On a trip to Africa I went hiking with my friend, Colin, on his ranch in Kenya. The trail varied between rock and brush. Colin’s dog, Uzuri, came with us, sometimes running ahead of us, sometimes following behind, but almost never on the trail. Well into the hike we encountered a section of trail infested with burrs. Soon Uzuri came up next to me. She was limping on three legs, obviously having picked up a burr.
I called the dog over and looked at her troubled paw. When Colin came up behind me, I asked him the best way to remove the burrs. He replied, “Oh, I don’t do that. I let her sort it out. Otherwise, I’ll spend all my time out here picking burrs off her.” I put her paw down and, sure enough, moments later she was running along next to us again on all fours, the burr gone and forgotten.
As we hiked, I thought about Colin’s words and actions. He lives in a country where self-reliance is a necessity, not a luxury. In a land as brutal and harsh as Africa, people and animals must be strong and learn to depend on themselves. Without independence no living thing lasts long in the African bush.
Principles That Work in the Bush Also Work in Business
This principle also applies in our world, the world of business. Sometimes when faced with a business challenge, we must figure it out on our own. If we come up with our own solutions, we grow stronger. Excessive reliance on others for our success merely weakens us. Soon even the simplest task becomes difficult. Challenges we once conquered with relish and ease become nearly impossible.
Goethe said, “That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” His words, while a bit overly dramatic, ring true for all entrepreneurs. You don’t usually die in business. You may suffer some injuries – to your pride, your reputation, your pocketbook or your dreams. But if you don’t learn to be independent, your dreams may die, and they’ll certainly always be in someone else’s hands, not your own.
My sympathy for Uzuri caused me to almost intervene to her detriment. If I had helped her, I would have had a friend for life. Instead, Colin encouraged me to let her be independent. The next time she picks up a burr, she’ll handle it like a pro. She won’t limp back to the main house looking for Colin or me.
Mentors Help You Become Your Own Burr Removing Expert
Mentors play a similar role for you. They will guide you and teach you how to remove your own burrs. But a mentor won’t protect you from every burr or help you every time you get one. They know that removing burrs for you keeps you from experimenting and learning the vital skill of independence. They appreciate the wisdom of the old saying: Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day – teach him to fish, and you feed him forever.
This doesn’t mean you should never ask for help in removing a burr. Some burrs are too big or too thorny to pull out by yourself. The successful person knows when to ask for help and when to “just do it!” They also know that the taste of victory is never so sweet as when it comes from your own efforts.
May you never have a dream you can’t attain or a burr too big to pick out. Got to go! I’ve got a big burr to remove!