When I first got the inspiration to be an entrepreneur, one of the most daunting thought was do I even have the qualities to be one. Could I ever match up the many successful entrepreneurs let alone be anywhere close like them?
I mean, I am simply an outdoor educator and I talk, eat and sleep about it. The outdoors is my passion and I could not imagine turning it into a career what more generating profits from it.
I looked, searched, observed and googled around about being an entrepreneur until one day, someone told me to look within myself. That stunned me! Why should I even analyse myself when here I am trying to start off?
Nevertheless, I gave it a shot. I began to inspect the things I do. To be honest, I myself was stunned at the many ways how outdoor adventure relates to entrepreneurship. Here are 10 (out of the many):
Being in the outdoors, I have to constantly make decisions over an infinite number of issues. The common ones are: Will I be safe? Do I have sufficient food and water to last through my expedition? What are my emergency plans? Did I bring enough clothes and equipment? These questions get more important when I have my charges with me.
It is never an easy task making decisions. And I know that there is never THE best decision. But still, one gets into the habit of making decisions that will affect themselves or others around them.
As an entrepreneur, I never stop making decisions. Issues relating to product design, marketing and after sales follow up; they all require me to make a decision.
“There is no right or wrong decision. But what is wrong is not to make a decision.”
An outdoor activity, even the simplest one, exposes me to a degree of danger. Yes, one could say that risk is everywhere but it is especially significant in an outdoor activity.
Even after the necessary actions are taken to mitigate risk, I can never be certain that risk has been completely eliminated. The one definite way to get rid of risk is not to participate in an outdoor adventure activity in the first place.
For example, during a land expedition, even after making the best use of all navigational knowledge, one could still get stucked at a junction. Sometimes the best way out if really to choose one path and risk making the wrong decision.
“Only those who risk going too far can only find out how far they can go” – T.S. Elliot
Similarly as an entrepreneur, the spirit of risk taking is a pre-requisite. I have had (and still doing more) to venture out new business opportunities. There are success and failure stories. For the successful ones, I am glad I risked time, capital and energy and got some returns. For the failed ones, I am happy to learn what does not work. Those are lessons that I needed to experience for myself.
The nature to take risks does not equate to not having any form safety net. For example, rock climbing, a rope could typically carry loads at an excess of 12KN. That is about 15 times the weight of an average person. However, the activity still appears risky despite the large safety factor of the equipment.
This safety mindset teaches entrepreneurs to always have their backup plan, room for error. The wise words “Never place all your eggs inside one basket” definitely hold true for any outdoor adventurer who are preparing to be an entrepreneur!
After making a decision and risking getting lost, outdoor adventure requires (or teach) one to persevere and go the distance.
In expeditions, it might require one to paddle over some miles or trek over a few peaks before getting to their destination. Rock climbing requires participants to hang on the hand hold and continue their ascent. After making the tack, sailors will have to hold to the sheets and fight the waves.
An entrepreneur, similarly, needs to persevere. Sometimes, success could be months away. There were times when I simply wanted to give up and be employed again. But being an outdoor adventurer, it has been ingrained in me this never-say-die attitude. No one said it will this easy. But success only goes to those who hang on when other would have given up.
In order to last for a good number of years in outdoor adventure, I had to be smart and use my resources efficiently. These I learnt from the many mentors that I met along the way. (I’m still learning to refine my actions though)
In both kayaking and rock climbing, I used to be gung-ho and use the brute force to paddle and climb my way. As the years go by, I realised that I got worn out after every single expedition. Then I started to question how those senior instructors looked so steady on the water and wall.
I soon realise that I was using the wrong muscles and techniques all together. There were countless times when I had to relearn a lot of things. In almost all of the disciplines, I needed to use my core muscles to generate greater power. To last the distance, I needed to learn to breathe and pace myself instead of bursting my way through.
Now as an entrepreneur, I needed to learn to be efficient in using my resource. Time is the most valuable asset and as long as I am not efficient, I know that I am wasting time which I could use to do other things.
No man is an island. Even though I could perhaps brave myself to survive a journey alone, I know the expeditions could be made easier and meaningful when in a group.
I have sailed in a Laser alone but I know that the craft could now last the open sea. The risk is too great. Hence, to cover greater grounds, a larger craft is required. This means a group of sailors are required to tend to the boat.
In one of my posts, Sailing Teambuilding Programmes For Higher Profits, I shared how sailing could be used to develop better teamwork and how that could generate profitable returns for a company.
Similarly, I will be inviting trouble if I decide to trek through some forest alone. You’ll need a group of friends to go along. This simply meant that being an outdoor adventurer is also a natural team player.
Being in a team is great because one could focus their energy on their expertise and then rely on other’s specialities to make up for the areas that they are weak in.
As an entrepreneur, I had the choice to only be a solopreneur. But that means that there will be a lot of limitation to what I could do. I am currently joining forces with a group of entrepreneurs and I could safely vouch that the journey are now less painful and lonely being in a team.
In addition, being in teams in outdoor adventure promotes the development of Social Capital. Generalised reciprocity and trust developed in teams through outdoor adventure could result in better productivity.
When trekking through a forest or paddling the sea in a team, I get to feel the exact challenges that my peers experienced. When climbing a wall, sometimes I might only understand why another climber falls off the wall until I attempted the wall myself.
The beauty about outdoor adventure is that it requires the team to face the challenge together. It is seldom that the leader stays under the shelter taking command and control while their teammates face the elements.
By being in the same situation as the rest, outdoor adventure inculcates the ability to empathise with others.
Being in a team of entrepreneurs requires us to be empathetic of each other’s circumstances. I learnt that everyone have their own set of challenges. Although one may not be able to experience the exact situation faced by a fellow teammate, it is important for entrepreneurs to be able to empathise with a fellow business partner.
Being able to empathise others also requires one to recognise that a plan is only beautiful on paper. One could make the best expedition preparation and plan. A planned dawn paddle could be hampered by an early morning storm. A calm water the day before could turn into a choppy sea the next day.
As an outdoor adventurer, I learnt that I needed to be practical with my goals and actions. This could easily be mistaken for being slack in my planning. However, plans are made based on the best condition practically possible. Yet, one must leave enough room for things to go wrong.
Being an entrepreneur requires me to be practical in both setting goals and working towards them. I constantly needed to know my (and others’) limits. Why is that so? When one sets non-practical goals or expects superhuman effort by others, one will either not achieve their goals or their successes are temporary and unsustainable.
In my previous post, Developing Creativity Through Outdoor Adventure, I shared three example how creativity could be developed through team challenge activities, expeditions and even packing a backpack.
Being in the outdoors naturally squeezes the creative juice out of somebody. Such characteristics are inherent in an entrepreneur. There will be endless problems to solve; problems that cannot be solved using a standard operating procedure.
I had to be creative in my usage of the few resources I have to achieve maximum output using minimal effort. Check out my resources page for a list of them!
10.Connection With The Environment
Being in the outdoors requires one to be aware of their surroundings. I cannot simply start an activity without checking the weather and tidal conditions. I will tweak my plan accordingly if I know a storm or the third-hour tide is due.
Check out my article on “Outdoor adventure programmes: Simply out-of-doors or something grander?”
In my dissertation, I explored the topic of ecological literacy. Being in the outdoors is a great platform to learn about, create connections with the environment and subsequently take positive actions that preserve the environment. In other words, outdoor adventure instil the ability to be constantly connected with one’s surroundings.
Similarly, an entrepreneur needs to be in close contact with their chosen industry. This will allow them to be able to make the best action that matches with their clientele.
At a deeper level, being aware of THE environment ingrains in entrepreneurs to use only the required resources and avoid unnecessary wastage in the process of generating profits. One is also able to constantly take a bird’s eye view how his business is affecting others close and distant from him.
These are just 10 ways how outdoor adventure relates to entrepreneurship. Looking forward to sharing more in the near future.