life lessons can be learned in all kinds of ways, from the dramatic to the mundane. Some people point to their experiences playing organized sports as the foundation for their most important life lessons. Others credit their business career or military service for teaching them the power of teamwork, grit and perseverance. Still others, like 2016 Crown Leadership Award winner Michael Botha, acquire life lessons in surprising ways; in his case, it was while observing wildlife in Montana’s Big Sky Country, where he has a home.
Fourteen months ago, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Botha authored a thought-provoking Facebook post that I found both inspiring and insightful. The veteran PMP, who sold his family business in 2016 to pursue other ventures, graciously agreed to share excerpts from his post with our readers. Here’s what he had to say: “It’s elk calving season in the high country. Before first light every morning, I watch from my office and observe the resident elk and deer herd at the pond ... slowly moving to their bedding areas. It struck me how different bison and elk mothers behave. When a predator approaches, elk mothers and the rest of the herd send out a warning bark and run away a safe distance, stop and look back, their new calves drop to the earth, flatten themselves, put their head down and freeze, hoping for the best. When a bison mother is threatened, the herd and the mother do the exact opposite. The entire bison herd, including the brand new calves, stand tall, bellow and grunt aggressively, and face the predator. The strongest and biggest bison, both bulls and cows, move to the front of the herd and form a massive barrier or advance on the predator. I find it fascinating how some creatures rise before a threat and stand tall and others drop and freeze or run. Both strategies to survive seem to work very well viewed from the herd’s perspective, but have vastly different outcomes from the individual’s perspective. Some stand and fight to maintain their lives and protect the weak; others run away from the conflict and abandon the weak to nature’s indifference and to be ravaged by the wolves. Strikes me how similar this is to our human lives. I guess it comes down to the individual and the herd’s choice. Which one do you better relate to ... a bison or an elk?”
I revisited Botha’s Facebook post (June 21, 2020) when reflecting on how the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic during the past 18 months. What’s obvious is NPMA and its staff stood tall and fought, working tirelessly to secure “essential business” status from the Department of Homeland Security, thereby protecting the industry’s interests during a challenging time, while also adapting in myriad other ways during this unprecedented time. Last summer and fall, they quickly pivoted to hosting NPMA PestWorld as a virtual event, before pivoting once again this year to an in-person event. As a consequence, their actions have allowed both members and non-members alike to fulfill their mission of providing essential public health services in an uninterrupted fashion to consumers throughout the pandemic, and that’s something we can all get behind.