How two insects teach us everything necessary to succeed

by | September 3, 2012

Old Aesop knew what he was talking about. According to his classic parable, there are two kinds of people: “ants” and “grasshoppers.”

The slogan of the grasshoppers is, “The best things in life are free.”

The ants retort, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

Grasshoppers live for today, spend more than they earn, rack up consumer debt, and spend selfishly on themselves.

Ants live within their means, prepare for the future, and leave a legacy for future generations.

Grasshoppers dream; ants act. Grasshoppers wish; ants work. Grasshoppers wait for opportunity; ants create opportunity.

Grasshoppers depend on luck to succeed, and often whine about their lack of it. As Orison Swett Marden taught,

“It is the idle person, not the great worker, who is always complaining that there is no time or opportunity. Yet, some will make more out of the odds and ends of opportunities which many carelessly toss away than others will get out of a whole lifetime. Like bees, they extract honey from every flower. Every person they meet, every circumstance of the day, adds something to their store of useful knowledge or personal power.”

Grasshoppers buy lottery tickets and speculate in the stock market. Ants create value for others and mitigate risk.

Grasshoppers flit from one “ground floor” opportunity to another, without ever paying the price to succeed in any. Ants know their Authentic Purpose and pursue it with laser focus and relentless determination.

Grasshoppers love prescription drugs and liposuction. Ants eat healthy food and exercise regularly.

Grasshoppers demand government benefits. Ants produce their own benefits. As B.J. Palmer put it,

“Men and women are of two kinds: floaters, who drift down stream like so much flotsam on the surface of the tide; like blood-suckers, they live off the efforts of those on whom they leech; and those who swim up stream, buck the tide of adversity, and struggle to support themselves as well as others.”

Charismatic charlatans, offering quick, simple, and “revolutionary” life shortcuts, prey on grasshoppers, for grasshoppers provide their source of income. Grasshoppers are “like children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness…”

Ants trust their own intuition and understand that building anything worthwhile requires hard work, time, and patience.

Grasshoppers try “life-changing” techniques once or twice, then give up in disappointment.

Ants understand that change is a lifelong process, not a one-time event. They understand that virtue is achieved through total immersion in light and truth — that fighting entropy is not a periodic battle, but a constant war.

As Henry David Thoreau observed,

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”

Grasshoppers are enamored by any items new and shiny, then toss them out when they quickly get bored. Ants latch onto the things which endure. Grasshoppers are one-hit wonders. Ants create timeless classics.

The lives of grasshoppers are governed by whim, impulse, and emotion. They concern themselves little with potential consequences of their actions.

Ants are governed by natural laws, particularly the Law of the Harvest. They understand that a price must be paid to fulfill any desire, that consequences are inescapable and irrevocable.

The Proverb admonishes:

“Go to the ant, thou sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which having no guide, overseer or ruler, provides her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.”

Our choice is to cave to our inner grasshopper, or constantly strive for the ideals of the ant.

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