The constant stream of problems we face can be overwhelming. Read this story of the hummingbird – as told by the late Prof. Wangari Maathai, Kenyan activist and the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize – and remind yourself that, even in the face of immense adversity, you can still act. The story goes like this…”

A huge forest was being consumed by a fire, and all the animals felt powerless and overwhelmed as they watched the destruction unfold before them. All, except for one little hummingbird.

Determined to do something about the fire, the hummingbird flew to the nearest stream and picked up a single drop of water in its tiny beak. It flew to the fire and dropped the water onto the flames. The hummingbird continued, flying up and down to the stream to gather more water, dropping it onto the fire as fast as it could.

Despite the presence of larger animals like the elephant, who could bring more water with its big trunk, they all stood by helplessly, questioning the hummingbird's efforts. The other animals said things like:

“What do you think you can do?”

“You are too little.”

“This fire is too big.”

“Your wings are too small.”

“Your beak can only carry a tiny drop of water. That will not make an impact.”

Paying no attention to the discouragement, the hummingbird remained resolute and responded, “I may be small and insignificant, but I will always do the best I can.” The hummingbird persisted with its efforts, undeterred by the enormity of the task and the naysayers.

“In the end, it could be that the hummingbird's actions helped to inspire the other animals to help put out the fire, and the forest was saved. They also may not have helped, or the fire may have been too powerful for them to put out, resulting in the destruction of the animals’ habitat. We don’t know. But what we do know is that taking the risk, and engaging in a solution for a wicked problem without knowing if your efforts will succeed, takes courage and persistence. It takes an attitude that we would love to see in all RSMers – students, alumni and employees.

Prof. Maathai’s story serves as a reminder that trying to make a difference and creating positive change takes courage, a sense of responsibility and persistence. Because, in the end, who would you rather be? The person who tried, or the one who stood by and did nothing?

We’ve been inspired by the late professor Wangari Maathai, Nobel peace laureate, who shares this story here.”