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2011-03-09 22:44:56

Surviving Your Serengeti

We’re all starkly aware of the brutal environment in which we’re operating today. Companies are shrinking, cutting jobs in an attempt to save costs; employees are working harder for less, and a staggering 14.5 million people are still unemployed. According to author and Africa-native Stefan Swanepoel, surviving these tough times requires relying on our innate skills, and he urges workers to develop those natural talents while also surrounding themselves with people whose skills complement their own. In his new book, SURVIVING YOUR SERENGETI: 7 Skills to Master Business and Life(Wiley; hardcover; March 1, 2011),  Swanepoel brings together his first hand knowledge of life in the Serengeti plains of East Africa and the world of business, drawing parallels that bring insight for those struggling in today’s difficult economy.

In this business fable, Swanepoel offers a riveting tale of life in the Serengeti and what lessons it holds for today’s beleaguered workforce. The book follows the story of corporate executive Sean Spencer as he embarks on a three day visit to Africa. Without cell phone coverage or any other form of technology to keep him wired in, Sean is forced to disconnect from the worries of his troubled business thousands of miles away, and instead, he becomes engrossed in the animals that rule this untamed land and the wisdom the Serengeti has to offer.

For 1.5 million wildebeest of Africa, their Serengeti is a 1,000 mile-long migration, filled with hunger, thirst, predators and exhaustion. The journey is impressive, dangerous and so incomparably massive that it is often considered the number one natural wonder of the world. The migration offers us a unique window to the very essence of life itself, wherein we observe the seven primal skills necessary to survive the grueling migration – the same skills we instinctively turn to in order cope with and survive challenges in business and in life. Swanepoel outlines these skills as exemplified by the animals that make this journey: the strategic lion, enterprising crocodile, efficient cheetah, enduring wildebeest, risk-taking mongoose, communicating elephant and graceful giraffe.

  • Strategic Lion – For the lion, it’s all or nothing. If their strategy fails, they go hungry. For people whose primary skill is strategy, it’s all about organizing their thoughts, ideas, experiences, skills, expertise and expectations to accomplish the desired goal. Strategy is not just about the end; rather, it is the means to that end.


  • Enterprising Crocodile – Like the crocodile, enterprising people possess the energy, creativity and ambition required to see the possibilities in the future that others cannot. The enterprising individual is passionate about work, learns from mistakes, understands their personal weaknesses as well as their innate strengths, recognizes opportunity and makes strategic decisions with limited data.


  • Efficient Cheetah –The cheetah is the sort who finishes the job in the shortest possible time with the least amount of wasted resources. The ability to overcome interruptions, distractions, mistakes and mental and physical fatigue is key, along with the ability to focus on being effective and producing the desired results.


  • Enduring Wildebeest – Endurance, in its simplest form, is our ability to apply ourselves for relatively long periods of time. This quality keeps our mind going when our body wants to quit and gives us the mental capacity to continue moving forward, despite the obstacles, hardships, pain or fatigue in our path.


  • Risk-taking Mongoose – Risk-takers, like the mongoose, evaluate all the options on the chance they are taking before making a decision. They frequently review goals and determine the various routes to get to the destination. Often, they choose the path with the highest risk in order to gain the maximum reward.


  • Communicating Elephant – Successful relationships – in both business and in life – depend on good communication. Effective communicators understand that it’s not always best to use a lot of words when relaying an idea. In fact, the more words we use, the more our message can be obscured. Skilled communicators understand how critical both verbal and nonverbal exchanges are.


  • Graceful Giraffe – Graceful individuals develop interdependent relationships that are fostered through patience, self-discipline, dignity, honor and respect. They accomplish this by recognizing others’ strengths and weaknesses and attempting to build them up. Grace is a disposition that requires compassion toward others and the desire to extend good will. Grace represents style, finesse, kindness, professionalism and above all, doing the right thing.


While the challenges faced by those that live and die on the Serengeti plains are certainly in a different realm than ours,” writes Swanepoel, “the seven skills that the animals use to overcome their harsh conditions can help us rise above our own adversities and live a better life.”

SURVIVING YOUR SERENGETI provides an accurate metaphor of the challenges we are all collectively facing. Further, it reveals the primordial skills for surviving and ultimately triumphing over all challenging conditions.


SURVIVING YOUR SERENGETI: 7 Skills to Master Business and Life
by Stefan Swanepoel
Publisher: Wiley

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