You probably know the old story about Robert The Bruce, displaced King of Scotland, and how he gathered the courage to face the English in battle after suffering six straight losses.
After being defeated so many times he was on the verge of giving up completely. With his few remaining troops, and in hiding, Robert lay in a cave pondering his predicament. Suddenly his eye was caught by a movement above.
A spider was hanging by a long silvery thread and attempting to weave its web. On the first attempt the spider threw its thread to the far side of the cave but failed. It tried again and failed again. Six times in total the spider attempted this manoeuvre and failed.
Robert watched enrapt, as his eight legged cave buddy took a deep arachnid sigh and pulled together for yet another attempt.
Legend has it Robert vowed to himself that if the spider failed on the seventh attempt then he too would admit failure and go off to join the Crusades. He also made a promise to himself that if the spider was successful then he too would not give up. He would fight on and make a seventh attempt at defeating the English.
Hey guess what! The spider's seventh attempt was successful and Robert the Bruce was true to his word. Inspired and reinvigorated, Robert's army finally defeated the English at the seventh attempt, driving them out of Scotland in 1314, at the Battle of Bannockburn.
Try, Try and Try Again
The obvious lesson from this old tale is to never give up. If you believe in something strongly enough, always keep going.
I had my own spider inspired moment this past weekend. Outside my office window a beautiful spider was midway through the spinning its web.
In my greatest ever piece of wildlife footage here (1 minute) you can watch the action; my phone camera clearly captured each section of the web being spun. It's mesmerising and I felt like David Attenborough!
My armies happened to be on annual leave last weekend, so I wasn't needing to be readying for war, but the lessons I reflected on were very useful. There's a lot I've got to get through in the next few weeks and these lessons were very impactful.
- Breaking It Down - The whole web is a massive job for such a small and delicate creature, an almost impossible task. Each section of the web taken alone, however, is much more achievable.
- Slow And Steady - The spider didn't seem to speed up or slow down. It had a job to do and simply kept its head down and plodded on making progress.
- Start With The End In Mind - It really helps that the spider knows what the finished product will look like. That lets you know how far you've got and what there is left to do.
- Ignore Distractions - There was a football match on in the background, which I was supposedly watching. It was quite a good game but the spider didn't stop to check on the score. He kept on going. Until he was completely finished.
- Take Time Out - Watching this little guy and shutting out everything else, even if just for a short while, gave me a reinvigorating dose of mindfulness.
Inspired by that spider I have been firing through my massive to do list this week. Every time I feel like I've had enough, I look out of the window and the web is still there.