Selflessness? Ask the Ants! (6)

I want to begin this article by being sincere with you. This is the most difficult piece I have ever written! I contemplated this topic for days, even weeks; trying to figure out how to write this. Of course it is a lesson from the ants but ant-life appears to be less complex when it comes to selflessness. To appreciate my dilemma, think of these: how can we talk of selflessness in the world where only the fittest are expected to survive and lord it over everyone else? How can we think of putting other people’s needs before ours in a world of scarce resources and abundant opportunists? How can we think of others who are already obsessed with themselves?  

It is pretty difficult to answer these questions. Everything in our lives centres on what we have to gain. So, when we do good, we keep looking around the corner for our reward. What if our reward doesn’t lie in other people’s appreciation of us but in the fulfilment we derive from the act? There is so much to reflect on here but let’s first learn from the ants:

  1. Ants share their secrets: when a scout ant finds a source of food, for instance sugar water, the ant drinks as much as it can- not for itself but for its nest mates. The sugar water is stored in the ant’s social stomach. When the ant returns to the colony, it recruits others by sharing with them some of the food and they all return to the source for more. In contrast, humans tend to hide opportunities. This may be understandable in competition with opponents but deliberately withholding information from teammates is selfish.
  2.  Ants sacrifice for the greater good: every colony has just a queen but all female workers are potential queens. The queen produces a scent that spreads across the colony to inform the ants of the health of their queen. For as long as the scent remains strong, female workers remain infertile and will not release their eggs to maintain order.

Selflessness is forgoing our personal benefits for a greater good. Many organizations are full of workers in transit; people who have their own visions and goals, who would sacrifice the corporate goals to achieve their own. The greatest enemy of selflessness is fear. We fear that people would take advantage of us or that we would lose out. We fear that we may never be duly rewarded for our sacrifices. It is this fear that leads to selfishness. However, a selfless person can never lose out because selflessness builds character and character makes a leader.