I have always been fascinated by bees, although admittedly I have never been a big honey-eater. I like it, I like the diversity it offers, its sweetness and unique taste and texture, but I am as happy eating a chocolate bar if you know what I mean.
At any rate, at the green age of 37, driven by my wish to do something practical and in touch with Nature that I could also share and teach my kids, I have decided to become a (…drumroll…) beekeeper and have found out about at least 5 things you must learn from bees to be successful.
So I joined a group of bee enthusiasts in the area I live in (Zug, Switzerland) to start learning my trade as a trainee-beekeeper!
The group is small (we’re 8 people) and two of them are professionally trained beekeepers, with own beehives on the Swiss mountains.
One of them worked for the last 2 years as a full-time professional beekeeper, producing honey from more than 200 beehives in Piedmont, Italy.
Now, I am so glad I have these great people to talk to, observe, ask questions to and learn from: it is only by working with experts that we can learn experts skills.
Naturally, my way to beekeeping has just started and it will involve several formal steps with a final examination and certificate… in the meantime, I have started at the lowest possible rank of the beekeeping ladder as a ‘beehelper’.
Practically speaking, I am the guy who carries around stuff and equipment, cleaning the apiary and the working spaces, preparing treatments for bees, fixing the hives if need be and preparing the food for the bees in wintertime (yes, bees actually eat honey as a primary source of food and if there’s not enough they need to be fed supplements to avoid that the colony dies).
In short, I’m running around doing the most menial tasks, and I don’t mind at all because everything for me is so new and shiny and I learn by doing!
I haven’t started that long ago (2 months) and I am already inferring some key lessons for my own digital business efforts that are applicable to you as well.
Thinking about it, these are lessons that can come in useful for tons of people out there who are in the process of creating or growing their business.
I have extrapolated 5 of these bee-lessons for you here below.
- Know what you’re doing
- Take action
- Look at the whole
- Create value
- Create reserves
Know what you’re doing
You see when I came close to bees and beehives for the first time, and eventually looked into one to perform specific tasks like cleaning, checking for eggs and larvae or for new queens, I realized how little I knew about bees and how many misconceptions I had about this, for many aspects wonderful, insect.
Bees have been in existence for millions of years and are one of the examples of evolutionary success: it means that they have been extremely successful until now because what they do and how they do it keeps them alive and allows them to thrive, in virtually any part of the world.
If you have ever opened a beehive you will surely remember your ‘first time’. The first thing that stroke me was the perfect symmetry of the structures they create, with all those hexagonal cells next to each other in the honeycombs where the queen lays her eggs, bees are born and honey is stored, and the exceptionally efficient use bees make of any space they have available.
I have even learned that there is a direction in the honeycomb cells, that allows the beekeeper to know exactly how each honeycomb should be placed back in the hive after having been taken out for any practical reason.
And the space: give the bees any amount of space and they will use it; create smaller spaces and let them have access to smaller cells and the newborn baby bees themselves will grow to a smaller size!
Whatever you believe about bees and insects, in general, know this: bees KNOW what they are doing, they know exactly what is right and what is wrong, for them and for the colony.
They know that if a cell is not perfectly hexagonal, this won’t allow for the optimal use of space, growth of babies and storage of honey.
They know that when they detect smoke this could mean a fire that could potentially destroy the hive and that they need to prepare to gather as many honey reserves and eggs they can, to rescue them, that is why smoke is normally used to ‘calm them down’.
As a business owner, whether you have just started or have been for years on the field, you always need to know what you are doing.
If the bees have collected that sort of genetic knowledge that is passed down from generation to generation and from colony to colony, we humans have only one way to gather the knowledge that is necessary to survive and to thrive: we need to learn.
Studying and learning are key and the start of any successful business effort.
If you are starting a digital online business, like the one that I have, you better make sure that you know what you are doing.
You need to know about marketing, about advertising, about copywriting, about social media platforms and about the technologies that can allow you to beat the competition.
The risks if you don’t know what you’re doing?
That most probably you will be soon overwhelmed with challenges and even issues, not being able to prioritize and focus your valuable time, effort… and money.
The ultimate risk is to become so overwhelmed with everything that you will give up, and that is the saddest thing of all.
Having spent countless hours and perhaps several thousands of hard earned dollars in something… just to throw it all in the bin and get back to a life you now KNOW for a fact is not the right one for you.
And all this could really be prevented with something as simple as dedicating a part of your time to studying and learning the concepts that you want to leverage to build an online (or any other kind of) business, every day.
This is your solution BEFORE you ever have to get to that turning point: learn new skills, acquire new competencies with the help from the best systems and the best people around; attach yourself to the experts and ask them to mentor you, even if that will probably mean having to ‘clean the floor’ for some time. You will learn more that way that by simply reading a book.
The ‘magic formula’ that I use as part of my system is 80-20, i.e. spend 20% of your time each day developing yourself in ANY area, by studying, reading, listening to podcasts, and 80% taking action and applying your knowledge.
When bees need to get something done, they don’t get around the table and set up committees; you will find that, in a colony of even thousands of individuals, not a single one acts for its own profit or turnaround, and does not lose time with ‘thinking about it’.
Do you want an extreme example? Here it comes.
The Queen is, as the name suggests, the single most important individual of any bee colony. It is the single individual in a beehive determining how many individuals will be born, how many eggs will be laid, how much food there will be, how big or how small the cells will be and even how regular the hexagons of the cells will be.
When the other bees (i.e. the drones and the workers) see the queen passing around, they know it is for some specific and vital task for the community.
If an external element, like another insect, threatens the queen, the bees will immediately repel the threat without a blink of the eye (not that bees’ eyes could actually blink…).
These same bees can also take immediate action the opposite way if the notice something with the queen’s behavior is not right.
If the cells start coming out irregularly, if the honeycombs do not grow as they are supposed to grow, if fewer eggs than normal are laid, the same bees that would otherwise protect their queen so strenuously will not wait too long and see what happens before taking action: they will ‘remove’ the queen (i.e. they will kill her) and proceed to the creation of a new queen that shall restore the normal behavior that will guarantee them success.
Success, in this case, equals ‘survival’: the bees know that if the behavior of the queen is consistently out of the norm, the very existence of the colony is at risk and for them, the colony is more important not just than any other individual, but even the queen herself.
What’s the useful lesson for us here? Thinking is good, but it should NOT prevent us from taking action consistently, every day, and in the direction of where we want to go.
And this is also true for taking action on STOPPING with some activities: if they are NOT bringing value or outright damaging the positive outcomes we are cultivating, we should have the courage to immediately cease them.
Look at the whole
From the few examples I have given, it should appear rather obvious even to the most casual reader that although bees are very precisely acting on very specific things (each bee on its own tasks) the WHOLE is something they always keep ahead of everything else.
The growth of the colony, its very survival, are the most important things. So much so that, as I told you, bees won’t hesitate to get rid of their own very queen if that meant seeing the colony live on and prosper.
So what is the useful lesson to draw here?
I won’t suggest that you go out and get rid of anyone! But the key here is to maintain your focus on the bigger picture while setting your immediate attention to the tasks at hand.
The bees know that storing honey in a single cell out thousands will make the difference between the very life and death of their kin.
Think about your own daily activities as the cells in the honeycomb of a beehive: taken individually, each of your actions may not seem to hold the most significance, but try and put that one ‘cell’ along so many others and you will see what your working for. Technically speaking this is called ‘compounding’ and that’s what makes our daily actions if performed consistently each day, so powerful.
Keeping the bigger picture in mind will help you in more than one way.
For starters, it will help you take the ‘right’ actions: if they are not consistent with or functional to the realization of your bigger picture, you should consider whether you should really be taking them.
Secondly, it will help you be resilient and motivated: having the bigger picture in mind will get you through those moments where you will feel overwhelmed and frustrated (there is no ‘if’ here, this happens to everyone, and happens to me as well)
Do like the bees: never lose focus on the bigger picture.
It should be evident by now that bees don’t do anything superfluous.
The first time I looked into a beehive I admit there was so much going on that I could hardly understand what was happening.
There were been coming in and out of the hive, in and out of the cells, bees covering entire honeycombs so densely that I was surprised they could even move.
After a couple of maintenance activities where I had to open the hive and take the honeycombs out to search for newly created queens (did you know that ANY egg can turn into a queen? It’s sufficient that the cell it is laid in is filled with jelly royale… amazing!).
I started seeing the patterns and the schemes, I started seeing swarms of bees collecting pollen and others storing it in the cells, while others still were sealing the cells and other bees where even ‘showing’ other bees how to reach the flowers where they found pollen (this is incredible to see, as bees will literally ‘dance’ among other bees, thus indicating for how long they should fly and how many times and when to turn left and right).
You should do the same: ALWAYS CREATE VALUE.
In your digital marketing efforts terms, set a list of activities that you know you need to get done (like placing an AD, writing an article, optimizing your SEO, etc.) and create your DAILY LIST OF MUST-DO VALUE-ADD ACTIVITIES.
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Just like bees create every possible reserve of food they need (honey, pollen, etc.) to survive through winter and adverse times, you should always plan to have some ‘fat’ into your marketing blueprint, in the form of money, time or pre-made material, to help you not break the chain of actions you need to take daily.
There will be moments when you will have a more challenging time getting things done because, simply, life gets in the way. This is perfectly normal and nothing you need to be scared of!
It’s not about exerting yourself in those moments, but about making sure that you already have a way to maintain a steady course of action if needed.
Not only will creating some ‘reserves’ provide the needed continuity to your plan, it will also give you a higher peace of mind allowing that ‘margin’ of error that will help you execute more surely and without hesitation.
In summary: bees are a fantastic example of hard work, coordination, efficiency and resilience.
No wonder they are such a successful species!
You don’t need to go through the books and studies I am going through and the practical experience of tending to bees to become a beekeeper like I’m doing (even though I can assure you it’s a lot of fun!).
You simply need to focus on taking those 5 steps each day.
I am not superhuman. Those who are reaping the success of their consistency in taking these 5 steps daily are not superhuman.
If they have done it, if I have done it, you can do it too.
There is nothing exceptional about us… but one thing.
We have since realized that going through the journey alone, although possible, would have not brought us where we needed to be as easily or as smoothly or as fast: we opted for the help and support of a community of experts, of a proven digital business system, and of a digital learning academy to teach us, to help us implement, to give us motivation, and to start being able to make money starting from day 1.
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