01 September 2022

Do Not Feed the Gators

"Worry is the interest paid by those who borrow trouble."

--George Washington

It's our practice to offer out-of-town guests a menu of non-Disney things to do. Not just because of ever-increasing costs at the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT but to give people an opportunity to experience the real Florida. 

Walt Disney World is not Florida. 

One of the options is an airboat tour of Lake Jesup.* This 16,000-acre lake (65 km), one of the largest lakes in Central Florida, with varying depths of four to nine feet, is the Sunshine State up close. It's a body of murky water that's home to a variety of species, including Great Blue Heron and Snowy Egrets. 

And it has a reputation as the most alligator-infested lake in the U.S. with 13,000 gators (1.3 million statewide), according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. (FFWCC biologists conduct gator census at night using spotlights and counting eyes.)

On an airboat excursion with our friends the Rutledges from Danville, Illinois, we were told by the tour guide that Lake Jesup is, among other things, where the state dumps "nuisance" alligators. I didn't know there were any other kinds.  

Lake Jesup, Florida (C) Trip Advisor
How dangerous are alligators?

For the most part, alligators like to be left alone. They're carnivores but humans aren't one of their preferred meals.  Florida averages six bite victims per year and the Florida Wildlife Commission says gators have killed just 26 people between 1948 and 2020. 

One tragic loss of life was that of 2-year-old Lane Graves at Disney's Seven Seas Lagoon near the Grand Floridian Resort on 14 June 2016 where his family was vacationing. 

Leaving trouble alone

Sometimes trouble comes looking for us even if we did nothing to egg it on. We're innocent. Such was the case of the toddler at Disney.

Florida state law makes it a crime (up to a $500 fine/and or 60 days in jail) to harass or feed an alligator. One expert put it this way--"By providing food for these wild animals, which are naturally afraid of humans, we make them bolder and encourage them to seek out people."  

Someone once said, "The enemy doesn't exist until you go looking for one." Often that's true, but not always.  

As if there isn't enough to do to stay on course with post-pandemic responsibilities, we tempt fate by going where we don't belong, hanging with peers known for giving bad advice. And not taking time to learn from our experiences.     

By unnecessarily feeding certain appetites, we risk losing a veil of personal and corporate protection.

Running a principled business

Operating by a recognizable set of standards requires having standard bearers.

In "Inside Money," the story of Brown Brothers Harriman, the merchant banking firm, author Zachary Karabell recounts the advice Alexander Brown gave his associates as the House of Brown got underway.

(C) BBH
What would distinguish one firm from another, Brown insisted, was reputation and trust. "Anyone could buy and sell stuff but not just anyone could develop a trusted reputation," the founder instructed.

More than a list of principles, this distinct ethos, or cultural spirit, communicated by hand-written letter, was a form of indoctrination for Alexander Brown's sons and grandsons. After 204 years the value of Brown's teaching deserves a wider audience.  

What were Brown Brothers Harriman's guidelines to make sure they were doing the right things?
  • Don't deal with people about whose character there is a question. It keeps your mind uneasy. It is far better to lose the business. 
  • Where the risks are too great, one loss may wipe out a hundred safe arrivals. You cannot make a mistake by being sure.
  • Look around and see those Merchants who have so many concerns which they cannot superintend themselves--how sooner or later it does them injury if it does not ruin them altogether. Having too many things to attend to distracts your attention and draws it off from regular pursuits.
  • "Shoemaker, stick to thy last." Better to cleave to what you know, and be known as someone others can trust, than to speculate, to be carried along by the fickled winds of ambition, and to get so caught in the passions of the moment that caution is thrown to the proverbial wind.
The author notes that not all decisions went perfectly and mistakes were made. "But the template established by Alexander Brown--stick to your last, stay focused, guard your reputation zealously as your most precious asset, be always prepared for hard times, and avoid unnecessary risk--formed the lasting core of the firm," Karabell concludes.

Getting out front

Alexander Brown's principles for the House of Brown began with his own values and experience. 

Here are personal development ideas to inform your distinctiveness and that of the organization: 

1.  Being self-aware is the ability to see ourselves, and the enterprise, clearly and objectively. We invite the perspective of others, practice self-control, and work creatively and productively in this frame of mind. (positivepsychology.com)

2.  Make it a practice to tell the truth. Being truthful means we can grow and mature. Truthfulness makes social bonds and lying breaks them. To quote Oscar Wilde, "The truth is rarely pure and never simple." (skillsyouneed.com)

3.  Surround yourself with individuals of strong moral character from all walks of life. Find people who are smarter than you, who have experience, and who can be trusted. Sometimes ordinary people are the most profound. (forbes.com) 

4.  Treat people with dignity and respect. That means accepting someone for who they are even if different from you.

5.  Don't jeopardize relationships before their time. While being clear on your point of view, there's no need to intentionally antagonize others. As Mafusa says in The Lion King: "Being brave doesn't mean you go looking for trouble."


*Airboat tours launch from Black Hammack Wilderness Area, Oviedo, Florida.  



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