Jason Fried

July 8, 2022

Like a squirrel

Stick with me on this one.

I've been spending more time watching birds, squirrels, and insects lately. Nature has always fascinated me, and the longer I observe, the more I notice.

And one thing I've noticed in general is that birds, squirrels, and insects stop and start a lot. They're headed somewhere, but context plays an enormous role in how they get there.

Watch a squirrel make its way to a tree. It rarely runs from point A (current location) to point B (the tree). It runs in stutters. Staccato. Starts and stops. Looks around. Runs some more. Stops. Looks around. Measuring the moment, taking in the surroundings, the situation, the context. Sometimes the path alters depending on what's now between its current location and its eventual destination. Sometimes it's more of the same. But there's always the start, the stop, the evaluation, and then what's next.

It's from now, to now, to now, to now. It's not from now to later.

I see the same behavior in all sorts of insects. Birds on the ground, too. Aside from migration, birds even do it in the air — stopping to rest, to observe, to decide what the next moment's all about, before taking off again to the next stop. To the next now.

It all seems pretty natural to me. It makes sense. Point in a direction, have a general place you're headed, but regularly re-evaluate along the way. Let context blaze the path. There's a destination in mind, but very little planning on how to get there. They just get there by stringing together a series of independent moments.

They go far by barely going anywhere, over and over. Like compound interest, but in movement.

It's an honest way to arrive.

This has always been how we've run our business at 37signals. And it's how I suggest others run theirs too. Head somewhere, figure it out as you go, reconsider often, adjust on the fly, and find your way through by stringing together independent moments. That's why we work in 6-week cycles. That's why we admit planning is guessing. That's why we decide based on what we think, not what we thought.

Just like a squirrel. Watch.

-Jason