The evolution imperative

From an evolutionary standpoint, your sole mission in this lifetime is to either pass your genetic material on to the next generation (if natural selection deems you worthy) or assist in caring for relatives or fellow tribe members to help pass along at least part of your genetic makeup. A careful examination of any species reveals that its natural lifespan is just long enough to ensure the maximum potential for passing on genes based on amount of training (hunting, flying, etc.) required for survival, odds of predation or other premature death to illness or injury, ability of caring for relatives or tribe members, chances of injury and cost or benefit to heal said injury, and the cost or benefit to maintain aging body parts and organs. The mere fact that you are alive makes you nothing more or less than a pawn in the great game of evolution. Evolution does not care about any individual; the species is of paramount importance. Period.

Climate change, disasters and other unknowns make it impossible for any species to survive unless it can evolve to thrive in its new surroundings. Millions of years ago, a meteor strike killed all life that was unable to take shelter. Today, many species are vanishing because of pollution, habitat loss, hunting and other causes. Change is the one constant of life, and it is precisely because of this that generalist species such as raccoons and rats are thriving while highly specialized species are declining. Think about it: A city full of food-laden trash bins is a Godsend for a small omnivorous creature like a raccoon or rat &

and a real bad place for something like, say, a tiger.

Humans would do well to apply these lessons when planning our own future if we are to survive and thrive as a species or, on a smaller scale, as a loose-knit tribe that happens to occupy a colony such as a city or town. Individual interests must be weighed against the collective good and change is inevitable if the colony is to survive. I am not suggesting that humans give their mindless all, antlike, to the colony or town; I am suggesting that the colony must evolve and diversify if it is to survive. Lamenting bygone eras stirs romantic nostalgia in all of us; more than once I've found myself wishing I could stop time or even return to my younger, carefree days. But that is not the way of the world. We must remain mindful of yesterday's lessons while looking forward. There is no other way. The evolutionary record is absolutely incontrovertible. Look at your own body. Is it not an exact byproduct of your former experiences? My past includes more than a few too many calories consumed; my midsection is, unfortunately, a byproduct of that experience.

How does a town thrive? By adapting to the relentless wheels of progress. Failure to do this eventually yields a ghost town. Recent history abounds with examples of towns that ceased to exist when the one thing propping them up (gold in many cases) dried up. Those towns failed to diversify their economies and died as a result.

Any town needs a mix of white- and blue-collar jobs, chic boutiques and industry. The latter may lack the former's glory, but it is what attracts families with children, whose presence contributes to the well-being of local schools. Most towns also benefit from a steady stream of visitors who are invariably drawn to culture and natural beauty. The problem with tourism is that it is extremely dependent on the overall economic climate. Recession, stagnating home values, inflation &

all of these reduce available discretionary income, meaning that tourism can be one of the first things to dry up when times are lean. For some towns, tourism and quaintness are today's version of the Gold Rush.

Towns must embrace and encourage business development. They must also acknowledge that their commercial and business centers are just that. Infill prevents sprawl. Building up instead of out preserves surrounding areas. Why build 50 one-story buildings over many acres when one tower is more efficient and uses a much smaller footprint? This is an extreme example but you get my idea.

Towns do have a responsibility to encourage businesses to start and grow, and business owners like you have a responsibility to be good guests in your hosting communities. Most antibusiness sentiment is caused by those irresponsible companies that violate this trust and attempt to usurp what should &

and indeed must &

be a symbiotic relationship.

Evolve or die. It's that simple.

Next week: How towns can encourage business success.

Learn how ancient survival instincts guide everything you do and how to use those instincts to your advantage. My books, "The Enlightened Savage: Using Primal Instincts for Personal and Business Success" and "Guerrilla Marketing Success Secrets" are available from and , respectively, or from your favorite bookseller.

Coming soon: "The Natural Savage" (Winter 2007) and "More Guerrilla Marketing Success Secrets" (Fall 2007).

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