Of falls and standing tall

Dr Shujaat Mubarik


The writer is Professor and Associate Dean at Institute of Business Management (IoBM) Karachi.

Apart from being extremely tall and having good eyesight, a giraffe is considered an intelligent animal. We can learn many lessons from the life of a giraffe. The female giraffe, or cow, is pregnant for about 15 months. Most newborn calves weigh in at around 220 pounds and stand over six feet tall. The moment after a calf is born teaches us an important lesson.
Once the calf is born and falls hard to the ground, it can’t waste any time standing up and literally hits the ground running. Calves normally stand within 30 minutes of birth. This is like watching a human child take their first stumbles but for a giraffe, these moments can be the difference between life and death.
In such moments, the mother giraffe acts unusual and rather than helping her newborn stand up on its feet, she brings her neck closer and strikes him to the ground with her legs. The newborn falls down feet apart and struggles to stand on its feet once again. The mother giraffe runs over and kicks her offspring for the second time. This is done again for the third time, but this time around the calf is swift and stands up on its feet much faster and is ultimately embraced by the mother giraffe.
Researchers said the giraffe calf might be unable to walk for several days if the mother does not kick its offspring. This is unacceptable in the unforgiving environment of the African savanna, where only the strong survive and the rest may be devoured by hungry predators. The birth of a giraffe brings this reality into view. Thus, the mother giraffe strikes her own offspring as the mortality rate for a newborn giraffe is high along with the threat of predators such as the lion, cheetahs and hyenas.
This teaches us an important lesson: it does not matter how hard you drop or how far you fall, what matters is how quickly you are able to stand on your feet. The giraffe strikes its offspring to protect it rather than to cause any harm. In a similar way, we face several challenges and problems in our lives that knock us down. We weather storms and tough situations but it is these times of adversity that teaches us life’s greatest lessons.
We need to realise that these lessons make us stronger and help us excel in different stages of life and work. This is a learning ground just a soldier undergoes rigorous training to prepare him for the next battle. Today, we are witnessing an increase in stress, depression and even suicide rates. If we consider each problem like the kick of the giraffe, we will withstand all challenges faced in life.
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