I am not big on TV, but when I just need to unwind without a cocktail, I will turn on the tube to see what’s on. My mindless go-to is “Law and Order,” but finding no episodes, I fumbled around the dial and found Discovery Channel’s show, “Naked and Afraid.” I had seen a couple of promos and dismissed it as “Survivor” without clothes, all about getting eyeballs. But after sitting there and watching three back-to-back episodes, I realized how wrong I was.
The premise of “Naked and Afraid” is that two strangers with survival skills, a man and a woman, are dropped off at a desolate and dangerous area without clothing. They bring one tool and a sling purse. Period. The goal: to survive for 21 days.
Aside from the occasional butt shot, the nakedness gets fuzzed out for the TV. But the lack of clothing adds whole new dimension of seriousness to the challenge. What would you do if 13 miles of desert separated you from water, and you have no shoes? If you’ve ever tried to walk to your car after a pedicure wearing the flimsy little flip flops they give you, you would know how useless palm fronds are for making sandals.
Unlike “Survivor,” there is no million-dollar prize for the last person standing. The goal is to survive together. Although participants receive a stipend, most of them are motivated to test their skills and gain survival experience.
What I found fascinating was how two strangers handled this high-stress, 21-day ordeal. They have just met, each wearing nothing, and have to get to know each other. They have only a roughly drawn map of their new surroundings. They need to make a safe shelter, find water and start a fire out of nothing. Just as important, they need to plan, communicate and to get along when life turns really rough.
Funny how those soft skills are the same needed by a business to survive beyond the first year and continue to thrive for the long term.
Let’s take a look at what we can learn from “Naked and Afraid.”
Grasping the Environment
To succeed, you must identify a niche—a target market—and your ideal client. Unfortunately, not everyone sees the need or takes the time for this important step. Instead they try to appeal to everyone, and instead appeal to no one. Not taking the time to get to know your market is akin to being dropped into a jungle location without exploring. How else can you understand exactly what is needed to survive and thrive?
Communicating to Thrive
One big factor in “Naked and Afraid” is communicating when the going gets rough. How do you deal with stressful situations with clients, partners or employees? What do you do when you feel out of control with a project? I have seen business owners not communicate with their clients for weeks, which is actually the worst thing you can do. Most of the battle involves two tools: the willingness to have hard conversations and the trust that there is a way to work things out. It is always better to let people know what is going on and make a new plan than to leave everyone in mystery as to what is going on. In business or the jungle, assumptions about a problem are best checked out and cleared up as soon as issues arise.
Making a Plan and Seeing it Through
Business owners who are high energy but random in their business activities and goals are not likely to succeed. The keys to a thriving business are 1.) Making a plan, and 2.) Giving the resources needed to complete it successfully—before going on to something else. The corollary in the wild would be when the team starts on the shelter, starts to build a fire, and looks around for food—without completing any of these activities properly. Sometimes priorities have to shift, just don’t lose sight of completing the basic tasks well before adding others.
Getting Started on a Small Scale
I have seen a lot of people do a lot of thinking, reading and buying expensive programs that offer a step-by-step plan for instant success. Book learning can only take you so far. You have to put the knowledge to the test by taking action. This holds true whether the skill is how to make fire with a woven reed and a bow, or how to write blog posts and send them out to a newsletter to grow your business. Either way, there are no shortcuts to success. Don’t pay for a subscription to HubSpot or LeadPages, programs that help automate tasks such as blogging, social media and lead conversion, before you have started doing these activities manually on a small scale to get the moves down. Get the basics in place then build on your success.
Working Smarter Not Harder
I know people who spend hours each week running around going to networking events or who talk about doing “social media” when what they actually do is post cute animal memes to their personal Facebook profiles. They feel productive because they are scheduled up but often this type of busy work is done to manage anxiety, because running around is easier than sitting down and getting something important accomplished. (See Ability to Make a Plan, above.)
There was a great example of this behavior on a special extended version of “Naked and Afraid” in which 12 teams of three had to survive in the wilds of Colombia for 40 days. Two women with a great deal of survival experience teamed with a man who was a less experienced—an “I can power through anything” type of guy. From get-go, you could see that he felt a lot of ingrained cultural pressure to take care of the women on his team and this compelled him into a take charge mode before taking time to scope out the environment or—most important—to get to know his teammates and agree to a plan.
Instead of helping, his random actions and lack of planning and communication held them back. This guy was so anxious to perform well that he felt he had to be busy doing something all of the time even if it was not effective. The more experienced women knew it was easier to hunt for food in the early and later parts of the day, so they wanted to rest to conserve their energy during the hot parts of the day. They tried to educate him, but he judged them as lazy and continued running around in circles chopping wood and throwing spears. Because he was so active with so little food and water, he became agitated, paranoid and disorganized—to the point of separating himself from his “lazy” teammates who were actually faring quite well. His strategy caused him to become ill and have to be taken out early.
I wonder how I would do under these conditions. What about you? Do you recognize any of these problems as they relate to your business? I’d love to hear what you think.