Last month, a prominent American CEO of a $6 billion asset manager learned to track wild animals in the South African bush.
Patrick O’Shaughnessy, who heads the Connecticut-based firm OSAM, says it changed the way he views risk, and shared the experience with his 50,000 followers:
A bull elephant stared us down before deciding to push down a 70-year-old tree instead of mauling us, a nearby leopard’s saw-like growl kept us nervous, and I had to chase a hyena out of camp on my watch.— Patrick OShaughnessy (@patrick_oshag) July 31, 2018
We watched a pack of wild dogs sleeping, then stretching, then playing, then hunting for an hour (which terrorized the entire camp), then eating their kill in a matter of seconds with incredible intensity.— Patrick OShaughnessy (@patrick_oshag) July 31, 2018
When tracking, you sit in the morning darkness in silence and listen. You hear a roar, or a bird, or a call, and you choose what to pursue. You find one track, then more. You lose the track. To pick it back up, you have to guess and experiment.— Patrick OShaughnessy (@patrick_oshag) July 31, 2018
Watching and tracking these amazing creatures raised many questions. With no ubiquitous social eye watching and judging, what would I do differently? How much more would I rely on an inner compass vs. an outer one to make decisions and act?— Patrick OShaughnessy (@patrick_oshag) July 31, 2018
When you follow a playbook, when you mimic others, you are de-risking. You are handing off your risk to someone else.— Patrick OShaughnessy (@patrick_oshag) July 31, 2018
I get that we cannot help but look to others for answers. It is human nature. But when you own your own risk and figure things out for yourself, you commit to progress without a playbook, and great things start happening.— Patrick OShaughnessy (@patrick_oshag) July 31, 2018
O’Shaugnessy had been part of a “men’s retreat”, lead by the conservationist Boyd Varty.
Varty’s Track Your Life course costs up to $10,000 (R135,000) and promises to give participants “effective strategies for your life and livelihood” while enjoying “a community of like-minded men to support you on that journey”.
Participants spend five days tracking lions, leopards and rhino in the Londolozi game reserve – “the coolest place on earth”, according to O’Shaugnessy – near the Kruger National Park. They also get private coaching sessions from Varty during that time.
In promotional material for the course, it promises that participants “will return home from this retreat with a reawakened sense of your own wildness, taking with you the tools of a tracker”. This includes, using “your body’s signals as a compass to navigate the uncertain terrain of your life” and deciphering “increasingly subtle signals from yourself and from the environment, allowing you to make faster and finer course corrections along the way”, resulting in the ability to "create what you want in the world".
Bronwyn Varty, a director at Londolozi and Boyd’s sister, told Business Insider that the retreats have grown through word of mouth over the past three years, and are especially popular among US and UK executives. A number of South African CEOs and managing directors have also participated.
Women-only and mixed-gender courses are on offer as well.
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