Saturday, January 28, 2012

Just Do It Like Phil The Groundhog

Every year on February 2nd, a groundhog from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania named Phil is the talk of the nation. Everyone wonders - did he see his shadow and return to his hole or not? If he does, we can expect six more weeks of winter. If not, he has predicted an early spring.

The groundhog named Phil is good at one thing; predicting when spring will arrive. He works for one day out of the year and the rest of the time he lives in the town library with his wife Phyllis; making more little woodchucks. I think they have more little ones than the Duggar family.  He’s the most famous prognosticating rodent in the world; portrayed in the 1993 comedy film Groundhog Day. There’s a whole website and organization. He’s also made a guest appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show and they even made a Beanie Baby to celebrate Groundhog’s Day.

The legend of Phil’s forecasting powers has its roots from Germany. Some of Pennsylvania’s earliest settlers were German immigrants and they continued a tradition of letting a rodent predict the arrival of spring. There was a large population of groundhogs (also called woodchucks) in the area so they chose this animal to make the prediction. Each year, Phil is given a sip of the mysterious Groundhog Elixir which magically lengthens his life for seven years so he’s been predicting the weather for 122 years. He doesn’t get it right every time but hey, he’s an improvement over most weathermen and he’s right 39% of the time which is better than most stockbrokers.

Well, no one is perfect and shouldn’t get too upset if they don’t come through the first time. Keep going and chalk it up to experience or learning. In basketball, you can’t be a perfectionist when you shoot the ball. The shoe maker Nike has the slogan “Just Do It” and Michael Jordon lived up to this slogan. He missed as many shots as he made but he took a lot of shots and made a lot of points. The thing to do is take the opportunity, be as accurate as you can, and give it your best shot.

I like Phil because he keeps coming back year after year even when he misses. There’s a lot we can learn from animals. Several years ago, some birds decided to make a nest inside an ornament on our back porch. These birds gave our whole family a lesson on good work habits as they planned out the building of their home with one purpose in mind; a place to raise their little ones until they were ready to fly on their own.

It’s too bad we can’t add to Phil’s work load; maybe prognosticating the economy or answering the age old question, how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

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