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Work Smarter, Not Harder: a Story of Two Baby Goats

Updated: Jun 18

Oliver and Reggie came to my farm at the end of November. About 2 months old, these “bottle babies” from a local goat dairy were accustomed to getting a bottle twice a day. We’ve continued this, and it has been a wonderful way to bond. Our daily bottle feeding has also provided a good reminder of a valuable life lesson: work smarter, not harder. You see, Reggie, the larger of the two, has it all figured out. He sucks on the bottle until the imbalance of air inside and outside the bottle causes the milk flow to stop. When this happens, he simply detaches his mouth from the bottle, waits a moment for the air to come back in (accompanied by a soft hissing sound), then begins again. No fuss, no stress, easy peasy. Ollie, on the other hand, makes a lot of work for himself. When the milk flow in his bottle stops, he repeatedly and roughly bangs his nose on it (far more than the situation requires), causing milk to squirt out all over him, me, the yard, and his brother… everywhere but in his mouth. Then he finds the nipple again and resumes nursing until the flow again ceases. Repeat exhuberant banging of face against bottle, losing more milk to the grass, my clothes, and passers by, and resume nursing for another few sucks. Continue repeating these two processes alternately, until frustration builds and fatigue sets in, then walk away leaving the last ounce or two for Reggie who is more than happy to clean it up (in his patient and calm manner). As I observe and attempt to assist these two in their bottle feeding, it occurred to me that humans are just like them.. When things aren’t flowing so well for us, some of us are like Reggie and some of us are more like Oliver. The Reggies of the world recognize when the flow shifts, step back calmly, and wait… Reggies have a good sense of timing, and know when to re-engage the activity for the greatest effect. The Olivers of the world, though, get frustrated when the flow they were enjoying begins to slow (as anything that flows is bound to do eventually), and bang their heads against the proverbial walls (sometimes quite emphatically!) Just like with these baby goats, the head banging option almost never gets us what we want when we want it - we end up increasing our frustration, expending far too much effort, and losing most of what we were trying to get in the first place. It is interesting to note, Reggie not only has an easier time and ultimately ends up with more milk, he also always finishes first…reminding me of the “tortoise and hare” parable. What would it be like if we could learn to approach Life the way Reggie approaches bottles? When Life flows, work with it… when it stops flowing, let go of our attachment, accept it and wait patiently for the right timing to begin again. Trust that all we need is there for us. Know that there is no need for stress or frustration or banging our heads against the wall in resistance. Let go of our habitual over-efforting and find a smarter way to live. Might we actually succeed more, by stressing less? Might we all end up with less frustration and headaches (ouch!), more energy, and more of the things we really want? Old habits are hard to break, no matter how ineffective we recognize them to be. Thankfully for me, I have these little guys to remind me daily…



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