All it takes is one look around my bedroom to figure out that I have a bit of an obsession with peacocks. My love affair with these mesmerizing creatures began back in the summer of 2008. I must admit I was nowhere near an actual peacock at the time. As it happens, I was at a leadership program filling out a quiz about which animal matches my leadership style. My result was – you guessed it – a peacock!
I know, I know. Deciding I needed to own peacock-themed everything all because of one random leadership quiz might be overkill. Can you blame me, though? They are undoubtedly one of the most beautiful animals on the planet.
Lately, I’ve been thinking back to the root of my passion for peacocks. It might have started with a silly quiz that I barely even remember, but there are definitely some useful lessons in leadership and advocacy that peacocks can teach us.
1) Make Your Presence Known
Peacocks accomplish this is more ways than one. Of course, you can’t miss their feathers. But have you ever heard peacocks making noise? They have a loud, distinctive sound, which is exactly what the disability community needs to enact real social change. No, I’m not suggesting that advocates should squawk like peacocks to be heard. That being said, disability activists are silenced far too often when advocating for our rights. An effective advocate can channel their inner peacock by letting people know they are unmistakably present.
2) Show Your True Colors
I’m a firm believer in not judging people by their outward appearance, and I’m aware that using physical characteristics of peacocks as analogies for advocacy could be perceived as superficial. However, when I talk about true colors, I don’t just mean on the outside. Something I’m working on this year is self-acceptance, and part of that is being myself no matter what. It’s hard to do this all the time, but I think the best advocates are the ones who don’t shy away from letting people know exactly who they are – inside and out.
3) Be Bold
One of the reasons I love peacocks so much is that nothing about them is subtle. They command attention, and I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say they know it. Being able to captivate someone is most definitely an art form and peacocks are lucky it comes naturally to them. I, on the other hand, have had to figure out the best techniques for keeping someone engaged in a room full of people. Granted, sitting in a big old wheelchair is kind of like having peacock feathers because it makes me pretty noticeable. But, when it comes to advocacy, there are so many amazing power players, and lots of them are making a difference for the disability community because they’re not afraid to be bold. They stand out among their surroundings…and even among other peacocks.
4) Go For It
I didn’t actually learn this one from a peacock, but because of one. In 2011, while on a trip to Israel, my cousin Heather and I spotted a peacock roaming around a kibbutz (a communal settlement). I had seen peacocks in exhibits before, but never just existing in nature like they should be. Obviously, I was ridiculously excited, so my cousin and I took off after the peacock in an attempt to get a picture. We should have let the poor animal be, because we didn’t get to it in time for a clear photo. Heather tried her best to get close enough, but everything we got was blurry. There was a silver lining, though, because while we didn’t get a good picture, Heather ran into a resident of the kibbutz who ended up teaching us how to say “peacock” in Hebrew. (Tah-vas, in case you were wondering.) There’s absolutely a lesson to be found in this experience. When you want to accomplish something, go for it! Even if you don’t exactly meet your goal, you’ll still get something beneficial to take away from the experience.
And who knows? What you learn just might help bring out your inner peacock advocate.
What animals do you think can teach the best lessons on advocacy?