At MANA Nutrition and Calorie Cloud, we certainly owe the Unreasonable family a lot. We showed up in Boulder the summer of 2013 with a nascent idea and began to flesh it out over the course of a few highly intense weeks. Six weeks later, they pushed us out of the nest. Even though we have not exactly soared with the eagles (yet), we have not been eaten by an opportunistic cat either.
If you are like us, always scrounging for resources…then it’s hard to imagine that it’s wise to spare the time or resources to help anyone else. But it’s possible…and most likely mutually beneficial. Tweet This Quote
Fortunately, they did not just push us out to certain death—they provided a great group of Unreasonable friends and mentors who have nudged us along as well. What’s cool about our incubation time at Unreasonable is how it created in us a desire to use our little nest to incubate and assist others as well. If you are like us, always scrounging for resources and wondering if soaring flight is realistic or just a crazy dream, then it’s hard to imagine that it’s wise to spare the time or resources to help anyone else.
But it’s possible…and most likely mutually beneficial. I heard a story recently that I think explains it pretty well.
In 2014 in the journal Science, a team of researchers published the results of a sixteen-year study of two strange birds. The great spotted cuckoo and the crow have long enjoyed an interesting relationship, to say the least. The spotted cuckoo sneaks in and lays its eggs in the nest of the unsuspecting crow. The crow then raises and feeds the bird’s young. This arrangement is a great deal for the cuckoo, but not necessarily for the crow. At least, that was conventional wisdom for the last fifty years.
We have been incubated by generous and sharp people, and we have had a chance to sit on a few eggs ourselves. Tweet This Quote
Recently, however, researchers noticed something interesting about the crow nests that contained a cuckoo egg. The crows actually did better—much better in fact—than those that did not have a cuckoo egg secretly slipped in.
At first, ornithologists suspected that perhaps the cuckoos had some innate ability to pick winners and lay their eggs in nests of high performing crow families. Eventually, however, the truth came out. Left to their own devices, the crows had poor outcomes in regards to the survival of their young, but a crow nest with one of those sneaky cuckoo eggs thrived because of that cuckoo.
The researchers found that the spotted cuckoo emits an odor that keeps predators away from the crow nest. Non-cuckoo crow nests do not enjoy this invisible protection. Rather than a burden (other than the smell), these eggs were the reason the crows nests thrived. So, who helped who?
Our weird ecosystem generates start-ups and entrepreneurs that are fragile and yet full of potential. Tweet This Quote
At MANA and at Calorie Cloud, we have been both the egg and the crow. We have been incubated by generous and sharp people, and we have had a chance to sit on a few eggs ourselves. One example is Good Spread, a peanut butter company that started in our midst, but we pushed them out of the nest early on without a ton of resources. Yet they have survived and even thrived, benefiting our work in both tangible and intangible ways.
So, what’s the point?
Our weird ecosystem generates start-ups and entrepreneurs that are fragile and yet full of potential, and it’s important we remain acutely aware that our relationships are neither strictly quid pro quo nor a one-way street.
With time and patience, we will begin to see that those who we thought we were helping were also helping us. Tweet This Quote
With time and patience, we will begin to see that those who we thought we were helping were also helping us. And for those of us who feel stressed and completely under-resourced, our ability to pause and help others won’t magically come some day when we are “successful”. It may well come today in the most unexpected way.
Remember, the researchers were wrong when they attributed success to some innate ability of the cuckoo to pick winners or for the crows to be high performers. Indeed, it was the combination of the two that created a strange brew of success. In fact, it appears that taking in and incubating strange birds—even the abandoned, the unwanted, the smelly—will not only help the strange birds survive and thrive, but it may also end up being the very thing that saves you as well.