In life and in business, do it like this seagull (but not like this fish)

do it the tim ferriss way
What we can learn from this seagull


Who says in order to reach your goals you have to go through a lot of trouble and work your butt off? This seagull proved what I already knew from Tim Ferriss (4 Hour Work Week) and others. 


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I have been living in Greece since late 2006, so going for a weekend trip to a an island or beaches nearby is kind of a logical thing to do.


Recently, during a boat trip to Mount Athos (the independent monk republic on the peninsula Chalkidiki in Northern Greece) I had the pleasure of watching and filming seagulls that followed the boat, in the hope of some food from the passengers. While watching I realized that one specifically smart bird can teach us some lessens for business, and maybe life in general.


I knew most of these aspects already, from reading Tim Ferriss’ bestseller ‘The 4 Hour Workweek’; so rather than teaching me something new it showed me that what can apply for us humans also applies for animals, in some way at least (aren’t we all animals anyway?).


Many people have this opinion that only “hard work” will get you somewhere. Well, allow me to disagree. Sure, hard work can get you somewhere but the question needs to be asked if the specific results justify the respective “hard work”. If you feel like you are in a rat race then the logical answer seems: No!

Take advantage of infrastructure and look at different options

Back to the seagull.


The seagulls that followed our boat had one goal: (easy) food.


The ones that chose to follow the boat already made a smart decision, from an efforts point of view: instead of hunting food on/above the mainland they have learned that people on boats seem to go crazy when seeing seagulls (and fishes, and dolphins and …). Result: they don’t need to hunt anymore, they just fly along and wait for the bread to start flying.


Now comes the smartest of those seagulls into play. While the other seagulls chose to dive for the bread that landed in the water, smart-seagull chose to float along, and actually eat from people’s hand!  As you can see in the following video, most effort is spent ascending from the water and catching up with the boat again. Just watching it tells us that this has to be tiring.

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So why not make use of the laws of aerodynamics and simply float along with the wings wide open, thus being able to fly almost without effort? Awesome, and a very smart move from an ‘Return on Investment’ point of view!


Of course, approaching humans that much doesn’t come without a risk and one could see that this bird was weighing its options very closely:


  • “Will they try to do me harm?”,
  • “Does this piece of iron ahead of me (part of the boat) have any effect on my aerodynamics?” or
  • “Will my wings hit any obstacle when heading for the food in this person’s hand?”


seem to have been the questions that ran though its head. If you are running your own business (like we run a WordPress plugin business with our current ‘flagship’ the Purple Heart Rating Plugin) or are thinking about running one, you will know that these are valid thoughts, also in a business environment. While you can weigh the options, it is rather unlikely that you will have a 100% security that things will work out as you plan and wish/hope for. But you know that you have weighed the options and that your own or other people’s experience shows that success seems more likely than failure. Then you simply take the plunge…


I believe that more often than not this will lead to an at least satisfactory result from which you can make the next step. I  am not encouraging people now to take great risks, because I don’t believe that on average the ones that take big risks will win more often. It’s rather ‘controlled’ risk, I would say, that can get you places in the majority of the cases.

Long story short

People, including me, went nuts to throw and hold up bread so that the seagull would eat it from their hands. Some even spent 2€ for a sugar-coated doughnut just to basically give the whole doughnut in small pieces to the bird. Life can be so easy for a bird, can’t it? Well, good that this doesn’t apply to seagulls only.


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I am sure this specific seagull didn’t go home hungry that day, and won’t in general during the tourist season, because it has learned some crucial things about how to obtain food with the least possible physical effort.


So, am I proposing here that you shouldn’t work and try to get everything for nothing? No, not at all!! The seagull did have to ‘invest’ some things, like some energy for flying, taking some risk when approaching people etc., but it kept its efforts to an absolute minimum and, very likely, ended up quite happy about all the food it got, maybe more than other seagulls that went about the food-hunt the regular way.


Lesson learnt: Work smarter, not just harder. But: don’t be stupid, like the below fish that I recorded a couple of days later… too much uncontrolled risk and only following your ‚cravings’ can get you into trouble.


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Now, this story could be too good to be true and like so many times, there’s a catch (no pun intented, although it really fits in regards tot he fish). While the mentioned and admittedly smart seagull got what it wanted with as little effort as possible, it might sooner or later regret its decision.


You see: I am a big believer in the fact that we are, in big part, both what we think (Napoleon Hill rules!) and what we eat (Paleo rules). Of course, I can’t know the thoughts of that bird (although it seems to be a smart one, to a certain extent), but I know that the food it takes in each day is practically useless from a nutrition point if view: white bread, cake and doughnuts. As time passed by I could even watch that it caught white bread in the air and spit it out again, because it was obviously hoping for cake, which it truly devoured. My take on cakes and other industrially processed foods: ‘garbage in, garbage out’ and the birds who go to chase small fishes, bugs etc definitely are miles ahead in terms of nutritional value. It’s not so much about ‘dying soon of a heart attack because of being overweight’ in this case; but food can have also rather immediate consequences in terms of feeling well or not. The seagull’s dilemma? But that’s another story and not subject of this article, so it shall be told another time 🙂


What do you think about the seagull and the way it goes about achieving its goals? Is it possible to work smarter, not harder without having the ‘seagull dilemma’? Let me know in the comments below.


Best regards from Greece,



aka Marketing Buddy

Photo and videos by David Altmann


Other post you might like:

Trust: a precious ‚currency’ in the online world
How is your 4 Hour Workweek (4HWW) journey coming along?

3 thoughts on “In life and in business, do it like this seagull (but not like this fish)

  1. Awesome article, and very inspiring. Truly we can also learn from animals. Did they read the 4 Hour Workweek too? 😀

  2. Motivating article! For your GUI-Buddy: Could be great, if the lines of text are not so long. It´s a aspect of usability. Short text lines are more reader friendly. See in newspaper the narrow columns. Good luck for your new blog.nLeo


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