Learning from squirrel behaviour | AccountingWEB

Learning from squirrel behaviour

I received a call from someone who had attended our problem-solving and decision-making course recently. His opening comment was, "My Head is in Bits!"

This individual has had a tremendous amount of work on his radar recently, amongst a whole variety of demands he is also reorganising his department and implementing a new procurement system, and now faced with writing an assignment which was already a week overdue, he found himself stuck, cluttered, unable to see woods for trees.

While tackling the issue I was reminded of the example of the squirrel and the trusting mindset of accomplishment discussed in John Eliot's book Overachievement.

Take the Leap of Faith

The squirrels scurry along the fence at the back of my garden, they always appear energised by a sense of purpose, as they traverse without hesitation across the fence leaping back and forth into the trees do you imagine that they are thinking, "Careful now think about your technique, because you could fall"?

No, of course not. In fact, the squirrel isn't thinking at all. His response is automatic and based upon trust of his experience, skill, training, and knowledge to successfully see him through his leap of faith.

This is what John Eliot describes as the trusting mindset; the trusting mindset is empty of anything except the target that presents at that particular moment. The trusting mindset is confident instinctive, accepting, patient and happy to allow things to develop.

Avoiding Self-Sabotage

Unlike the squirrel, our brains are a little more sophisticated and this can work against us. Relying on a closed loop process the squirrel is reactive to the environment. We share this ability but our well-developed cerebral cortex also contains open loop processes and these open loops allow incoming stimuli and thoughts that can sabotage our thinking. Eliot describes this state as The Training Mindset. In this state we are focused upon the goal yet we are being judgmental, analytical, and critical while we are working, evaluating every move to see how it can be improved. While these behaviours are helpful if we are practicing, they are a distraction when actually executing the task. This is where my client was yesterday.

Think Less, Act More

When the stakes are high whether you are delivering a presentation or promoted as an expert, the ability to rely on your training, experience, and instincts will serve you much better than constantly thinking about your performance. We tend to have a long memory for mistakes and a short memory for successes being over analytical can be a guaranteed way to develop fear of failure.

Thinking Cap

Although squirrel behaviour is fluent and filled with purposive energy, it can appear rather chaotic and to avoid chaos a little thought before execution is best. You see, this is where we have an advantage over the squirrel and that advantage is foresight - the ability to plan and think ahead.

Squirrels do not have foresight because squirrels have eyes on the sides of their heads. They cannot see what is in front of them. Apply your inner squirrel at the right time! Good, better, best, never let it rest till your good is better and your better is best.

Reprinted from our sister site, TrainingZone.co.uk.

This blog

AccountingWEB is more than just a U.S. team of journalists and financial and technology experts - we have an international side, too. Members of our British team who publish AccountingWEB.co.uk share their ideas, insights, and perspectives from across the pond.

More from this blog

Bloggers crew

Steve Knowles has spent 25 years in business and practice in the UK, but he also worked in the states and the years haven't dulled his way of seeing an alternative view to everyone else, and every day is a new adventure.


Joel M. Ungar, CPA is a lifelong resident of the Detroit area and a graduate of The University of Michigan. He is a principal with Silberstein Ungar, PLLC, a Top 15 auditor of SEC public reporting companies.


Allan Boress, CPA, with over 25 years as a practitioner and consultant to the accounting profession. Mr. Boress is the author of 12 published books in 6 different languages, including a best-seller, The "I-Hate-Selling" Book.


Larry Perry, CPA, CPA Firm Support Services, LLC, is the author of accounting and auditing manuals, author and presenter of live staff training seminars, and author of webcast and self-study CPE programs. He blogs about small audits, reviews, and compilations.

Sandra Wiley, COO and Shareholder, is ranked by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her prominent role as an industry expert on HR and training as well as influence as a management and planning consultant. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultant's Alliance. Sandra is a certified Kolbe™ trainer who advises firms on building balanced teams, managing employee conflict and hiring staff.

Maria Calabrese, CIR, Human Resources manager for Fazio, Mannuzza, Roche, Tankel, LaPilusa, LLC in Cranford, New Jersey, Maria's topics revolve around the world of: Mentoring, Performance management, and The "Y Generation," a.k.a. "The whY generation".


William Brighenti is a CPA, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified [Business] Valuation Analyst, operating an accounting, tax, and QuickBooks consulting firm in Hartford, Connecticut, Accountants CPA Hartford.


Ken Garen, CPA, is the co-founder and President of Universal Business Computing Company (www.ubcc.com), a software development firm of high-volume, high-productivity accounting and payroll technology.


Eva Rosenberg, MBA, EA, is the publisher of TaxMama.com, and author of the weekly syndicated Ask TaxMama column. She provides answers to tax questions from taxpayers and tax professionals worldwide.


Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP is the CPA Programs Leader for Intacct Corporation responsible for leading the CPA/BPO Partners nationally.

Brian Strahle is the owner of LEVERAGE SALT, LLC where he provides state and local tax technical services to accounting firms, law firms and tax research organizations across the United States. He also writes a weekly column in Tax Analysts State tax Notes entitled, "The SALT Effect." For more info, visit his website: www.leveragestateandlocaltax.com
Scott H. Cytron, ABC, is president of Cytron and Company, known for helping companies and organizations improve their bottom line through a hybrid of strategic public relations, communications, marketing programs and top-notch client service. An accredited consultant, Scott works with companies, organizations and individuals in professional services (accounting, finance, medical, legal, engineering), high-tech and B2B/B2C product/service sales.

Rita Keller is a nationally known CPA firm management consultant, speaker, author, mentor and blogger. She has over 30 years hands-on experience in CPA firm management, marketing, technology and administrative operations.

Stacy Kildal is the mom of two fantastic kids, an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Certified Enterprise Solutions ProAdvisor, Sleeter Group Certified Consultant, a nationally recognized member of the Intuit Trainer and Writer Network, and co-host of RadioFree QuickBooks.
Michael Alter's blog specializes in providing practical advice to those who seek greater profitability and practice management tactics that enhance deeper client relationships.

Sally Glick, CMO, Principal, Marketer of the Year in 2003 and AAM Hall of Famer in 2007, leads a lively discussion of the constantly expanding roles of marketing and the professional marketers that drive this initiative in accounting firms of all sizes.


The IMA Young Professionals Blog features the insights of IMA’s Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.


FEI Financial Reporting Blog provides highlights from SEC, PCAOB, FASB, IASB, and other regulatory news, including reporting under Sarbanes-Oxley Sect 404. It is written by Edith Orenstein, Director of Technical Policy Analysis at FEI.


Sue Anderson has 30 years of experience in continuing education for accountants. Currently she is the program director for online CPE provider CPE Link.


Jim Fahey is COO of Apple Growth Partners, a regional CPA firm in Ohio. His focus is on the effective and efficient use of technology within the firm by all team members.

Caleb Newquist is the Editor-in-Chief of Sift Media US, overseeing content for both AccountingWEB and Going Concern.

Leita Hart-Fanta, CPA, CGFM, and CGAP is the author of "The Yellow Book Interpreted" and owner of Yellowbook-CPE.com a website devoted to training for governmental auditors.


AccountingWEB is more than just a U.S. team of journalists and financial and technology experts - we have an international side, too! Members of our British team who publish AccountingWEB.co.uk share their ideas, insights, and perspectives from across the pond.