Occasionally you read a book and you immediately relate to it. Not only do you comprehend the words and concepts the author is trying to convey, but you can actually feel how it relates to you personally, your professional life, and your own journey of constant improvement. Surviving Your Serengeti, by Stefan Swanepoel is one of those books for me. It’s relatively short, told as an unforgettable fable, and it is simply full of great wisdom boiled down to 7 Skills to Master Business and Life. The setting of the story is an inside look at life in Africa’s Serengeti, where every year more than two million animals embark on a thousand mile journey filled with beauty, danger, fear, and courage.
Stefan has the guts to discuss concepts such as fear, courage, tenacity, and resiliency which have a lot more to do with business success than just about anything else, but are unfortunately absent from most business books. Stefan does a beautiful job of connecting us to the wisdom of the Serengeti. Life may be very different in our boardrooms, but the wisdom is universal.
- The Enduring Wildebeest teach us to confront our fears and always take the next step – no excuses!
- The Strategic Lion teaches us that the pride’s connection to the strategy is perhaps more important than the strategy itself.
- The Enterprising Crocodile shows us the importance of finding the opportunities is all circumstances, not just the easy ones.
- The Efficient Cheetah teaches us that limited resources can actually be a benefit if you can be innovative.
- The Graceful Giraffe reminds us that dignity, respect, and doing the right thing are keys to success despite what appears to be a cut-through world.
- The Risk-Taking Mongoose shows us that change and exploration of the unknown can bring exciting and even superior alternatives.
I had the opportunity to speak with Stefan recently about Surviving Your Serengeti and asked him how important he thought “differentiation” or exploiting your strengths was to success in this post-recession world. His response was that in a world that is increasingly confused, digital, and real-time driven, differentiation allows you to stand-out (not in a Charlie Sheen kind of way, but in a good way). He also rightfully points out that differentiation is not so much about creating something entirely new, but more about packaging concepts and skills that we already know in new and different ways.
If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know that I am a huge proponent of a US perspective that promotes a new 21st century American dream that involves moving up the global value chain as opposed to a perspective that tries to re-create the past. I asked Stefan how he thought Surviving Your Serengeti can help people see a different perspective, one that doesn’t conflict with the global realities of our times. Stefan is hopeful that his book will help people find the courage to evolve. By focusing on the life and death situations faced every day in the Serengeti, we can more easily see how “cookie cutter” many of us have become in our thinking and how we often take our every day existence for granted.
Go ahead, read the book and let it re-connect you with your own talents and skills as well as see them in others. And then find out what animal you are, and the rest of your team, at www.WhatAnimalAmI.com. Personally, I most closely resemble the Enterprising Crocodile. Not great for my feminine image, but it is spot on!