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Here’s a taste of squirrel from THE LEADERSHIP SECRETS OF SQUIRRELS, in which a squirrel executive and a squirrel general offer their secrets on becoming better leaders.Part Four10 Secrets at the Birdfeeder


“I don’t know which sight is more thrilling: an army arrayed against me or a birdfeeder hung temptingly from a tree.”

—Old Skugg

A birdfeeder is the most wonderful and curious contraption man ever invented. It at once shows a love for nature and a disdain for nature, feeding birds while trying (in vain) to prevent squirrels from feeding, too. But on the whole, I must thank you for even the most “squirrel-proof” feeders; that seed has helped me get through more than a few harsh winters.

The feeders, and how we defeat them, also offer up at least ten leadership secrets.


Never attack a competitor’s strength

“They had taken great pains to guard against the obvious, an attack on their flanks, so we feigned attack there and struck dead center, where they were as soft and yielding as a flower bud.”

—Old Skugg

One of the more curious things about birdfeeders is that they attempt to defeat us by attacking one of our strengths: agility. We can dangle from our hind feet and contort our bodies to defeat most feeders, eating the seed directly from the feeder or shaking it to the ground, where we and our ground-feeding bird friends can feast away.

Never attack a competitor’s strength unless you are even stronger. Every competitor has one or more weaknesses that can be readily exploited. Find them and attack.


Be wary of traps

“The food was there for the taking, but because we could not reach it without exposing our entire force, we passed by, keeping to the trees, while the heady smell of it came to us on a temptress breeze.”

—Old Skugg

I’ve seen my share of traps, especially around birdfeeders, but like any good squirrel, whenever I see easy pickings, especially food there for the taking, I keep a close eye out for traps.

Leaders must do the same. Sometimes traps present themselves as opportunities or easy advantage. I think you have an expression about free lunches that applies here, but the phrasing escapes me. Be cautious in the face of temptation.


Know your strengths—and weaknesses 

“The enemy taunted us to attack on the ground, but we were too vulnerable there, and pursued them through the trees.”

—Old Skugg

A birdfeeder makes us assess our abilities, forcing us to select strength over weakness in our pursuit of food. If the feeder has a metal or plastic hood, I must realize that the footing there will be about as good as a snow covered limb, and rather than risk a fall, use other techniques to get at the seed.

Leaders are keenly aware of their strengths and weaknesses, and refuse to overestimate or underestimate either. If you don’t know your strengths and weaknesses, and honestly assess them, you can be sure your competitors do.



“You will never win a sword fight by simply parrying your opponent’s blows. Thrust and thrust again, till their hearts are in their throats and their blood’s upon the ground!”

—Old Skugg

I love birds as much as you do. If it weren’t for them, there would be no birdfeeders, no seed. But having said that, they are also competitors who, if they had their way, would not yield up so much as a single seed to me.

Life, like it or not, is a competition. And you must lead that fight. Compete with all your heart and all your abilities.


Be opportunistic

“Every battle is won by recognizing, and taking advantage of, decisive opportunities.”

—Old Skugg

Seed in a feeder, seed on the ground, any food anywhere, is an opportunity for a squirrel. And though we are cautious in our approach to such opportunities, we are persistent in our pursuit and quick to take advantage.

Leaders seize opportunities, even if risk and extra work will be involved to take advantage of them. Never leave seed on the ground, or money on the table, if there’s a safe way to get it. And remember that if you don’t take advantage of an opportunity, someone else surely will.


Take advantage of competitor inefficiencies

“We hid among the corn as the farmers fired their guns, then ran again as they stopped and cursed and fumbled to reload.”

—Old Skugg

Another reason we love birds is that, as beautiful as they are in flight, they are among the sloppiest and inefficient eaters on Earth, spilling seed everywhere as they cling to the feeder and peck away. I guess that’s what happens when you trade hands for wings. Every apparent advantage comes with a new weakness.

Know your competitors as well as you know yourself, and take advantage of their every weakness and inefficiency.

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