Monday, November 21, 2011

Lessons we can learn from geese

My post today is not quilt-related, though I do believe a room full of quilters can sometimes sound like a flock of geese... Maybe 20 years ago, I attended a team-building exercise with a group of co-workers.  The following article was in our course materials without attribution to the author.  I spent some time on the web today trying to track down the original author, and came up with three different names and a whole lot of confusion.  So, you'll forgive me, I hope, for not having the full attribution information.

I always loved the article.  I grew up on a ranch in the middle of Alberta, where the geese fly in by the thousands in the fall, and (to the general annoyance of farmers) stop to snack on the ripe grain before flying south.  It is an awesome sight to behold the sky filled with them.  I always kept this article in my inspiration file.  In cleaning out some paper work today I came across it again and thought I'd share.  The noble Canada Goose, our national bird, can live 30 years in the wild, is monogamous, loyal, brave, and flies thousands of miles to and from it's summer breeding grounds in the north to its southern winter grounds every year.

Lessons We Can Learn From Geese
Humans, like geese, were created to work together and to support one another. When we encourage each other and support our leaders we can accomplish amazing things much more than trying to work alone.

Fact 1: As each goose flaps its wings it creates an "uplift" for the birds that follow. By flying in a "V" formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.

Lesson: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

Fact 2: When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.

Fact 3: When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.

Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each other's skills, capabilities and unique arrangements of gifts, talents or resources.

Fact 4: The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. 

Lesson: We need to make sure honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement the production is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one's heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of others) is the quality of honking we seek.

Fact 5: When a goose gets sick, wounded, or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.

So, the next time you see geese flying above, take a moment to remind yourself just how smart they are, and what we can learn from them. The geese teach us to work as a team, work together in unity, share the hard jobs when it comes to leading, and honk from behind to encourage others.

What does your honk say about you?


  1. I just about fell out of my chair when I read this post!! Two years ago I made a strippy flying geese quilt in flannel called "Flying For Cover" (quilt design by Janet Locey of Hen Scratch Quilting). At some point in the process I came across this same article and loved the sentiments expressed in it so much that I designed the quilt label to include the truths in it.

    The sad part is that label is STILL waiting to be printed out on fabric and sewn to the quilt. I am taking your post as another one those "nudges from the quilt gods" to get this done before years end. As one of only two quilts I've made that don't have labels, I don't want it to remain "out of formation"!

  2. Thanks for sharing these lessons. Canadian geese are beautiful animals. I'd heard some of these facts before but not all of them. Thanks, again!

  3. I have read this once before and wished I knew where to find it. Thanks! Canada Geese fly over us frequently and if you are outside on a quiet day you can hear the wings flap. Awesome!