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What hunting and fishing have taught me about business

For many, hunting and fishing seem like polar opposites from the business workday. But are they really? Of course, you hope to harvest a reward at the end of the day in both situations, and in fact, my outdoor hobbies inform my business acumen in many practical and philosophical ways.

These activities teach, and sometimes force, me to slow down, focus, plan, strategise, learn from my failures, be persistent, be efficient, and make the best of any situation.

There’s a lot to extract from such simple hobbies, and after hunting and fishing for years, I’ve picked up five key lessons:

1. Pay Attention to Your Surroundings

Whether you’re in the forest, an open field, or the middle of a river, you have to bring the right tools. You also have to know the landscape, the competition, and the risks. The chances of a hunter walking into a field, settling at a random location, and bagging a meat animal to feed their family are slim to none. It takes careful planning and strategising.

The same can be said in business. Don’t plan on striking gold on a gut feeling. Building a company takes time, resources, and money, so you need to validate your idea and compose a business plan beforehand. Situate your company where you have the best vantage point. Once you’re in a choice location, don’t lose sight of your surroundings, you can’t seize an opportunity if you don’t see it coming.

2. Stay Disciplined and Tenacious

If you’re an archery hunter, you know how difficult it is to get one of those giants into your limited range. It takes discipline and tenacity to harvest one.

Similarly, you know you can’t build your company overnight. Do your research, and ensure there’s a need for your product or service. Once you know this, be persistent. When one prospective client turns you down, understand why, and grow from it. Successful entrepreneurs don’t let setbacks break them.

3. Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Remember your goals. Know when to lie low, when to take action, and when to get out. Staying calm in the midst of crisis can be the determining factor between success and failure.

Entrepreneurs, especially in the early days of a startup, cover a lot of ground, including marketing, sales, and customer service. But unless you slow down enough to keep an eye on the big picture, you risk making an error that could cost you the game. You have employees who will do the jobs you’ve assigned them, just like the team and tools you take hunting with you, so make sure you’re concentrating on the big picture.

4. Recognise the Chances of Success

Failure comes frequently, but only those who recognise it and learn from it find success. If a fisherman isn’t getting any strikes, things will stay that way unless he changes something. It could be the fly, cast, location, or the weather, and understanding which one it is only comes with practice and knowledge. Learn from every mistake. If you miss your shot, adjust your aim, and try again.

5. Be Tough

If you’re hunting anywhere in the South Island during the winter months, there are many things you’ll need to be ready to deal with, such as the bitter cold, the muscle fatigue, and the discomfort of sitting still for hours on end with the elements attacking you.

Business isn’t any different. Sure, you may feel it in different ways, and the challenges have different names, but you’ll have to be mentally and, in some ways, physically tough to succeed.

Anyone who’s been alone on the upper reaches of the Waipaoa River on a calm winter night with the southern cross dancing overhead can truly appreciate beauty, but there are many more lessons the wilderness can teach you, especially about strategy, discipline, tenacity, and patience. I work better with my colleagues because of my experiences in nature. After all, when a tree is blocking your line of sight on a hunting trip, you learn to work around it, you find the clean shot and take it!

In the solitude of nature, you learn to rely on yourself to slow down and look before you leap. Putting the rest of your life on hold for a while to get a breath of fresh air may be just what you need. Time off refreshes the mind and body, which ensures that you can revitalise your creativity and perspective and ultimately be an inspirational leader!

Marcus Wild is head of marketing at  Yellow New Zealand.
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