Act like a duck!

images[2]My wife Ann keeps a picture on the refrigerator with the following caption: “Always behave like a duck. Keep calm and unruffled on the surface, but paddle like the devil underneath.”
I can think of several people this advice applies to, but the first person who came to mind was my Dad. My first memory of Dad behaving like a duck occurred in the summer of 1958. I was a member of the FFA (Future Farmers of America). In our chapter, each new member was given a ten-week old piglet to raise. The requirement was to show the pig at the county fair and when the pig had a litter we were to give one of the piglets to the next new member. This task seems simple enough, but many people are not aware of a pig’s intelligence. Along with their intelligence comes considerable stubbornness.
My pig (Betty Ann) did not like staying in her pen. She would break out at least once a month. My youngest sister was thrilled to tell me that my pig was out and needed to be put back in the pig lot. One hot August day, Betty Ann escaped by digging under the fence. My little sister did nothing to stop her but was quick to let me know when it happened. The chase began. You would be surprised just how fast a pig can run. Betty Ann cut through a small blackberry patch with me right behind her. When I cleared the last briar something stung me near my temple. I took off the green cap I was wearing and it immediately turned to bright yellow. Miss Betty Ann had just led me through a yellow jacket nest. My legs were completely covered. I raked my hands over my legs killing a hundred at a time. Escaping this area seemed to be the appropriate approach. I ran to the house shedding my clothes as I ran.
Standing inside in just my jockey shorts, I tried to explain to Mom why I had so many stings. She became hysterical because the nearest hospital was twenty miles away. Dad heard the uproar and came out to see what all the commotion was about. He took one quick look and went to the tool shed. He brought me a garden hoe and pointed to the lower part of our garden. “Go hoe the last two rows of corn and make sure you cut all of the weeds.”
His reaction took me completely by surprise. I stomped off down to the field and began hoeing and talking to myself. “He hates me. I am going to die from all these stings, and all my Dad wants is his corn taken care of.” The more I hoed the madder I got and the madder I got, the harder I worked. Soon I began to sweat. The more I sweated the less the stings hurt. Within an hour all of the pain and soreness was gone. Of course, I must have been a sight to see hoeing the corn in my jockey shorts. Years later Dad told me he nearly panicked when he saw me with all of those stings, knowing the hospital was so far away. However, sweating had once helped him with a couple of stings so he thought it would work for me. His approach and appeal to me illustrate calm guidance. I did not see his inner panicky feeling as he started paddling like the devil.
Over the years I have known and worked for a lot of ducks. They all have many of the same characteristics. First, they know what they want done. More importantly, they know what could knock them off track. They believe action is the best teacher. They make a decision, they take action, they look at the results and they learn. Lessons learned are applied to their next action and so on and so on. This type of person seems to have all the confidence in the world. However, when they let you into their decision-making process you find out their minds are paddling like the devil. They know what they want to accomplish. They go after it. The one characteristic I have seen in all the ducks I’ve worked for is they never show emotions, no matter how excited you are when you tell them the world is about to end. Their calmness has always made me feel they will give me the solution. I have tried to grow to their level of confidence. I challenge you, as a manager, to seek that level of competency.
Don’t be afraid to try. What’s the old saying? Fake it until you make it. If you refuse to take the challenge and plan on being successful, you have big problems ahead of you. Yet, the more successful you are the more problems you will have. If you panic or lose your temper every time you hear bad news, guess what? Soon you will never hear bad news from your people. Honestly, would you want a manager that didn’t know what’s going on around him? See how many days it takes for you to become a duckling. Wouldn’t it be great if all of our leaders were ducks?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

R.J. Patterson

R.J. Patterson

Raland J. Patterson earned his MBA with an emphasis in finance from National University. For the past 18 years he worked as a financial planner.

The last six were spent as Regional Vice-President in Europe, responsible for 20 different offices located in seven countries. He served in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot from 1970-1971 with the First Cavalry Division.

When he retired from the Army as a Lt. Colonel, he had logged 22 years of active duty. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bronze Star with One Oak Leaf Cluster, and 14 air medals, among other awards.

After travelling extensively, he now lives in his hometown of Blue Ridge, Georgia. He brings an insiders knowledge of detailed military protocol and experience along with small town American values.

Get in touch… or 706-258-3438
Subscribe to RSS Feed

Add RJ Patterson Books to your RSS Feed:

Sugar Creek
Click here to purchase Sugar Creek today!

Traditions run as deeply in the North Georgia Mountains as the roots of the massive, old oaks growing in the area.
Families like the Barkleys on Sugar Creek, lived and worked together in order to survive the hardships of the thirties and forties.

Bear Cat
Click here to purchase Bear Cat today!

In route to Vietnam in the summer of 1970, Captain Johnny McKay kept hearing his father’s words in his head, Make them a good soldier, son.
Every soldier onboard that flight had one goal in common – come back alive.

Click here to purchase Hogback today!

Hogback is a suspense novel, which explores the age-old dilemma of good versus evil.
As a teenager, Jim Coleman, found himself in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Upon his release he sets off on a trail of vengeance that leads him through small Georgia towns with a mounting body count in his wake.

Click here to purchase Hoverdown today!

Hoverdown is a revenge-driven thriller tracking the lives of three men.
Beginning in Vietnam, a skilled helicopter pilot, Bill Dant, foolishly accepts an opportunity to deal drugs to his fellow soldiers. Platoon leader Captain Sam Wright is instrumental in sending him to prison.

Talking Rock
Click here to purchase Talking Rock today!

Legs, a thirty-something single mother, has had enough of entitled rich men using her for their own purposes.
To match her hot body, she creates a confident, in-charge alter ego determined to turn the tables and exploit them.

Silver Bullets
Click here to purchase Silver Bullets for Managers today!

For me, managing awesome teams was both rewarding and exciting.
I learned early on that great managers take care of their team members; they do the right things for the right reasons. By helping team members focus on the same vision, they will begin to feel as if they’re playing a championship game every day.

The Ledger
Click here to purchase The Ledger today!

Throughout a grueling, extended tour in the jungles of Vietnam, Captain Dean Crosby lived for the adrenaline rush.
A born loner, Crosby recorded each mission into a ledger, ranking missions based on the difficulty and the high he felt afterwards. The sum of his emotional life rested between the leather-covered pages of The Ledger.