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From the Hunting Blind to the Boardroom: Lessons That Hunting Taught Me

from the hunting blind to the boardroom - lessons hunting taught me

Often consumed by the newest social media platform or rapidly changing technologies, it’s easy to forget the lessons we can learn from the natural world and pastimes associated with it. Lessons which, if properly learned and respected, may help with the difficult task of adapting to a fast-paced and fluid society.

Whether it is watching birds with binoculars or hunting animals with weapons, hunting can teach you many valuable things. As one of mankind’s oldest traditions, it teaches lessons which aren’t just applicable to outdoor sports but can also relate to many different facets of life.  

For some, outdoor pursuits like hunting and fishing seem to be a world apart from the everyday trials and tribulations of the average office and, in many respects, that may be the case. However, there are those who know there are many philosophical ideas and practical ways in which business mirror hunting. The skills I’ve learned from one have inevitably helped me with the other.

I attribute some of the most important aspects of my success in the boardroom environment to lessons I learned through a passion for hunting.

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Accountability

Hunting is usually an individual sport, where you’re the only one calling the shots (pun intended!), so accountability is incredibly important. Blaming others for a failed hunt is not an option that is often available to the responsible key executives of a company. They’re accountable not only for individual decisions but also the rise and fall of the fortunes of their company.

hunter walking through woods

Not every decision you make will be the right one, so what truly matters is ensuring you take responsibility for the decisions you do make and resisting the urge to shift blame if and when they turn out to be wrong.   

Regardless of the measures you employ to ensure success, not 100% of hunts will be successful. A good percentage of the time you’ll come home empty-handed, with naught to show for endless hours of preparation and patience. That’s okay, too, because it’s often our disappointments which make the successes that much sweeter, making those moments when things turn out your way worth the wait.

When it’s not circumstance or fate which dictate our failure, and it’s a result of something we have or haven’t done, that’s okay, too. Sometimes you may lose a blood trail or spook the deer before you shoot; sometimes you simply miss. It’s not life ending, and it’s something you can learn from. So, too, with your business dealings—a missed deadline, failed meeting, or rejected proposal doesn’t have to mean the end of your efforts. It’s often a long road to success, but it’s always worth it.

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Tenacity

Most commonly referred to as the quality of possessing great determination, tenacity usually means having an indomitable strength of will and a tireless constancy of resolution. It’s a quality much admired in people and is, in fact, almost necessary for coping with life. It’s especially important when operating in a business environment. Since nothing worthwhile ever comes easily, it often requires great tenacity to obtain and maintain it.

When hunting, especially during the colder winter months, there are certain things you must deal with—things such as the biting cold, cramping muscle fatigue, and a whole host of other discomforts found when you force yourself to sit still for endless hours. As most hunters can attest, you suffer all these things and more while also being attacked by the elements.

Isn’t it great the reward for enduring these indignities is such that it makes all the effort seem worth it? Even with the reward factor in play, it requires a great deal of focus and tenacity to pull off a successful hunt; the physical discomforts, alone, are enough to dissuade many, let alone those who don’t have the mental determination necessary to endure all the rigors.

rewards of hunting quote

When you think about it, business isn’t all that different. Of course, the challenges you face aren’t quite the same and are known by other names, yet the path to overcoming (these apparently dissimilar) hardships is often the same.

In both cases, you need to have an immense mental fortitude and, in some cases, physical strength, to truly succeed in your endeavor. You need to pair your innate resilience of character with the necessary skills and experience to succeed in your undertakings. In doing so, you give yourself the very best chance of success, regardless of the task at hand.

The ability to truly strive for something you desire and the tenacious dedication required to keep it once you’ve acquired it is a precious commodity—a commodity shared by most of the successful people who have ever contributed anything of value or note to society.

Admittedly, it’s also shared by some who’ve never contributed anything at all but a wealth of frustrated ideals! Tenacity alone won’t guarantee success, but it’ll go a long way toward achieving it.

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Patience

Patience is that elusive quality we so desperately need but so few rarely have in abundance. It pertains to the capacity to accept or tolerate suffering, problems, or delay (without becoming unduly annoyed or anxious). Patience is one of those difficult to master, yet worthwhile lessons hunting can teach you. A master hunter must learn to develop an enduring stoicism and patient forbearance while engaged in the activities associated with the hunt.

people shaking hands in officeIt’s a quality of mind which is quite beneficial in the boardroom, too, not just out in the wilderness. Although you may be hunting an entirely different beast than one found out on the plains or deep in the forest, make no mistake: To be a truly exceptional businessman or woman requires no less preparation, patience, and cunning than a dedicated hunter.

In most cases, hunting down business is just as grueling, and the satisfaction is equally as thrilling. There’s most often a certain elation one feels at the completion of a hard day of hunting—a particular feeling of satisfaction that’s also present for the average business person when a deal or project comes to a successful conclusion.

The modern era in which we live finds us constantly searching for the quickest, easiest, and most efficient way to get what we want most. With hunting, you’ll find it’s a little different, as there are no quick fixes and everything that tends to happen occurs in incremental stages. Initially, you begin by picking up a weapon and taking your chances with target shooting; ultimately learning about your weapon, the factors affecting it (and you) during operation, and, hopefully, discovering your aim.

Although, on a hunt, as most people are quick to realize, catching or shooting something is the final stage—one you never get to unless you progress through the others.

First, you need to spend endless hours out in the woods learning; how to scout, which type of terrain draws which prey, how to set up a hunting blind, where to sit, and how to stay perfectly still. These are just a few of the preparatory steps you take before even thinking about taking aim.

hunting setup tips graphicIt’s a good rule of thumb to pay considerable attention to the world around you. Not just to take in the beauty of the natural setting in which you find yourself (invariably something worthwhile in itself) but because surroundings and other natural elements can often be a significant factor in the safety and success of your hunt.

Whether you are out in the woods, traipsing through the expanse of an open field, or wading somewhere midstream, you should have the right tools at hand. It’s imperative you know the landscape, the competition, and the risks associated with what you’re doing. There’s virtually no chance of a successful hunt if you simply walk into an unknown region, settle yourself in a random location, and simply start taking pot shots.

Everything requires not just the right clothes and tools for the job but careful preparation, planning, and a considerable level of patience—especially if you intend to go home with a trophy. It’s the patience part of the equation which typically proves to be the hardest!

It’s no less true for business. While you can’t negate the necessity for strong instincts and the role they play in many activities, you shouldn’t be willing to bet the farm on a hunch. Building a company from the ground up will require time, money, and other resources, including a choice of location which offers you the best vantage point available.

So, once again, you need to assess the terrain, make the right choices, and employ a considerable amount of patience while you wait for things to come to fruition. With some wise decision-making and a little luck, you will net yourself the trophy you most want.  Whether that is financial security, promotional prestige, or whatever it is your determined heart desires, patience is almost always required to achieve it.

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Strategy

Usually referred to as the art of planning and directing procedures, policies, or programs, strategy is a broad term covering a number of areas.

sheep on green hill

Hunting strategy refers to the specific methodology of locating, targeting, and killing a particular type of animal. A common hunting strategy known as flushing is the practice of scaring targets from the underbrush and other concealed areas out into the open, which makes them an easier mark for the hunter.

Another is driving a herd of animals into a specific direction to provide a narrower window for an optimal shot. Occasionally, this will mean driving them over a cliff or into a river where other participants will pick them off. In these instances, hunting is usually a group sport and requires a coordinated effort.

Most hunters find themselves outside during all seasons of the year and for many differing reasons. Some of which are predator control, provision of extra food, crop protection, or habitat management. In each of these cases, various strategies are employed to ensure the success of the relative task.

When speaking primarily of strategy in business, it refers to the direction and scope of an organization over the long term.

Regardless of whether that’s through controlling operational management practices or creating diverse marketing campaigns, the aim is always the same: You want a strategy which achieves the most advantageous gains for your organization, brought about through the configuration of resources, human and otherwise, to meet the needs of markets and to ensure fulfillment of stakeholder expectations.

people meeting around table“Hunting Elephants” only refers to wild game reserves if you’re in Africa; in most circles, it’s become an industry buzz term—a term used primarily to describe the strategy of going after companies with a large customer database to market goods or services to. It’s also commonly used to describe targeting big corporations which appear to be ripe for acquisition.

Being a successful boardroom power player means you must have fine-tuned business acumen, be financially astute, and be a good communicator who can articulate a vision. Most importantly, you must conceive and implement workable business strategies. It’s rare to find a successful business person who is only some and not all of these things put together.

Success certainly seems to favor those who know how to plan and prioritize. From something as simple as a To Do list to as complicated as a long-term business agenda, you must be keenly aware of the importance strategy plays!

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Discipline

Discipline is the practice of training yourself or others to obey rules or a code of behavior, exerting control through strict regulation.

Hunters require a considerable level of self-discipline to engage in hunting as a sport; most notably, the ability to sit virtually motionless for countless hours is a discipline that’s difficult to learn but is vitally important.

The need to train yourself to effortless ease when it comes to operating your chosen hunting weapon is also of great importance. It’s one of the essential elements you must learn to master. Everything from waking up insanely early on cold mornings to properly gutting and skinning a carcass are all things you will discipline yourself to do if you ever intend to make hunting a recreational pastime.

hunter placing knife into sheath

It requires more than just skill or instinct; it requires a single-minded determination of purpose to become a true professional at this sport; few people have the combination of both, which is what makes award winners.

Similarly, becoming a success in the business game requires that same dedication. Very few people become an overnight success. For most, it involves doing the initial research and dealing with an ongoing and seemingly endless parade of emails, proposals, and late nights.

Once you’ve established yourself, you have to maintain what you’ve built. Upkeep requires the tenacity of a hunter, the discipline of a Kung-Fu master, and the patience of a saint. That’s not even factoring in the eventual need for growth, which will further tax your inner resources.

Having said that, don’t be discouraged. Be persistent. When one project fails, have the audacity and confidence to propose another. Winners don’t let setbacks derail them; they learn and grow from them.

Final Thoughts

In hunting or in business, always remember: Stay calm during a crisis and let experience be your guide. Know when it’s best to lie low, when to leap into action, and when to get up and go home. Failure comes frequently to most people, yet it’s only those who recognize it and learn not to repeat it that find true success. Moving past your failures and continually striving to succeed is at the very heart of being successful. So, if you’ve missed your shot, don’t count yourself out; simply adjust your aim or switch the game and try for success one more time than the times you have failed.