Book Review: The Eagle That Drank Hummingbird Nectar
Reviewed by Tucker Lieberman
A man unpacks his CEO identity to create space for inquiry and honesty in this unique and thought-provoking business novel.
If you’re questioning what your professional identity means to you, check out The Eagle That Drank Hummingbird Nectar: A Novel About Personal Transformation in Business Leaders.
It’s a story that speaks especially to people with experience in corporate culture, or their coaches, as well as others who are reassessing their feelings and priorities at midlife. The author, Aneace Haddad, teaches readers to probe their own assumptions and habits, be kind to themselves, and insistently asking tough questions.
Haddad used to run a global software company. While practicing mindfulness, he transitioned out of a stressful attitude and lifestyle, and now he teaches and coaches business leaders to incorporate this wisdom in their lives and entrepreneurship.
This novel is told in the voice of Aidan, a 50-year-old widower and empty-nester who quits his job as a tech CEO and becomes a coach for other businesspeople. Letting go, it turns out, is a layered process. When he tries to let go of one word, concept, or feeling, somehow it’s still there, linked to other things he hasn’t yet let go of. What does it all mean?
He’s in Singapore, “a dense city built next to an ancient rainforest.” He’s dreaming about a dying eagle. And he’s attracted to a pamphlet called Five Steps to Joyful Wisdom, based on Buddhist doctrines of “impermanence, suffering, and no-self.” “There is nothing in this world more beautiful,” the pamphlet says, “than watching someone blossom into a new phase of their life…”
The Eagle That Drank Hummingbird Nectar acknowledges that some people come from backgrounds where they move so often, or belong to so many communities, that their sense of “home” isn’t tied to any one place. Instead, they have a traveling sense of what it means to feel at home. This can affect where they want to go and who they connect with.
Deep questions may surface in all areas of life, due to frustrations not only in a primary career but also in what we believe to be our passion projects. We peel back one layer, hoping to find authenticity, but it may be just another layer of “faking it.” The new coach, too, may have to ask themselves, or have another coach ask them: “How committed are you to being a coach?”
You wake up listening to the shriek of a bird called the Koel. You walk the trail into “a tropical rainforest filled with long-tailed macaque monkeys, wild chickens, monitor lizards, flying lemurs and countless tropical birds.” You wait and watch. You endure discomfort and let yourself be surprised. There, you observe your feelings, including your pain and the additional suffering which is “how we interpret and process the event,” an activity that causes “half of the discomfort that comes with pain,” as Haddad explains.
Business leaders inevitably face headscratching problems that are unique to their business. They say to themselves, “Either I don’t have the right people, or something I’m doing isn’t working.” And indeed it’s their job to do something — to lead, so the problem can be fixed. Yet they need not always begin by calibrating an action-oriented strategy targeting the apparent business problem.
Instead, in The Eagle That Drank Hummingbird Nectar, Haddad raises leaders’ awareness of what might be imbalanced within themselves and how they can bring their true selves to their relationships with others. A leader may feel shame for their failures, grief for their losses, or they may need to let go of pieces of their old identity. They may be hampered by the belief that they shouldn’t have a fulfilling life outside the office because it might detract from their importance inside the office. When they are more holistically joyful and present, and when they delegate some of their power, they empower their team to collaboratively and creatively solve business problems.
We adjust our attitudes. We ask different questions. We get honest with ourselves. The imagery in our dreams changes, and we begin to understand it. When we do this, some problems at work — perhaps not all, but some — may feel to us as though they’re fixing themselves. This is one takeaway you might get from The Eagle That Drank Hummingbird Nectar. Readers who bring different moods or perspectives may find their own personal messages within it.
Life transitions are often uncomfortable, even brutal, but Haddad discusses change in a gentle, guiding way. Delivering his teachings through a fictional narrative, he deftly shows how such a mental shift could improve those in midlife and mid-career.
Genre: General Fiction / Business / Leadership
Print Length: 208 pages
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