400 Million Years of Wisdom: What Freelancers Can Learn From Sharks
I wanted to begin this article with a hook like, "Freelancers are like sharks, if we stop moving we die". I also wanted to reap some backlink relevance by citing The Discovery Channel's post on this topic...but in reading the article I was shocked to find this frequently used expression a well publicized myth rather than an old truth.
Bummer right? What a stellar intro that would've been...
However, what I gleaned from this article was much more mind-blowy than the idea I was originally trying to illustrate. The original idea was this: If I am not continuing to move forward, my motivation shrivels and I fail. I've always thought that being a freelancer means I'm never allowed the luxury of standing still. This can be a painful way to live, and can burn out even the most grizzled boot-strapper.
Though I immediately noticed the comparison didn't apply, I finished the article anyhow. When I was done, a new revelation occurred...which will mean nothing unless I first give you a breakdown of the article as I understand it:
- Sharks actually use 2 kinds of breathing techniques:
- Technique 1: "Ram Ventilation" - Swim fast, water passes gills, need to swim constantly.
- Technique 2: "Buccal Pumping" - Mouth sucks water in over gills, no need to constantly swim.
- Prehistoric sharks used buccal pumping, and could chill-out whenevs without being deaded.
- Sharks these days use both methods, but many have completely forgotten how to "bucally pump".
- These latter types will suffocate/drown if they stop moving.
My first revelation came with this thought: "Why would a species with almost no flaws evolve and develop an Achille's Heel?" Well, how often have friends and family asked us, "Why would you leave a job with such security and instead choose risky freelance or entrepreneurial pursuits?" This analogy may be a bit stretched, but we who relate to the question can answer easily; It's more exciting, it's more fulfilling, and the bigger the risk the bigger the reward.
Now, I can't say whether sharks as a species are more or less fulfilled and excited than in previous millennia, but I can comment on something else. Ever been to SeaWorld and seen those enormous Megalodon jaw replicas that could swallow a school bus? Sure you have. Over their evolution sharks have gotten smaller, faster, and more agile as they adapted to warming waters and the changing migrations of their prey. They are one of the most ancient species on the planet, so can't we safely assume that any adaptation has been somewhat well reasoned? Sure we can. Faster and more agile suggests they're better killers and better survivors than they've even been.
Here's another stretched metaphor for you all:
The Megalodon is a large corporation. The small, fast, and agile shark is the freelancer. As we all know, the stability of corporate employment is wavering, and the predictability of ladder climbing is beginning to fog. We, the lucky ones, have heard the horror stories of mass layoffs, and those of us not so lucky know this firsthand. Employment trends are continually bending in the direction of self-employment. Passion and schedule-control aside, the new reality is that small and self-employed is slowly becoming surest method of self preservation.
It's rare to have the opportunity to pull from 400 million years of wisdom. Let's learn from the best shall we?
Have another stretched and far-fetched metaphor? Love to hear it! I will never presume to "have figured it out" and your commentary, even opposition, is the fire that we all need to continue theorizing, experimenting, and figuring this all out!