I like survival shows. The minimalism and realism speak to me. The experiences of the survivalists also remind me of entrepreneurship.
Survivalists and entrepreneurs have a lot in common…
1. Constraints: Survivalists and entrepreneurs deal with finite resources, especially initially. Each has to figure out how to stretch a little into a lot or at least more than is originally thought. The resources are different for survivalists and entrepreneurs, but maximizing what each has is common to both. Survivalists and entrepreneurs suffer the consequences of wasting the limited resources they have. Run out of firewood or food, and it’s over for a survivalist. Run out of cash and runway, and it’s over for an entrepreneur.
2. Living on the edge: Survivalists and entrepreneurs are constantly balancing on the precipice of disaster. Both have to get comfortable being uncomfortable – and uncomfortable beyond anything they likely imagined and expected. Each will have moments they question whether they will make it. Near-death experiences, literally for a survivalist and figuratively for an entrepreneur, are part of the existence
3. Best laid plans: Nothing goes as expected for someone trying to survive off the land or for an entrepreneur. Adaptation and problem-solving are essential to both. In my book, The Founders Manual, I write about founders being flexibly convicted. Founders must have conviction around what they are doing and why, but be flexible with how. Survivalists have to have the same approach.
4. Tools: If the survivalist can’t find or grow enough food, well, we know the outcome. The same is true for entrepreneurs, just less directly but with the same eventual outcome. Entrepreneurs who can’t figure out to acquire customers to generate revenue or convince investors to provide funding will end up at the same place as survivalists who can’t source food. Storytelling, decks, and demos are the tools of entrepreneurs to keep from starving, just as survivalists have bows, arrows, traps, guns, axes, and shovels. The tools are different, but how to use them to provide and sustain is similar.
5. Self-awareness: Effective survivalists and entrepreneurs have to be self-aware. They have to know their strengths and weaknesses to minimize their weaknesses and play to their strengths. They have to understand what makes them tick, why they make the decisions they do, and why they react to situations the way they do. Survivalists and entrepreneurs can’t expect to manage their challenging circumstances if they can’t first manage themselves.
6. Relish in the journey: A survivalist or an entrepreneur is less about a destination than the journey. Both understand that there is no finish line, and they learn to embrace the process. The process, work, and grind become their ally, not their enemy. They realize the work they do today will eventually make for a better tomorrow, even if they can’t always reap the rewards tomorrow.
7. Freedom: Survivalists and entrepreneurs both seek freedom. Freedom of time and autonomy. To chart their course and to live with the consequences. Charting their course and its independence brings each tremendous personal satisfaction.
8. Risk: Starting a company and surviving are risky endeavors. Being a founder might not have the same physical consequences as being a survivalist, but the risks are the same in many other aspects. Risk of personal embarrassment if it doesn’t work. The financial risk of your own and maybe others. Time risk that if it ends up not working, has it all been worth it? But survivalists and entrepreneurs don’t take unnecessary risks as many might believe. They assess and mitigate risks whenever they can. They don’t foolishly risk more than have to to get to the next milestone. Their endeavor is fraught with enough potential harm that they are mindful not to add to it unduly.
9. Execution: The idea of surviving off the land or starting a company isn’t new, and many more people will do both. But what separates those who try from those who do is execution. The best survivalists and entrepreneurs know what needs to be done, prioritize ruthlessly, and operate with discipline. The secret to surviving or succeeding isn’t a secret at all. It is the daily commitment to do what needs to be done, irrespective of the feelings about it. Survivalists and entrepreneurs have many aspects of their journey they don’t like, but they do those things anyway. Discipline trumps everything, and it is never more true than with survivalists and entrepreneurs.
10. Why: The why for survivalists and entrepreneurs would initially appear vastly different, but I don’t think they are. They both want to prove that they can overcome the odds to survive and succeed. To survive and succeed in different endeavors and ways but to endure, adapt and overcome the obstacles in their path. Both have to survive before they can thrive. Entrepreneurs have to survive and thrive from a commercial/professional perspective, while survivalists have to for their existence, the gap between the two views is small.
There are some differences between survivalists and entrepreneurs that are worth pointing out. They include:
1. Validation: Survivalists don’t need and don’t pursue validation of what they are doing and their lifestyle. Not needing validation from others is one of the primary reasons they become a survivalist. They need only their validation. Entrepreneurs need validation from others. They need customers, team members, investors, partners, and more to believe in what they are doing and why.
2. Community: Building on the above point, entrepreneurs can’t do it alone. They need others for their company to be commercially viable. Whereas a survivalist only needs themselves. Survivalists can be soloists, while even the smallest businesses require a community of people.
3. End game: The end game for survivalists is to survive. The better they execute, the further away from merely surviving they get, but there is no end game beyond surviving. Entrepreneurs may have several end games for themselves and their companies. They may run it until they don’t want to anymore or the company no longer is viable; they could sell it, go public, or own it but not be involved in the day-to-day operations.
Survivalists and entrepreneurs having more in common than not shouldn’t be that surprising. Entrepreneurship is problem-solving and overcoming obstacles from a commercial perspective, just as surviving from a practical standpoint is for survivalists. People who become entrepreneurs probably wouldn’t think of themselves in a similar category as outdoor survivalists until they have some time doing it, and then they get it.
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