I love pandas as much as you do.
They’re adorable. Just look at this little bastard.
But be honest with yourself.
Aside from the awws and oos that their derpy demeanours provoke, they’re not all that impressive.
Even if we weren’t destroying their habitats, pandas aren’t exactly the poster bears of survival:
- They can only breed once a year in a 36-49 hour window (and even then they might need some panda porn to get them in the mood).
- They’re picky eaters that stick mostly to shoots of bamboo.
- They have to consume 12-38 kilos of the stuff to make up for its low nutritional value.
- Their bodies are actually optimized for eating meat (they’ve got a carnivore’s gastrointestinal tract).
- They don’t eat meat because they lost the ability to taste it.
Still, we love them.
We ignore the sad reality that these animals have become prisoners of their own fate.
For the most part.
In captivity, where we usually see them in GIFs and YouTube videos, panda life is synonymous with a lot of eating, sleeping and repeating the last two things.
It looks like a pretty dope life, aside from the whole “being endangered” thing.
In fact, if you’ve read this far, you’ve probably forgotten that pandas are technically a kind of bear.
To me, pandas are a reminder that destiny is a depressing concept.
Raccoons, on the other hand…
Raccoons—or “trash pandas” as they’re unaffectionately called—are on the other end of the spectrum of survivability. They’re the entrepreneurs of the animal kingdom.
We don’t like them because they’re the very thing that pandas aren’t:
They’re resourceful and relentless.
In fact, raccoons are one of a few animals that constantly force us to adapt to them.
Raccoons give zero f*cks.
They get into our garbage bins, break into our home, and even open our jars (something many humans struggle with).
Plus they’ll eat pretty much anything.
Your Panda vs. Raccoon Instinct
I think everyone’s got a panda instinct and a raccoon instinct. Kind of like “fight or flight”, but more like “can or can’t”.
When you do something new, something that forces you to learn from scratch, your initial reaction might be, “I can’t do that.” And I think that’s perfectly normal.
When I was learning how to write and no one read my shit, when I was learning how to dance and tripped over my own feet, when I was learning Tae Kwon Do and couldn’t kick over my head, when I was learning how to build my first ecommerce site and it looked like 💩, I remember giving up countless times. I remember thinking these things were beyond me. I remember believing I was a panda.
I’m not afraid to tell you I’ve thrown my hands up and said, “Screw this” a **lot** in my life. Sometimes I really meant it and that was that.
But every time I couldn’t quite commit to the idea of defeat, something else happened: I became okay at those things.
When we’re faced with something so far away from what we’re used to—a new job, an unfamiliar problem, a foreign skill—we sometimes mistake a learning curve for an inability to adapt.
We grossly underestimate our inner raccoons.
Our panda instinct tells us we are what we are because it’s easier than going off-script and trying to be more. But when you fight past that doubt, you draw out your inner raccoon.
And we’ve all got a little raccoon in us—the proof is all the times you’ve been forced to be resourceful:
- When your back is against the wall
- When your job is on the line
- When you need the money
- When you’re facing a deadline
- When someone is shoving the end of a broom into the make-shift home you’ve chewed into the ceiling
That’s when we shift our perspective.We shed the panda mindset and adopt the raccoon’s:
- “I don’t know” becomes “I don’t know yet.”
- “I can’t do that” becomes “I’ll figure it out.”
- “Am I allowed to do that?” becomes “Let them stop me.“
- “What if…?” becomes “Screw it.”
Resourcefulness seems like a respectable trait on paper. But it’s messy.
It’s desperate. It’s hungry. It’s ungraceful. It’s obsessive. It’s a shit storm of trial and error. And it can be a bit of an asshole.
It’s sidestepping the red tape—sometimes real and oftentimes imagined—and doing what you need to do, ignoring what the world thinks about it. It’s Googling what you don’t know. It’s drawing on other people as a resource. It’s making time when you don’t have it. It’s trekking through the “grey”.
But above all, it’s sticking with your problems.
None of this guarantees success, but it does ensure that you look everywhere for it—outside of your comfort zone and beyond the cards you’re holding.
Like them or hate them, unlike pandas, raccoons embody our better instincts.
So the next time you feel like you’re being a panda about a problem, take a step back and ask yourself:
“What would a raccoon do?”
The answer is: Whatever it has to.
Note: No pandas were harmed in the writing of this piece. Not even emotionally. Because pandas can’t read. Besides, they’re technically not on the endangered species list anymore, so they’re safe to use as a rhetorical prop here 🐼.
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