Life lessons Entrepreneurship Business

Work Like Ants. Go Marching, Hurrah, Hurrah!

Photo by Lorenz Lippert on Unsplash

Go to the ant, O sluggard, study her ways and learn wisdom; for though she has no chief, no commander or ruler, she procures her food in the summer, stores up her provisions in the harvest. How long, O sluggard, will you rest? When will you rise from your sleep? «A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the arms to rest». Then will poverty come upon you like a highway man, and want like an armed man. (Proverbs, Chapter 6, 6–11)

What ants do to provide themselves

We know how tiny ants are and, although because of their size they could not be thought very intelligent, we will see how each year, in harvest and threshing time, they leave their anthills and go to the threshing floors, where they supply themselves with grain, which they keep then in their anthills. When the first rains come, the ants take the wheat outside, some people say they do it to make the grain dry, not realizing that they are wrong in saying that. When the ants remove the grain for the first time from the anthill, it’s because the rains arrive and winter begins. If they had to put the grain to dry every time it rains, they would have much more work, plus they could not wait for the sun to dry it, since in winter it is hidden behind the clouds and does not heat anything.

However, the real reason they put the grain to dry the first time it rains is this: the ants store as much as they can in their barns only once, and they only worry that they are well full.

Because of their size they could not be thought very intelligent

When they have put the grain in their warehouses, they judge themselves safe, for they plan to live all winter on these provisions. But when the rain arrives, as the grain gets wet, it begins to germinate; the ants, seeing that, if it grows inside the anthill, the grain will not serve as food but will cause serious damage and even death, they take it out and eat the heart of each granite, which is where the leaves come from, leaving only the part outside, which will serve as food all year round, because no matter how much it rains, it can no longer germinate or plug the exits of the anthill with its roots and stems.

You will also see that, although they have enough provisions, whenever the weather is good they go out to the fields to collect the little herbs they find, in case their reserves do not allow them to spend the whole winter. As you can see, they do not want to be idle or waste their lifetime because they can take advantage of it.

If the ant, being so small, shows such signs of intelligence and has such a sense of foresight, we have to think that there is no reason why any person — and especially those who have government responsibilities and have to watch over their great lordships — always want to live on what they earned, because no matter how many the goods may be, they will not last too long if you spend them every day and never replace them. In addition, it seems someone who does that is for lack of courage and energy to continue in the fight. Therefore, I must advise that, if you want to rest and lead a peaceful life, you do so keeping in mind your own dignity and honor, ensuring that you don’t lack anything necessary.

Do not always eat what you have earned, because in hardship you will not die honored.


Adapted from El Conde Lucanor, Cuento XXIII, Lo que hacen las hormigas para mantenerse & Proverbs, Chapter 6, 6–11.




Writer. Pic of abuelo (c.1930)

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Writer. Pic of abuelo (c.1930)

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