to lay thousands of eggs that will ensure the survival of the colony. Workers (the ants typically seen by humans) are wingless females that never reproduce, but instead, forage for food, care for the queen’s offspring, work on the nest, protect the community, and perform many other duties. When the queen of the colony dies, the colony can only survive a few months. Queens are rarely replaced and the workers are not able to reproduce. The lesson;
Without strong and clear leadership – failure is imminent!
2. Communicate & cooperate
Ants are social insects which form colonies that range in size from a few dozen predatory individuals living in small natural cavities to highly organised colonies which may occupy large territories and consist of millions of individuals. Ants communicate and cooperate by using chemicals (pheromones) that can alert others to danger or lead them to a promising food source. The lesson;
Nothing can succeed without clear communication and cooperation.
3. Absolute commitment
Queen ants have wings, which they shed when they start a new nest. This is to signal to the other ants that they are wholly committed to the nest – their wings are gone, they cant fly away! In 1519, Captain Hernán Cortés landed in Veracruz to begin his great conquest. Upon arriving, he gave the order to his men to burn the ships. The lesson:
Retreat is easy when you have the option. Remove the option – shed your wings or burn your boats! That’s absolute commitment!
4. Preparedness for risk
Army ants may prey on much larger animals such as reptiles, birds, or even small mammals. Whilst this strategy is risky, it brings far greater payoffs to the nest – better food and a more reliable supply. Unless you are prepared for the risks involved in success, you are destined to stay within the banks of mediocrity. The lesson;
Success involves risk, not foolhardy risk, but risk based on sound analysis and good advice.
5. Be grounded & tuned in
Ants do not have ears. Ants “hear” by feeling vibrations in the ground through their feet. Success involves having your feet on the ground – it is more than just hearing, it is staying attuned to ‘every element’ of life and business. It is being aware, awake and plugged in. Failure to do so will bring certain failure and very quickly. The lesson;
Know exactly where you stand and why – keep your feet on the ground and have a feel for things!
6. Be prepared for sacrifice
When ants fight, it is usually to the death! Any success is always as a result of some personal sacrifice. Any great artist must devote hours of practise while others are taking it easy. Any great scholar, devotes thousands of hours of hard work to become one. Any business success has involved hard, hard work, pressure, financial hardship and the giving up of leisure’s that the majority are enjoying. The lesson;
Accept that success will involve self sacrifice
7. Open mindedness
Ants don’t have lungs. Oxygen enters through tiny holes all over the body and carbon dioxide leaves through the same holes. Quite unique isn’t it, a very versatile and handy system to have. If they cant get oxygen through one hole, they get it from another! The lesson;
Don’t lock yourself in to any one method or way of thinking, be prepared to step outside your norm to solve a problem.
8. Punch well above your weight
The ant is one of the worlds’ strongest creatures in relation to its size. An average ant can lift twenty times its own weight. Some ants can support up to 100x their own weight upside down on glass. The tiny leaf cutter ant (pictured at the top of the page) can lift and carry in its jaws something 50 times its own body weight of about 500mg. The lesson;
Successful people are prepared to expend much more effort than the majority and carry much more than just their own weight in order to excel.
9. Consideration for others
Ants have two stomachs, one to hold food for themselves, and one for others. This is a critical feature of leadership and an essential element of any team player. To succeed, is to consider for others, provide for others and to help others. No team in any field succeeds without this fundamental trait. The lesson;
Be attuned to others needs as much as you are to your own needs
Most ants can survive around 24 hours underwater. What are you like when the going gets tough. There will be times when the odds are stacked against you and the clouds seem forever dark. Survivors develop the resilience to endure through the hard times in order to thrive in the good times.