Think Like A Sloth Occasionally

By Tom Grandy

It’s not easy being a company owner.  You work at least 60-70 hours a week, are on call 24/7, and the pressure of making a profit while keeping the team engaged and happy is always on your mind.  I get it as most owners do.  When was the last time you had dinner with the whole family or attended Billy’s ball game or Suzie’s recital or took a family vacation?  You know the answer and so do I.

This month I want you to take a deep breath and consider utilizing a few helpful tips from a sloth.  The sloth is considered the slowest creature on the face of the earth.  With that said, there are several things we can all learn from our friend the sloth.

  • Take Your Time – It takes the sloth a full minute to walk a foot-that’s slow! Now I’m not suggesting you move at a sloth’s pace but stop occasionally and take time to enjoy life and your family.  Stay focused on why you are doing what you are doing.
  • Get a Grip on Things – The sloth spends 90% of its entire life hanging upside down in the trees of the tropical rainforests of South America and Central America. If you were going to spend your waking and sleeping hours hanging upside down in a tree, I suspect having a really good “grip” would be very important.  Company owners may not hang upside down but if they are going to run a profitable business, they best have a really good grip on what’s going on especially from the business side of the business.  Take an afternoon off and spend it reviewing your P/L Statement, the status of receivables and payables and perhaps even reviewing your pricing structure.  Make sure you have a really good “grip” on the business side of the business.
  • Keep a Low Profile – While the sloth provides the algae with shelter and water (as sloth fur is highly absorbent), the algae provides the sloth with. What’s the lesson?  Keep a low profile with your employees.  Take time to build relationships but don’t hover.
  • What You Eat Is Important – A sloth’s diet consists mainly of buds, leaves and tender shoots, although some sloths have been known to eat insects and birds to supplement their diet. This proves to be a slow process, often taking 30 days to digest one leaf.

When we were 25 or 30 years old most of us could eat most anything we wanted, without repercussions.  However, being a bit more careful about what you eat, while getting more exercise, has many long-term benefits.  Consider eating more green stuff, like a sloth, but perhaps minus the insects and birds!

  • Be Aware of What’s Going on Around You – Sloths have an extra vertebrae at the base of their neck that allows them to turn their head on a 270° This enables them to obtain an almost 360° view of their surroundings, which proves to be a highly beneficial defensive mechanism.

Delegation is critical if a company is to grow and prosper.  However, as the owner you need to be fully aware of what’s going on within your business.  Meet with department heads often to be sure you have a 360-degree view of your business. 

Remember, the buck stops with the owner.

  • Hold Breath – Sloths are amazing creatures. They can also hold their breath for an impressive 40 minutes, suppressing their metabolism to make their heart rate a third of its normal speed.  Sometimes really tough situations arise that can raise one’s blood pressure to rise and allow emotions to boil over.  Take a lesson from the sloth.  Take a deep breath, wait a few minutes before you speak and count the cost of what you are about to say or do before you do it.
  • Get Plenty of Rest – The Greek goddess Aergia was the ancient personification of the sloth and was known to sleep often. The sleeping pattern of a modern-day sloth is dependent on its habitat, with sloths in captivity sleeping up to 15-20 hours a day while sloths in the wild sleep much like humans, about 8-9 hours a day. Learn from the sloth and get enough rest.  There is a direct relationship between rest and productivity.  Every once in a while, “intentionally” go to bed early.
  • Attitude Makes a Difference – The facial structure of a sloth gives the appearance that it is constantly smiling – even if it is experiencing pain, stress or anxiety. When that disgruntled customer drops by or calls, at least give the appearance of being at peace.  Don’t forget a sloth can hold its breath for 40 minutes and give the appearance of a smile.  Surely, we can at least take a deep breath to provide some time to think before we speak. 
  • Limit Stress – In the wild, sloths typically live quiet, sleepy lives. Being constantly surrounded by noise and people they can’t escape causes them unimaginable stress. Running a business is hard work and often stressful.  Take a lesson from our friend the sloth and take a few days off occasionally, or even a week or two vacation with the family.  Your wife and children will appreciate it and you will return to worked refreshed and a bit less stressed.

By the way, the average life span of a sloth is 20-30 years.  Perhaps applying some of the tips from our friendly sloth might just extend your life while helping you to live in peace.

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