7 Entrepreneurial Lessons Learned from my Otter Trail

Expanding your business adventures often includes expanding your own personal adventures.  Whether we want to admit it or not, being away from work is often better for work than being at work.  Sounds like a paradox, but bear with me.  Today is my first day back after an epic Otter Trail adventure and as usual, I have learned a lot of business lessons while having the time of my life! Or at least I have been reminded of a couple of key points.

1. Fresh Insight

Grinding it out day in and day out behind my computer does hold its own adventure, but as the saying goes ‘all work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy’.  I have definitely not turned into a boy, but I can vouch for the fresh insight that a week away from almost all technology and conveniences has brought to the table.  (There are a lot of new expansions and changes coming to addVentures and Expedition Business alike!)  And yes, getting out on the local trails on a weekly basis does help to bring some insight and creativity, but it is not nearly close to the fresh insight that my week on the Otter Trail has brought to the table. 

2. The Ups & Downs of Life

Otter Trail stairs

If you have been on the Otter Trail before, you would be familiar with the 7000+ stairs that sometimes feel like it might be 70,000.  Add a 14kg backpack to the equation and it does change the picture slightly.  Our daily business lives are specked with continuous ups and downs.  It does not take a genius to figure out that no one escapes this reality.  This is in fact the entire premise on which we have built our Expedition Business Podcast

No matter who you are, you are bound to hit a down on a continuous basis.  You are very lucky if you do not fall flat on your face at some point in time.  The big question is whether you would be able to get up and dust yourself off or just take the escape route. (From what I have heard, the escape routes on the Otter Trail are most of the time much more work than just sticking it out.)

Even with my much more extensive training than most people on our Otter team, I have had moments where I felt seriously tired and ready for a break. Sometimes a break is great, but there are times when you just have to fake it till you make it. If you are an entrepreneur, you will understand the fake-it-principle pretty well.

3. Teamwork makes the dream work.

You might think that a successful Otter Trail is only dependent on yourself.  As with your own entrepreneurial venture, it remains a team sport.  You can be as fit as a fiddle, but you might not be as great on the mapping of the trail.  Or you might run out of essential Deep Heat or a pain pill when the Otter Trail takes its toll on your body.  The reality is that everyone has different strengths, and it is crucial to know and understand each other’s strengths to have a successful Otter Trail experience and entrepreneurial adventure. 

I was in the fortunate position to have had my trail running friend and Strengths Coach Rentia Human with me all the way to remind me of this fact. It is perfectly OK to lean upon one another’s strengths as and when required.  No one is invincible and no one should stray away from the group for too long, or you might find yourself in very deep water.  And this deep water extends way further than the tides and crushes that the Bloukrans-crossing can bring.

4. Appreciate your surroundings.

Did I mention the 7,000 steps of the Otter Trail that sometimes feels like 70,000?  There is no better way to recoup your strength and energy than by stopping frequently to admire the scenery.  And yes, the Otter Trail provides you with ample amazing scenery to make a legit request to admire.  Even if it was only to catch a breath.

We are often in such a rush to get to our destination on our entrepreneurial adventures that we burn out and must opt for that dreaded escape route.  Burnout is real!  I experienced this firsthand when I tried to build my marketing communication agency, while also trying to be the best single mother of three very active children.  Luckily this is way back in the past, but I have the battle scars to show. 

Whether your quads are taking strain on the uphills or your knees start shaking on the downhills, you have to stop and smell the roses.  In the Otter Trails’ case, it is more about appreciating the vast array of Proteas, Erikas, never-ending ocean views, or even the minute Shongololos.

5. Adapt or Die

There is a lot to say about strategic planning and being focused on the plan, but sometimes the plan needs to be adapted or you might just die.  With the risk of sounding melodramatic, the risk of slipping to your death is pretty real on the Otter Trail.  And this is what could have happened if we had not taken our plan and thrown it in the campfire.

The crossing of the Bloukrans River is one event that has to be preplanned when you embark on your Otter Trail adventure.  Low tide plays a massive role in this planning.  We were the lucky recipients of a 06:30 low tide.  With six hours of hiking, before you get to Bloukrans, we planned to start walking around 12:00.  Hiking for 6 hours in pitch-dark surroundings is a long shot when you are on stable ground, but when the route includes serious climbing on treacherous terrain, hiking in the dark for six hours is definitely not a good idea.

Opting to cross Bloukrans two hours before low tide in the evening, meant we could safely navigate the extremely technical terrain. Yes, it meant that we had to do some swimming to get through Bloukrans, but it was much less of a risk than falling down a cliff.

There are a lot of unexpected events happening when navigating your entrepreneurial adventures. If you can’t adapt, you will most probably die. (Hopefully just figuratively.)

6. What seems like the end, might only be the beginning

We have planned our Otter Trail adventure for more than a year. Stepping on the beach at Natures Valley felt like it had all ended way too soon. Yes, we were tired and dirty and longing for the privilege of having hot water and a light switch to flick at leisure. The reality is that it does not have to be over. This end meant that we could start planning our next adventure.

In business, and specifically in an entrepreneurial venture we often reach what seems to be the end of the line. The magic lies in never giving up on exploring all the entrepreneurial adventures that could still be in our future. You’ll often find that there is something magical lying ahead in your future. The Joel Osteen quote in my diary on the day that our Otter Trail adventure finished gives the most amazing context: “Let today be a new beginning and the best that you can, and you’ll get to where God wants you to be.”

7. Stop Procrastinating in Your Comfort Zone

Procrastination is real. We often have Bucket List items that just stay on that stupid list. We find a million reasons why we don’t do the things that we want to do. It could be a case of timing, budget, so-called responsibilities, and the list goes on ad infinitum. If you want an excuse, you will find one.

“Resistance takes many forms, but fundamentally it is captured by “I don’t feel like it.” You may not feel like it because you’re telling yourself you’ll never succeed. You may not feel like it because it takes too much effort. You may not feel like it because you’re afraid of failing or have a deep sense of resentment. There are truly countless manifestations of resistance.” Timothy Pychyl has studied procrastination for 25 years and he believes that not getting to the bucket list is our way of avoiding the fears that we have.

My late entrepreneur father often reminded us that ‘if you dream in the one hand, and spit in the other hand, guess in what hand you will have something.’ You can have the most magical dreams as an entrepreneur, but if you do not get out of your comfort zone you will never achieve magic. This is true for our physical adventures, but most definitely for our entrepreneurial adventures.

The Moral of My Story

Get that bucket list of yours and start ticking it off one by one. You are not going to reach your personal and entrepreneurial goals if it remains a dream. Get away from your computer. Your personal adventures will certainly help you to achieve your entrepreneurial adventures.

It definitely does help to surround yourself with awesome friends who will inspire you to get to where you need to be. Out of your comfort zone!

addVentures Business Club is your circle of friends who can help you get out of your entrepreneurial rut. If you need inspiration for personal adventures Adventure Events is here to help you. We have a couple of adventures planned for the future and it would be an absolute privilege if you could join us.

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