Posted by: Nancy | August 6, 2010

Hummingbird dreams

A working holiday in beautiful Santa Fe, the City Different, gave me a chance to reflect on a couple of business learnings.

The first musing is about birds and business goals, or knowing what you really want.


The scene: I’m sitting out on the patio alone early one morning, a glorious sky, cottonwood leaves dancing in the breeze, the air full of pinon and dewy freshness. Quiet. Until something like a high-powered, bullet-speed drone circles my head. I ducked a few times until I realized they were hummingbirds.

No more ducking, just delight. They swirled and swarmed, one protecting his area more fiercely than I’ve ever seen a hummingbird behave. And the noise! I’d never heard them so close, so loud, the whirring noise they make an indication of their speed and agility. I sat unmoving and felt so privileged to have them so close to me; it was a joyful time.

Later, talking about the experience with my friends (my hosts), they related a tale of a friend of theirs.

This young woman had overheard them talking about their hummingbirds, and she had interjected that she, too, would like to have hummingbirds in her garden. My friends showed her their feeder and carefully explained the preparation of the nectar and other secrets for attracting the birds.

A couple of weeks later, they chanced to visit her. Her hummingbird feeder was hanging, but she was out batting at it with a broom, screaming.

“What’s going on?” they asked.

“Well, I put up the feeder but all I get are these big moths,” she replied.

Oh no!

“Those ‘big moths’ you’re swatting are hummingbirds,” my friend explained cautiously.

As it turned out, the young woman had never actually seen a hummingbird. She thought they’d be different from the annoying little ‘moths’ that she didn’t like at all.

Her expectation was different from reality; she didn’t know that she was terrorizing the very creatures she thought she wanted.

It was such a strange story, it made me think about some of my own expectations, especially as they relate to business and setting goals, dreaming about what I really want.  Always healthy to take stock of what you desire, and make sure that (a) you can recognize it for what it really is, and (b) you’re not unknowingly swatting it away.

The second musing came from a chance encounter with an Indian woman selling pottery downtown. Her work was nicely displayed and pieces caught my eye, so I stopped and we chatted.

She explained her product. “I find the right spot, I dig the earth, I mix the water and make the clay, I shape the vessel and bake it, and then I paint it,” she said simply. “I touch it, everyday, from when it is dirt until it is finished.”

The piece I was holding had a unusual design. “My great-grandmother designed that,” she said. The pictogram showed a bird in flight when looked at in one direction; when turned in the other, it became a flower like a tulip or trumpet vine.


This businesswoman knew her product so intimately, and was so connected to it, her act of creating it was part of the bargain of owning the piece (at least for a short time, as it was a gift). Her story was simple, moving and effective. It’s exactly what we all need in our business storytelling.


Final random musings:

  • Congratulations to the city of Santa Fe for controlling nighttime light pollution. It’s working and it’s brilliant to see the stars there.
  • While I’m at it, congratulations to Santa Fe for its Plaza concert series of free excellent music — a wonderful community service. Last week’s bands were excellent, drawing crowds of dancers and music lovers. I can’t recall when I’ve seen so many smiling faces.

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