On a recent speaking engagement in South Africa, my son Corey and I spent 3 nights at Lukimbi Safari Lodge in Kruger National Park. I was blown away and the “Life Lessons” seemed to pop up on every turn. I learned a lot from our Ranger (Andrew).
I thought I would capture the ideas I gathered from my trip to the “bush.” Here we go.
WHO FLUNG POO
Male Rhinos mark their territories by digging a boundary marker hole and depending what “mood” they are in, do different things with their drippings. If they are in a mating mood it will be flung aggressively around the outside of the hole.
Ironically, the females use that same hole to communicate with their suitors. If they too are in the “mood,” they might leave him a message by defecating in the middle of his mess. So many animals in the bush rely heavily on their olfactory senses.
Although this method of communicating is not recommended for humans, communicating to others when you are excessively tired is. When you stressed, why not make your mood known?
THE SWEET SMELL OF BUTTER
(Set your boundaries.)
After about 20 minutes of driving, our ranger Andrew, stopped the vehicle and asked, “What do you smell?” There definitely was a strong odor in the air. “Smells like butter,” I said. Sure enough everyone agreed.
He explained that male lions (along with many animals) marked out their territory to tell other animals of their species to stay out and others to stay in. Male lions did this with urine and theirs smelled like butter. That’s how Andrew knew we would soon spot a big cat. He was right.
The life lesson is that you need to have boundaries; places beyond which you will not allow people to enter. I’m not sure what that might be for you but I won’t let people belittle another in my presence; especially based on race or colour of skin. I won’t let others belittle me. I won’t accept mediocrity from my staff (luckily I have the best team on the planet!) I won’t let customers get away with telling lies. (I had one recently said our customer service sucked! I confronted her instantly reminding her that our staff had communicated with her on a regular basis trying to accommodate her every request including her request to suspend paying us because she was having health issues; which I gladly did, even though I had full legal and contractual right to go after her…. Ungratefulness really ticks me! I fired her as a customer.)
We came across this little snake on the road. What blew me away was that Andrew our ranger could spot that little thing from far away. He trained himself to spot things and particularly things that can harm. That’s a pretty self-evident lesson about being vigilant and keeping a good eye for approaching danger. This little guy wasn’t to dangerous – thank goodness.
(Help One Another.)
This was one of the more fascinating stops on the safari. We spotted a few majestic Giraffe eating away. Someone asked, how come they go from tree to tree even though there are still lots of leaves left. Andrew pulled a bunch of leaves off this one tree; the same species that the Giraffe were eating.
He gave us all a leaf and asked us to bite down several times. Within a few minutes we all had “cotton mouth”. That was the worst case of dry mouth I’ve ever had. He explained that active ingredient in the leaf that made our mouth go dry was tannin; the same ingredient in dry red wine.
Now here’s where it gets really cool. The reasons the Giraffes go from tree to tree is that as they eat, their mouths get dry and that’s not fun for humans nor Giraffes. But I’m not at the cool part yet.
He explained that scientists have proven that this species of tree can raise it’s tannin levels. When the leaves have more tannin, the drier it makes the mouth of the Giraffe. Here’s the cool part… the scientists found that when a Giraffe is eating leaves, the trees sends a pheromone (a scent) to the other trees in the area that its being eaten alive by this long necked yellow animal. Those trees subsequently all raise their tannin levels which irritates the said animal and it moves onto the next set of trees with lower tannin levels.
Can you spot the life lesson? The need to be in a group. Today at the Zurich Airport I saw a quote on a wall that said, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go long, go together.” In life you gotta have someone watch your back. You need the benefit of a spouse, friend, colleague, mentor etc., to warn you that something (or someone) is eating you alive. Raise the warning bells.
IS THAT A LEOPARD IN THAT TREE? AND IS HE COMING TOWARDS ME?
(Learn to Trust Others.)
On one afternoon ride (3:30 pm – 6:30 pm); we got a call on the radio that there was a leopard in a tree. We rushed over. It was getting dark and we gawked like tourists do. Now, it was starting to get dark fast and so we had to shine a light onto the curious cat.
Then all of a sudden, this thing jumped out of the tree and started towards our vehicle. There was a heart-stopping moment or two when a bush just in front of our Land Ranger hid it. I was sitting on the side closest to the animal – a fact that did not elude me. It was the only time on the safari that I panicked.
Andrew, the ranger, told us just to relax and listen to his instructions. Nothing happened – thank God. The lesson here though is to learn to trust others. They see things you don’t see. They know things (like the behaviours of wild animals) that you don’t. They know what to do in an emergency. They know where to find protection in a hurry (the rifle was mounted on the dashboard.)
THE IMPALA STASH
(Save For The Lean Season.)
It’s a little hard to see in the picture but there is a rare cheetah and to its right is a carcass of a lovely, albeit very dead Impala. How our Tracker Norman was able to spot that from a hundred yards away is beyond me. The hanging tail and leg gave it away.
This cat pulls its kill up and away from the scavengers who would want to take it from them (Hyenas, Vultures and even Lions – Yes, lions are not above simply stealing food from others.) There’s a lesson right there.
They can come back over several days and eat of it (even if it is totally rotten by then.) The issue is that they and we should save for the lean times that life will inevitably bring.
BIRDS AT YOUR FEET
(Kick Stuff Around, You Will Be Surprised By What You Find.)
This was another interesting fact from the bush. See the little white bird at the feet of the mighty Rhino’s? What they do is feed on the insects that are disturbed when the Rhino’s walk by. So they let the efforts of others provide all they need to eat. So don’t be afraid to shake things up, you’ll never know what opportunities, blessings and people you will find.
HIPPO’S CAN’T CLIMB ROCKS
(Find a Way To Protect Yourself.)
One afternoon we went for a walking excursion to see the mighty hippos. I was blown away and if I’m honest – a little scared. Andrew explained that they are responsible for more human deaths than anything in the bush. Once we got down to the Crocodile River, we could see a dozen or more hippos (not to mention an actual 10’ Croc on the other bank.) I was a little concerned because once they charge you’re pretty much done.
Andrew positioned us to sit and gawk, on a ridge of huge boulders. Apparently a Hippo couldn’t climb more than a foot or two, so we were safe. And under those conditions we were PERFECTLY safe. We could trust in the protection. The life lesson is to have such protection in your life, your company, your family, your bank account and TRUST IT.
(Guides in Life Are Vital.)
A guide in the bush of Africa is like a mentor in life or business. Because Norman has had so much experience, he’s able to see things that I can’t see. He knows what will likely happen next. He knows how to communicate to us what this is and what that is. He warns us. He calms us down. He has a very fine senses developed in the trench’s….
See the correlation with having a mentor in your life. Since I’ve been helped (and hurt) by mentors, I would not give my brain over to Norman. If he asked me to do something I didn’t understand or want to do, I wouldn’t hesitate to look for another Norman.
GO BLOW A TIRE
(Stuff Happens – Deal With It!)
So here’s what happened. One morning we were tracking a single male lion with little luck. But that buttery smell I wrote about earlier led us into a certain section of the park where we had to either go all the other way around, or we had to chance making our own way into the thick brush. Nothing ventured – nothing gained.
So we blew a tire. Big deal! Andrew and Norman worked like a pit crew at Nascar and we were back in a few short minutes. For me, the lesson here is that you win some and you lose some. I know a lot of people who will never lose big, they are so safe all of the time… but they won’t win big either. I say go for it, even though you might end up flat!
GUNS ARE GOOD
(Don’t Be Naïve, There Are Dangers In Life!)
One our walk over to see the Happy Hippos, we were asked to walk in single file with a guide in front and behind us. Each had a loaded rifle. I smiled. That fact comforted me. The rifles were for very powerful bullets that would have stopped a charging Hippo instantly in its tracks. No fooling around in life and death situations. If you are going to die, don’t mess around.
My father told me as much when I was a kid. “Don’t fight,” he’s say, “but if the other guy won’t stop and it looks inevitable, don’t mess around, plug as hard as you can right in the nose.” In life, sometimes you have to hit hard. I have no problem pulling out all of the stops if someone tries to hurt me. I’ll hire the biggest, meanest, ugliest and most expensive pit-bull lawyer around if I have to. I’m done with being a woos if the situation calls for it. Otherwise, I use a nice, boring, dull, sheepish- looking lawyer!
(Yes, There Are Vultures but You Can Spot If They Are There To Take Stuff From You!)
What was interesting about our little lesson about vultures is that you can see that this tree is barren, no healthy leaves, branches etc. When a vulture lands on this kind of tree as opposed to a lush, fully blossoming tree, it indicates that the Vulture is resting. If there was something around for him to scavenge, he wouldn’t be in this type of barren tree… this is for resting.
Learn to recognize the signs of when some “vulture” in your life is about to pounce. Also remember that Vultures are creatures of habits, just like the idiots who would want to snack on YOU.
THERE IS A DIFFERENT TIME TABLE IN THE BUSH
(Patience man, Patience)
A flock of some type of bird, I can’t remember now, was moseying on down the trail and weren’t the least bit worried about us folks in the jeep. Maybe the lesson is that we need to relax a little. Someone wiser than me say though “You shouldn’t SLOW DOWN, you should CALM DOWN and Speed Up.”
(Self Promotion Is Alive And Well In The Bush.)
Too bad I missed the shot. The picture I wanted to take was a few seconds after this one was snapped but I was so distracted by what I saw. So this huge bull saw us and looked right at us; as if to say “Whatayouwant?” Then he paused for a second, then snorted and flipped his big ears out making himself look huge. He let us know he was there.
Are you letting others you know you are here? If you want attention, you better know how to stand out.
So there you have it, Lessons From The Safari. If you can ever get to South Africa, safari around, it was awesome. Then write what you learned and share that with me. This was fun!
August 6, 2013