4 Life Lessons A Feisty Iguana Taught Me

Jul 10, 2015 1 Min Read

Photo above: Iggy taking a dip in the water


Into the wild

Call me peculiar, but I’m sure I’m not the only one. I have a soft spot for reptiles, particularly green iguanas.

I fell in love with it when I was little, the moment I saw Pugsley, Sarah Connor’s pet iguana in Terminator. I told myself that I’d like to own one when I grew up.

That was made possible when a few friends, who knew of my dream pet, shared the cost of buying an iguana (with license) as a surprise birthday gift!

Suddenly, I found myself with this unexpected huge responsibility of taking care of Iggy the Iguana. Nevertheless, I was determined to give my best care for him.

Beyond his head-bobbing and tail-whipping responses, Iggy was an unpredictable pet with an attitude.

In the short time that I had him, this feisty little creature taught me four key lessons that are applicable for personal development.

  1. Be agile to face inevitable challenges

    When Iggy sleeps in his enclosure, his positions range from laidback style on the ground to precarious acrobatic style on a tree branch. Iguanas are, after all, well known for their limbic agility, especially in swimming and leaping.

    One time, Iggy did a “parkour” stunt on me by jumping down from my shoulders onto the floor.

    Concerned if he had suffered any injury when he didn’t move for a few good seconds, he assured me he was fine when he later dashed for the nearest exit.

Watch how this iguana moves!

Lessons learnt:

The 21st century workplace environment is a volatile and challenging one. As an employee and a business entity, we are called to be quick to adapt to changes.

If we don’t upskill ourselves or embrace innovative business models, we will eventually be left behind. Worse still, we might be driven out of business and become irrelevant to our customers.

  1. Shed the old skin to grow and move forward

    Being a juvenile and actively growing, Iggy sheds his skin often. Because an iguana’s skin comes off in patches, he sometimes had to rub himself against surfaces to get rid of the old skin.

    To facilitate his shedding, I sometimes sprayed his back with water to ease the process.

    I bet the shedding process was uncomfortable for Iggy, but he had to go through it in order to grow. The new skin was often greener and more beautiful.

Lessons learnt:

Roshan Thiran often talks about growing pains. In order to reach our destiny, the journey is full of storms and rough terrain.

Surely, pain is part and parcel of growth before we acquire success. By persevering through seasons of pain and overcoming it, we often end up stronger and closer to our goals.

On another note, many of us carry old excess baggage of grudges and regrets. When we do that, we experience stunted growth.

Hence, we should attempt to remove our old skin and baggage, reconcile with our past and move on with total liberty. Our better future selves are waiting ahead of us.

  1. Invest precious time to build trust

    Unlike domesticated pets, iguanas are wild animals and are not easily trusting towards humans. Naturally, Iggy sees me as a predator.

    It was a challenge to read Iggy’s body language because it differed on a daily basis.

    At times, he sent out the “don’t touch me” message by extending his dewlap, puffing up his body and opening his mouth. On good days, he was calm enough to be handled.

    To build that trust, I often hand-fed him to tell him that I mean no harm. Over time, he got really excited by bobbing his head when he saw me bringing his favourite food – papaya!

Lessons learnt:

It can be quite frustrating trying to build relationships that are often one way. My advice? Don’t give up just yet.

Someday, people will realise that you have no hidden agenda, and are sincerely genuine in the relationship.

In a business environment, the same principle applies. Trust is earned, and you often need to work hard to bridge the missing ‘trust’ gaps.

Once trust is established, honour and guard it with all your heart. Why?

Because once trust is broken, your credibility as a leader in an organisation goes down the drain. It’ll be extremely difficult to regain such lost trust.

  1. Know when to retreat and bask in the sun

    There was never a dull moment watching Iggy going about his life. Being a diurnal (active during the day) and arboreal (live on trees), it is interesting to observe how iguanas recognise when they should take baths, eat, sleep and chill.

    Whenever Iggy was left on his own, he seemed to enjoy chilling and basking under heat lamps, perched on his tree branch.

    In those still moments, with what I often observed as a contented smirk on his face, Iggy exuded an air of Zen and peace with himself and his environment.

Lessons learnt:

The 24/7 connectivity around us and the work-life integration we experience today are keeping us on the go all the time.

Even if we love our job so much, it is imperative that we learn to retreat from our busyness and go on vacations or spend more time with family and loved ones.

If iguanas know how to be still and rest from labour, perhaps we can learn to do that too.

Concluding thoughts

Alas, I only had Iggy for about eight months. He died on July 3, 2008. I couldn’t save him; neither could my vet.

A friend was kind enough to pen a heartwarming poem to immortalise Iggy in his first year of death anniversary.

Although he is no longer with me, he left me with invaluable life lessons to take away.

He showed me what it is to be patient with him and to accept him for who he is as a unique creation of the Maker.

In ever loving memory

Our time together had been short…
But, our lives have been colourful…
Cherish the memories we had…
For it can never be replaced.
And it is the most valuable treasures one can have
Because they only belong to you and me.
Fate has stolen my life away from you
But don’t let it steal away the happiness I’ve brought you.

Grieve for me for another few more days, okay?
Don’t grieve for me forever…
Always remember me.
And always remember I brought happiness to you.
Thank you for loving me
And thank you for having me too.

Iggy the Green Iguana
Written by Han Wei Ming © 2008

Do you have a story to share as a pet owner? Write to us at editor@leaderonomics.com on what you have learnt from your pet or how the experience has helped you grow as a person. For more Career Advice articles, click here.

First appeared on Leaderonomics.com. Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 11 July 2015

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Lay Hsuan was part of the content curation team for Leaderonomics.com, playing the role of a content gatekeeper as well as ensuring the integrity of stories that came in. She was an occasional writer for the team and was previously the caretaker for Leaderonomics social media channels. She is still happiest when you leave comments on the website, or subscribe to Leader's Digest, or share Leaderonomics content on social media.

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