Two days ago, I put a check mark next to one of my “bucket list” line items. It read, “Hang out with a penguin.” I had met a penguin before on a previous visit to Sea World Orlando, but the visit was short, one of many stops on a “behind the scenes” tour. The stop felt rushed, and didn’t feel like I earned the check mark.
Tuesday was different. Our “Up Close Penguin Tour” was totally focused on the little birds. It was amazing! After a quick walk through the offices, and hearing some information about the penguins at Sea World our next stop was an area adjacent to the penguin habitat. Our tour guide (and penguin caretaker) opened a baby gate and two gentoo penguins rushed towards us like a dog when its master comes home from a long absence. A few moments later, we were joined by an adolescent king penguin (a few months old and already bigger than his parents!). The birds were so friendly and almost as excited to see us, as we were to see them.
Earlier in the day, we had stopped by the penguin habitat to observe the penguins (now my second favorite thing to do at Sea World). As I watched the birds dive in and out of the icy cold water, I was reminded of a conversation I had a few years back with my friend Scott. It was the first time I told him about Super Penguin, as we sat next to our fire pit. That night, I found out my friend was also a penguin enthusiast and had chosen the bird as his “spirit animal”. I had never given much thought to “spirit animals” or what mine might be, so I asked questions and I learned the single greatest fact about penguins. Scott said, “everyone says penguins can’t fly…but they can, they just fly underwater.” That idea, though simple, unlocked something in my brain. What a wonderful spirit animal! Flying is so frequently used as an analogy for success. I struggled for a long time watching my friends become engineers or doctors, and starting families, while I was living with my parents and working as a manager at McDonald’s. From my perspective, my friends were “soaring like eagles” and I was on the ground…but after talking with Scott, I realized I may have seen my friends as eagles, but I was a penguin and that’s just as good! My successes might not have been as flashy, but because of my fast food job, I met my wife, have a beautiful baby boy on the way, and my first book coming soon! My successes are just as special, I’ve just been “soaring” a little differently.
If you’re feeling down about where you are in life, quit trying to be an eagle and be the best penguin you can be! -Rob