I have recently discovered that I am a mongoose. Actually, I am finding I rather like being a mongoose. No need to send in the men in white coats, this is not a delusion, but rather a revelation.
For those of you who have been living under a rock, Stefan Swanepoel, prognosticator extraordinaire, has just released a book entitled "Surviving Your Serengeti". Written as an engrossing adventure tale, his book explores the survival skills employed by the wild creatures of the Serengeti, then develops them as metaphors for skill sets necessary for survival in the business world. In celebration of this achievement, each of us was encouraged to discover our own instinctive survival styles by taking the quiz What Animal Am I? (Try it, it's fun!) This is how I began to channel my inner mongoose.
The mongoose is the designated risk taker. But don't assume that you'll find him in the casino plopping his life's savings on a spin of the roulette wheel. The risks he takes are carefully chosen and thoughtfully analyzed in detail. Only then does the mongoose move ahead, aware of the possibility for failure but not paralyzed by that awareness. Here are two of the characteristics attributed by Swanepoel to the mongoose:
- Viewing the change that immobilizes others as simply another hurdle to overcome. Risk-takers don't see how things are, but how they could be. They are willing to do whatever is necessary to achieve the desired goal.
- A readiness to break free from social and emotional boundaries, opinions, beliefs and restrictions imposed by business and society. Unaffected by the opinions of others, they freely and openly express their ideas.
As I read these and the other characteristics of the mongoose, I found myself bonding with this unique creature and its talents. I reflected back on the opening of my Reno, Nevada brokerage in 2008. It felt a bit like swimming upstream. Locally, brokerages were either downsizing or closing and agents were leaving the profession in droves. In fact, the day I was at the Nevada Real Estate Division completing my paperwork, a fellow broker was there frantically trying to salvage a home for his agents after the owner of his company had unexpectedly declared bankruptcy and folded. It was a scary time, but I was excited by the opportunity. I reasoned that the competition would be less, giving me a chance to obtain a foothold in my niche. The key, I felt, was to keep my company small, nimble, and unencumbered by the huge overhead of the traditional bricks-and-mortar brokerages. We would be mobile, paperless, and officeless to the extent permitted by law. Partners (all three of my agents are partners) would be carefully chosen both for their "fit" with the concept and to satisfy a need. The company would be run for us: to minimize expenses, and to maximize both our incomes and our lifestyle. I am happy to report that we are not only surviving but thriving.
Perhaps the most important lesson I have taken away from this exercise is that reveling in my mongoose-hood is not enough. Presumably, these are strengths I already have. Certainly I need to recognize them in my makeup, appreciate them, and capitalize on them to make the most of the hand I was dealt. But now it is time to learn about the strengths of the other creatures, the ones that don't come naturally to me. It will take a conscious effort to incorporate those skills into my business model, but the reward will be a better balance, a ship with sails precisely trimmed to weather whatever storms may lie ahead. I can hardly wait to read the rest of the story!
Photo credits: Mongoose from TKnoxB, The Cobra and the Mongoose from liberalmind1012, and both Mongeese and single Mongoose from Thumbling; all from Flickr via Creative Commons License.