The Crown of the Continent, named by George Bird Grinnell, has maintained a vibrant ecosystem that has adapted and thrived quite well. Remarkably, this wilderness area has maintained the same vertebrate species for hundreds of years. Well, at least that's what I learned from reading "The Case of the Disappearing Rabbit" in Newsweek where Lily Huang details the rapid climate changes impacting this backcountry and the plight it's creating for the wild Canada lynx.
This extraordinary example provided by mother nature is loaded with real-life metaphors about the need to adapt within changing work environments. Here are a few lessons from Huang's excellent article that can apply to any of our careers.
1. DON'T RELY TOO MUCH ON OTHERS
A lynx, if it could, would eat nothing but snowshoe hares its whole life, and pretty much does. An animal so specialized that it only eats one kind of food has a tenuous place in the world.
When you rely too heavily on others, your survival is totally dependent on their survival.
2. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR CHANGING ENVIRONMENT
As the largest perennial food prize in the ecosystem, snowshoe hares have just one good trick - turning white in winter, brown the rest of the year - cued by the changing length of days. Now winter snow melts nearly a month earlier in the Crown that it did just a century ago, causing, says Dan Fagre, a "decoupling" between two cycles that used to be synchronized: light and temperature. This means that a snow-white hare will end up sitting on brown earth - and have no idea.
Sometimes our work environments change so fast it doesn't feel like we have time to adapt. The key is to see the small changes early, so you know where things are headed. Remember Wayne Gretzy's adage: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”
3. BE FLEXIBLE AND HAVE GENERAL TRANSFERABLE SKILLS
Biodiversity happens when an ecosystem brings competing species to a stalemate: all have their niche, all get by, none can completely suppress another. Global warming doesn't so much tip this finely wrought balance in the Crown one way or another as knock it all down: no niche wins out; the real winners are the species that don't have a niche. These are the ones who don't have to change their genes. Grizzly bears may be the world's least choosy eaters, omnivores par excellence that can live on anything and learn what they need to survive.
It's important to learn everyday, and I guess to not be a picky eater. Maybe mom was right; I should taste everything on my plate.