Bats can swim in water and you can do anything you put your mind to

Dream big, young bat.
Dream big, young bat.
Image: Reuters/Baz Ratner
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Bats are the only mammals that fly, with wing membranes stretched between their arms, fingers, legs, and tail while their thumbs and feet remain free. That’s a pretty cool achievement all on its own, to be able to flap your arms and flutter off into the darkness to catch a delicious insect or twelve.

But it’s also just what we expect from bats—much as we have come to expect certain things from ourselves as we get older and grow more aware of our particular strengths and weaknesses. “I’m an introvert, so I like to work alone,” we say. “I’m not great with words, I’m more of a numbers person.”

This video of a bat swimming ably through the water is a helpful reminder not to impose those kinds of limitations on ourselves.

As the Twitter poster above notes, not only can bats swim, they’re actually good at it. The Smithsonian Institute explains, “Although there is little scientific data on the subject, observations by naturalists in the field seem to support the fact that some bats swim in stressful situations, but that it is not normally part of their ordinary behavior patterns … Photographs of the flying fox, Pteropus giganteus, show the animal actually swimming, using its wings and feet to reach land rather than floating or paddling.”

This skill isn’t unique to bats. Experiments and simple observations suggest that the vast majority of mammals can swim if necessary, though whether or not they prefer to do so is a different matter. ”Mammals have decent-sized lungs, which are going to give them quite a bit of buoyancy,” Frank Fish, an extremely appropriately-named expert in aquatic locomotion at West Chester University in Pennsylvania, tells the BBC. Mammals also have fat under their skin that helps them float—and as Fish says, ”if you can float, then you can swim.”

It’s a useful reminder that just because we’re not accustomed to doing certain things doesn’t mean we’re going to fail when we step outside our comfort zones. For example, Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, often points out that introverts can be exceptionally powerful public speakers and leaders—particularly when they don’t try to force themselves to act like extroverts.

“The real power comes from a position of pride and entitlement in who you are,” Cain tells CNBC Make It. “When you have that you become more effective in job interviews, showing up at meetings, and speaking up.”

In other words, if you’re afraid of public speaking, it’s perfectly fine to acknowledge it’s not your “natural milieu,” as Cain did during her TED Talk. When you’re a bat in a river, the fact of the water doesn’t make you a fish. But you’ve found yourself there anyway, perhaps by necessity. And the wings that normally propel you through air may turn out to be capable of a killer breaststroke.