The scenery was gorgeous, snowcapped mountains reflected off the lake as if it was made of glass. Flowers blossomed across the wilderness with little effort. All in all it was a very relaxing environment.
And, as happens with most vacations, I was taught an interesting lesson on perseverance.
Adventures With Whistle Pigs
Days on the lake consisted of hiking, playing cards, and socializing for the most part. Typical things you might do when you vacation out in the woods.
One day, as I was minding my own business, a strange scratching noise came from the porch outside my window.
At first I wasn’t sure what it was. The sound was like someone dragging their nails across the surface of a desk.
So I got up to see who or what was making such an odd noise. Just a few feet outside my window was North America’s largest ground squirrel, the hoary marmot, sometimes referred to as a “whistle pig.”
The scratching noise was the sound of its buck teeth eating chunks out of a post on the cabin’s deck.
Being a responsible guest, I decided to let the lodge owners know there was a creature eating their precious cabins. They were thankful for the heads up, and let me know they would bear spray the area to help keep the animals away.
Thinking all was well, Lori and I went out for some dinner while they worked on the cabin. Upon coming back, we immediately started coughing, our eyes were tearing up, we were feeling the effects of the bear spray. Likewise, we could hear similar wheezing from the neighbors next door to us.
There was no way we were going to be able to sleep under those circumstances, so we avoided the cabin for a few more hours while the lodge people watered everything down so we could breathe again.
The next afternoon, the scratching was back. Sure enough our friendly marmot was back undeterred by the bear spray.
So once again, I let the lodge owners know their unwanted guest was back and suggested they might try using some cayenne pepper and vegetable oil as a paste around the area the marmot was chewing.
They thought it was a great idea and immediately started working on the solution.
After coming back later that day, all looked well. We could breathe and the chewed area of the post was sufficiently covered with cayenne pepper.
The next afternoon came and the scratching was back.
This time the marmot wasn’t eating his typical area of the post. He had managed to stretch himself as high as his little feet could get him so he could eat just above the pepper that was covering his previous meals, along with any of the sides that were skipped.
Lessons in Persistence
1. No Doesn’t Always Mean No
When the bear spray was used across the deck and surrounding area, any ordinary marmot may have taken that as a sign to stay out.
Not our marmot. The spray maybe meant, no eating deck wood for the moment, but not forever.
I know many times I hear “no” and don’t even bother trying a second time or check back on the question after I’ve given it some time. That extra persistence many times is all it takes to really reach our goals or the opportunities we seek. Ask any two year old.
2. When a Door Shuts, a Window Opens
After the bear spray failed, the next experiment was the pepper. Even though the marmot’s prime eating zones were now untouchable, he still recognized other opportunities.
Other parts of the post were still just as tasty.
The same thing happens in our own lives. Maybe we are looking for a job and an opening closes right after we interview.
Bryce, our marketing lead, had that experience. Before joining us he interviewed heavily with another company about a marketing position. They had dogs in the office, it was close to where he lived, he thought it would be perfect.
After not hearing back for a few weeks he found out that they were not able to get budget approved for the position. He was disappointed, but kept looking. Eventually The Balanced WorkLife Company found him and he joined us. The pay was better, there were more opportunities, and the work was more interesting. This was a win win.
3. The Best Rewards Are Not Easy
With pepper covering his optimal dining choices, the marmot would have to make a tough decision. Either go back to the woods and eat the Top Ramen bland variety of wood he had easily available, or stretch himself a bit more to taste the delicacy of the deck wood at the cabin.
We often find easy routes and hard routes in our lives. It’s easy to graduate from high school and decide you don’t want to go any further with education. It’s hard to take out loans, apply to schools, and make new connections, but you’ll be rewarded for it.
What Does Persistence Mean to You?
Do you have any stories about the meaning of persistence? What did you gain from having it?