Praise for Surviving Your Serengeti "One of a kind. You'll actually know more about yourself afteryou read this book."--KEN BLANCHARD coauthor of The One MinuteManager® and Leading at a Higher Level "Beautifully illustrates nature's basic survivalstrategies--and how they help you create a sense of meaning andpurpose."--SUSAN SCOTT New York Times bestselling coauthor ofFierce Conversations 7 Questions This Book Tackles 1. Are you experiencing a challenge that you wish toovercome? 2. Do you want to discover your hidden survival skills? 3. Do you have a goal you have yet to achieve? 4. Would you like to discover your instinctive strengths? 5. Can you benefit from problem-solving thinking? 6. Do you know someone who has potential to excel? 7. Are you looking for a positive message to share?
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Chapter 1: Arrival in Africa
Chapter 2: The Enduring Wildebeest
Chapter 3: The Strategic Lion
Chapter 4: The Enterprising Crocodile
Chapter 5: The Efficient Cheetah
Chapter 6: The Graceful Giraffe
Chapter 7: The Risk-Taking Mongoose
Chapter 8: The Communicating Elephant
Chapter 9: Coming Full Circle
What Animal am I?
African Wildlife Foundation
The Serengeti Plains of East Africa
About the Author
Praise for Surviving Your Serengeti
“A rare book in management literature. Enjoyable, informative read, with clear applications to be successful.”
—John Ullmen, PhD, UCLA Anderson School of Management
“The perfect ‘visual’ experience to simulate the skills required to take your mastery of business to the next level. I could not put this book down!”
—Mark Willis, CEO, Keller Williams Realty International
“A terrific book filled with adventure and wisdom that will touch your life and increase your personal effectiveness. I enjoyed it immensely.”
—Bob Burg, National Best-Selling Author ofThe Go-GiverandGo-Givers Sell More
“Surviving Your Serengeti is an exciting journey about life and business for any age, young and old.”
—Dale Stinton, CEO, National Association of Realtors®
“It takes more than good business sense to survive changing economies and this impactful book will inspire readers to pursue their dreams and overcome seemingly impossible odds.”
—Dave Liniger, Founder and Chairman, RE/MAX International
“Superb! Swanepoel shows he can write business fables as well as he does real estate trends. Exciting and educational, all wrapped into one experience.”
—Alex Perriello, President and CEO, Realogy Franchise Group
“An instant classic! Discover the very best strategies to navigate through difficult times!”
—Tom Ferry, CEO, YourCoach.com and Author of theNew York TimesBest-SellerLife! By Design
“This compelling story is masterfully written. I recommend this book unreservedly for anyone wanting to fine-tune their success plan!”
—Don Hutson, CEO, U.S. Learning, and Coauthor of theNew York TimesBest-Seller,The One Minute EntrepreneurandThe One Minute Negotiator
“AWESOME! An excellent story. I’ve found myself thinking about Surviving Your Serengeti in the middle of doing other things.”
—Michael McClure, President and CEO, Professional One
“Incredible perspective on life’s challenges and how to maneuver through them successfully.”
—Gary Danielson, CBS Commentator and Former NFL Quarterback
Copyright © 2011 by RealSure, Inc. All rights reserved.
Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey.
Published simultaneously in Canada.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise, except as permitted under Section 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without either the prior written permission of the Publisher, or authorization through payment of the appropriate per-copy fee to the Copyright Clearance Center, Inc., 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923, (978) 750-8400, fax (978) 646-8600, or on the web at www.copyright.com. Requests to the Publisher for permission should be addressed to the Permissions Department, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030, (201) 748-6011, fax (201) 748-6008, or online at www.wiley.com/go/permissions.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data:
Surviving your serengeti : 7 skills to master business and life / Stefan Swanepoel.
ISBN 978-0-470-94780-7 (cloth)
ISBN 978-1-118-00857-7 (ebk)
ISBN 978-1-118-00858-4 (ebk)
ISBN 978-1-118-00859-1 (ebk)
1. Success. 2. Life skills. 3. Survival skills. 4. Industrial efficiency. I. Title.
To everyone who lives with focus, enthusiasm, and purpose.
Specifically to my Zachariah, my mentor and Dad.
During my formative years in Africa, I developed deep feelings for the surrounding nature and wildlife; they became a part of me, and I of them. But as I became an adult and turned my attention to the world of business, I left Africa and the Serengeti behind to immigrate to America.
It was not until a recent visit to the Serengeti Plains of East Africa that I reconnected with this unique refuge. Simply put, it is the last sanctuary for the greatest concentration of wildlife remaining on earth.
Nearly two million wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles annually run a 1,000-mile journey filled with hunger, thirst, predators, and exhaustion. The journey is so incomparably dangerous and massive that it is often rated the number one natural wonder of the world.
For me, this journey is a parable for success. It’s a window into the very meaning of life that provides a simple way to understand, appreciate, and remember the basic skills that all living beings need to survive and thrive.
For most of us, the world we live in today is, of course, a far cry from the Serengeti. Television, the Internet, mobile media, fast food, and many more innovations comprise a society dominated by a demand for speed, comfort, and instant gratification. We continue to advance technology, only to find ourselves spinning through one “solution” after the other. We face global financial and economic challenges that stretch our resources and shape our professional and personal lives as never before.
The obstacles that those who live and die on the Serengeti face are, in many ways, no different than the challenges we face at the office or at home every day. While our trials certainly take place in a different realm, the seven skills that the animals use to overcome their harsh conditions can also help us rise above our own adversities.
It is my hope that this fable will reaffirm that:Everyone can survive his or her own personal Serengeti, no matter the challenges.No journey is ever too long.Nothing is impossible.
ARRIVAL IN AFRICA
”Where am I?” Sean Spencer thought as he peered out of the dirty Plexiglas window at the vast open expanse below.
The droning of the airplane’s engine lulled him deeper into his thoughts. Though he knew how much this trip meant to his wife Ashley, he couldn’t just forget about everything. The recent loss of her teaching job and his struggle to keep his company afloat placed their whole livelihood on the line. This trip—which she’d won as a rookie salesperson of the year—couldn’t have come at a worse time.
The pilot nudged the throttle as the wheels of the small six-seat Cessna grazed the top of a large acacia tree and came to rest on a narrow dirt strip. As the propeller carved its last arc against the late afternoon sun and yellow dust settled around them, Sean wondered again where exactly they’d landed. Surely this wasn’t an airport. The landing strip was hard to distinguish from the surrounding veldt. It didn’t even have a building—just one old weather-beaten wind sock.
He sat back and took in the scenery around them as the heat rose inside the plane. There wasn’t much to see except a single Land Rover parked a short distance away at the edge of the clearing. He smiled to himself as he looked at Ashley sitting in the seat next to the pilot. Like a little kid on a new adventure, she absorbed every detail with wonder on her face—and she wasn’t going to waste a minute of it.
As he climbed out of the side door and rubbed his stiff back, he instinctively took out his BlackBerry and squinted at the screen in the glaring afternoon sun. He sighed and shrugged his shoulders—no bars. This was going to be a long three days without communication. His company’s recent proposal for a large solar generating system in California’s central valley was under review, and he was concerned they would be underbid again. Without this business, he was worried that he’d have to make further cutbacks.
“Sean!” Ashley shouted. She was already standing next to the driver of the Land Rover, waving him over.
As he approached the vehicle, a young man dressed in green khaki shorts extended his hand. “Greetings Mr. Spencer; welcome to the Serengeti. I’m Raymond. I’ll be your guide for the next couple of days. Help yourself to a cold drink from the icebox while I take care of your luggage,” he yelled over his shoulder, already on his way to the plane.
Ashley noted the distant look on Sean’s face. “Isn’t this awesome? We’re in Africa! Can you believe it? Have you ever seen anything so majestic? What do you say we just clear our minds of all our problems and enjoy the trip?”
This was something Sean had always admired and even envied in his wife: her ability to seamlessly adapt and enjoy what she was doing without any interruption. To her, Los Angeles and all their troubles simply didn’t exist right now. She could shut out whatever she chose, and focus on where she was in that instance.
Ashley put her arm on Sean’s shoulder. “I promise you all our problems will still be there when we get back,” she said.
Sean smiled. “I’m sure they will.” Like it or not, his dead BlackBerry would force him to give it a shot—for her sake, if nothing else.
“The pilot says he’ll be back in three days,” Raymond exclaimed, after he stashed their bags in the back of the Land Rover and opened the front door. Sean gave Ashley the front seat and clamored into the back with the gear.
He tried to focus on the passing panorama as Raymond headed for camp, but his mind kept reminding him of all that had been left unfinished at the office. Success hadn’t come easily for Sean, and the company he’d enjoyed building had become the very thing that consumed him. The first-class team he had gathered needed guidance and inspiration now more than ever before. In fact, the last thing his employees needed right now was for him to be thousands of miles away, completely out of touch.
“How long have you been a guide?” Ashley asked Raymond.
“It’s been seven years since I completed my training.” Raymond smiled with pride.
“How long does the training take?”
“To become a certified guide, you have to undergo a minimum of four years of study and practical hands-on experience before you are ready to get your own Land Rover. I grew up right here on the Serengeti, so it’s always been a central part of me all my life.”
“We’re lucky to have you,” Ashley said, admiring Raymond’s dedication.
Raymond began to tell them about his home as he navigated the Rover. “The Serengeti,” sweeping his arm in a wide arc, “is predominantly a plateau of endless plains and grassy savannahs. It is one huge ecosystem that spans over 10,000 square miles, spreading over two countries, Tanzania and Kenya. Right now, we’re camped in the south-central part of the park in an area called Senoera. Over there in the east are the mountains, including the one everyone knows—Mount Kilimanjaro. She is an inactive volcano and Africa’s highest peak at 19,330 feet above sea level. Because the location of Mount Kilimanjaro is so close to the equator, one encounters almost every climate on earth as you ascend from the valley floor to the peak, which remains covered with snow all year round.”
Ashley couldn’t take her eyes off the vast expanse of Africa being unveiled around every turn. “This is absolutely stunning. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Raymond smiled and continued. “In the west are various lakes, with Lake Victoria—the largest tropical lake in the world—being the most famous, and the source of the longest branch of the Nile River.”
Raymond looked at Sean in the rearview mirror and beamed as if he was talking about his most prized possession. “The region has been blessed with an abundance of natural diversity that cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. For that reason, it has received World Heritage status as a biosphere ecology reserve.”
As they rolled deeper into the bush, Sean and Ashley began to take in the wild breath of Africa. A subtly intoxicating sense of freedom and exhilaration came over them.
“I didn’t expect it to be so hot this late in the day. Does it ever cool down?” Sean asked, draining a bottle of water.
“Yes, just as soon as the sun goes down,” Raymond replied. “You’ll feel the difference tonight at supper.”
“Is this what the weather’s like all the time?” asked Sean as he wiped his forehead for the umpteenth time.
“No,” Raymond said as he continued to share more interesting snippets of information. They found themselves being drawn into the moment, despite the constant plume of dust rising up from the tires that slipped in one window and out the other, coating everything and everyone.
As they climbed a low rise, the sun was just barely hanging above the horizon. It painted the entire skyline with an inconceivable palette of reds, oranges, and yellows. Raymond pulled the Rover under a large acacia tree pointing his finger straight west into the setting sun. In the distance, silhouetted by the horizon, grazed a huge herd of animals. Ashley and Sean could hear the grunting, snorting, and occasionally the sound of hooves against the hard, sunbaked ground. Everywhere they looked, as far as they could see, the plains were filled with animals.
Sean was absolutely amazed. “I’ve seen the Serengeti savannahs on the Discovery Channel—but the real thing. Wow, it’s so much bigger than I ever envisioned.”
They got out of the Rover to stretch their legs and Raymond handed them a pair of binoculars. “Those are white-bearded wildebeest. You’ll also see some zebras and gazelles.” For the next 10 minutes no one said a word; they simply stood in awe of the abundance of animals—the ocean of life mingling together, prancing and tossing their heads as they moved in rhythm.
Raymond rested his arms on the open car door and broke the silence. “The wildebeest are the dominant species; they far outnumber any other animal on the Serengeti. Since the wildebeest prefer areas that are neither too wet nor too dry, they are constantly in search of a balance between the two. Their strong dependence on water and constant migration makes them a constant target for many predators.
“So, as if by nature’s silent command, more than one-and-a-half million zebras, wildebeest, and gazelles leave the savannahs here on the southern plains and move through the woodlands to the western corridor, where the wildflowers are coming into bloom. Then from Lake Victoria they will curve back northward toward the sweet grass of the Masai Mara in Kenya. As the rains return life back here on the Serengeti savannahs, the great herds will migrate south and come back here where they started.”
Ashley stared at the vast herds and handed the binoculars to Sean. “I never dreamed of seeing so many animals in one place—let alone within a few hours of arriving in Africa!”
Suddenly, a small group of about 100 wildebeest came running from behind them, swerving around the trees and anthills, leaping across the road heading toward the larger herd. They all ran in a single line, carefully preserving as much of the grass as possible. Sean and Ashley stood motionless as they watched the animals gallop a mere 10 yards in front of the Land Rover. There were no bars or fences; they were truly free in their natural habitat.
“Look at their muscular, front-heavy appearance with that distinctively large muzzle,” Raymond continued. “See how their prominent horns are shaped like parentheses, extending outward to the side and then curving back inward, sort of like putting a bracket around that elongated snout of theirs. Based on their odd outward appearance you would never cast them as the animal species that would dominate the largest wildlife refuge on the planet.”
“No, you definitely wouldn’t,” Ashley said. “It’s a far cry from our society, where appearance means so much.”
“Never judge a book by its cover, especially one as dusty as this one,” Raymond said as he opened the door for Ashley.
“Incredible is the only word that can describe it,” Ashley remarked. “Absolutely incredible.”
Raymond smiled as he started the engine once again. “We need to move along if we’re going to make it to the camp before dark.”
The sound of grunts and snorts began to die down as they drove away from the herd. The last colors of sunset were draining from the western sky—it was only then that Sean and Ashley noticed that the oppressive heat was giving way to the chill of the night air. The dark was arriving quickly and soon Raymond was navigating some unseen path without headlights. Sean peered ahead, trying to discern some form of a road or trail, but it was as dark as the inside of an inkwell. “Why are you driving without lights?”
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