5 Things Hunting Has Taught Me About Business
In my mid to late 30's I was looking for a new challenge. My days were filled with calls, emails, and spreadsheets. It was daunting. My release was my weekly Sunday hikes in the woods with my dog. It became a regular challenge to see if we could find the deer in any park to which we went. It was a very uncommon occurrence for us to be unsuccessful. I always came back more calm, peaceful, and with some clearer insight to the world. So I asked, "How can I extend this feeling."
This led me to explore the world of hunting. I had always been cautious but the more research I did, the more it made sense. I would be in the woods, silent, observing, and I would be procuring food for myself; removing a step in the industrial food chain. I was sold. Over the next 5 years or so, hunting has become a critical part of my life away from work. From pre-season scouting to preparing meals from nature's bounty, I love every step.
When I explain the part of hunting I'm most passionate about, it surprises people. Yes it involves dragging yourself out of bed at 3am while it's still pitch black out. Yes it involves a lot of work and research. Yes, you are not always successful. But the part I love the most is the 45 minutes or so of sitting in my tree stand in absolute silence before the sun rises that I can just listen and think.
And this is when so much insight comes. So it's not about the killing or the blood lust. It's not even about the success rate. For me, hunting provides some quiet introspection time that is critical to success... and where I realized 5 parallels to business.
1) Be Quiet- As I said above, this is my favorite part. As much as business is about "making things happen" and "being a mover-and-shaker," it's the times when you just listen that drive real success. Real quiet listening provides you the opportunity to learn, to set your ego aside, and to earn respect from your colleagues. Being quiet and listening are forgotten skills in this fast paced world, but misplaced marketing and questionably ethical business practices are also more prevalent than ever. How many could have been avoided for long term success with 45 minutes of quiet listening in the boardroom?
2) Breathe- One thing hunting will teach you about is how to breathe. Whether it's listening for movement or the critical moments of the shot, rhythm and control are the secrets to success. This is true in business as well. Not everything needs to be done at once and too much multitasking can hurt all tasks. Pacing yourself with rhythm and control always lead to greater success than hurry and leap. Remember the tortoise and the hare? It still holds true. Now, this doesn't mean that hustle isn't the key to success, but it does mean that pace and control (and breathing) are integral factors for great hustle. Not frantic hurrying.
3) Nothing Beats Preparation- Preparation is everything. Everyone remembers the saying, "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail," and nothing could be more true in hunting and business. From using trail cameras very early in the season to survey the future landscape and travel paths, to preparing a food plot in order to attract potential targets. Scouting and looking for signs indicating the right time to be in the right place, to checking and rechecking equipment for when go time comes, these all have parallels in business. Setting trail cameras is like researching the market. Stay on top of trends or get left behind. If you know what's out there you can better make quality strategic decisions rather than reacting to occurrences. To be successful in business, you should nurture your core audience. Just like planting a food plot. By making your proposition easy and appealing for your core customers or clients you will always have opportunity close to home. Rotate offerings to keep things fresh and they'll stay even longer! When the time comes to move from planning to action, do you have the data to prove your clients are where you think they are? Have you tested and retested your strategy across situations and teams? I think this is where many hunters and business people fail. Making assumptions that something has always worked so it always will work, guarantees it won't work at some point. Not testing ideas or surveying outside of the boardroom narrows data and potentially ignores obvious signs of moving trends.
4) Focus on the Kill Shot- Life is full of distractions, which is as true in hunting as it is in business. Anyone who has been in the moment to make a harvest during a hunt knows the nerves that must be overcome and challenges to focus that are everywhere. Squirrels making noise. The thump of your heartbeat in your ears. The shake in your knees. The snow falling on your nose. They all challenge you to steel your nerves, breathe, and follow the protocols you set up in your preparation. Business has some of the same challenges. Whether it be last minute changes from the C-Suite, news of a competitor's new product, nerves in the stock market. They all challenge you in the moment of execution, however, if you have followed idea #3, you should be able to block all of this out and execute flawlessly. Focus and let the preparation take control.
5) Share a story- Hunting is full of storytellers. It is a culture of help, teaching, and preparing the next generation. It is the one aspect that allowed me to come into hunting late in life. I was able to find folks who would share a story and help me out. They even shared some of their secret spots with me. What did they get out of it? They gained a peer to discuss future hunting ideas and strategies. They gained access to my secret spots as I developed them. But more than anything, they gained respect and thought leadership in hunting as I introduce someone new to hunting. Now, doesn't that all sound like it would be a great mentor program in business. But how many folks do you know that just burnout prospects by drilling them for data and analysis while constantly being tested? How many actually grow the next great business leaders? How many are story based? Maybe it is time to consider how we are growing our future business leaders. Are we growing responsible and high functioning story tellers or are we growing drivers of long hours, late meetings, 24 hour emails, and mediocre business results?
All of this being said, if you have any further interest in the culture that connected me from business to hunting, please check out this suggested reading list. CLICK HERE