From the bushveld to business
Everyone thought I was crazy. “How can you walk away from your two University degrees and a stable profession in Architecture?!” It was easy. Actually let’s rather say it was simple: I was following my dream.
I was like most middle-class kids growing up in Cape Town: spoilt for choice when it comes to Nature. So I never really chose it at all.
Cut me some slack though; I hadn’t exactly grown up with it: my parents’ idea of a bush family holiday was the Beacon Island Hotel in Plett! And my childhood penchant for the outdoors had been stifled.
In fairness, probably with good reason, especially after the egg sac of a Black Widow spider I was ‘raising’ released about five thousand live baby Black Widows – in my mother’s kitchen cupboard!
But aside from several similar ‘projects’ like that that I initiated in my formative years, my first real exposure to the bush was during my post-graduate degree at UCT. A Joburg ‘expat’ (that’s what we condescendingly called those ‘immigrants’ brave enough to cross the Boerewors Curtain and the Vaal River to come and study in the Fair Cape) friend with whom I’d started doing a lot of hiking, invited me to join him on a trip to camp wild in his childhood stomping ground: Botswana.
That was the end. Actually the beginning. The bush bug had bitten. And I was smitten
Three years later, as a (Cape Town-based) corporate leadership trainer and performance facilitator (so ‘stable’ was the profession of architecture that I’d already migrated into another field of work…!), I was pining so badly to be in the bush that it felt like I really didn’t have a choice. My passion was overwhelming. I had to follow it.
I literally opened the Yellow Pages (‘Google’ wasn’t a verb in those days!), looked up “private game reserve” and after an interview and then rigorous training and selection process, got lucky enough to be offered a job as a game ranger-guide at Sabi Sabi in the Greater Kruger National Park. The rest is, as they say, history. I never looked back.
For almost seven incredible years I guided predominantly overseas guests on safari, for about eight hours every day, for probably 320 days a year, in arguably one of the most phenomenal places on the continent to view Africa’s big game. With the ability to track and follow the animals off-road and even into the darkness of night, the opportunities and sightings over those years, in particular of the large carnivores, were mind-blowing.
I’d become fascinated by the behaviour in particular of the super-predators, that I realised have a million-year old proven track record of success in what I’ve always called the oldest, most successful marketplace: Nature
Despite the inevitable progression up the ‘ranks’ from ranger to Head Ranger to Training Officer to eventually Lodge Manager, I never stopped guiding and being in the field. I’d become fascinated by the behaviour in particular of the super-predators, that I realised have a million-year old proven track record of success in what I’ve always called the oldest, most successful marketplace: Nature.
And so I decided to really study the predators, in particular the three Big Cats: lion, leopard and cheetah
The research project I started back then on the big cats in the area, still continues today to yield amazing, usable data that enhances the guests’ guided safari experience. I had no idea then, that those experiences and that knowledge I’d accumulated would be the basis on which I would ultimately be addressing employees and executives of US corporate giants such as NASA, AT&T and Sony Music, on achieving success and excellence.
And then the penny dropped
Having walked the corporate hallways, I saw so clearly how much there was to learn about success and winning from how animals in the wild have been surviving massive change, competition and challenges for millennia.
I’d already been loving photographing wildlife for several years, and had started to have quite a bit of luck in international wildlife photo competitions.
So I started to write. When I left the Sabi Sand in 1996 to go and live in the US with my Canadian wife, I had a library of photos and a manuscript for my book, and for my Bushveld Lessons talk and seminars that for the seven years we lived in Denver, Colorado, became very popular around North America with organisations, athletes and teams striving for high performance.
Then I again did the unthinkable: I left my successful Bushveld Lessons business and the ‘panacea’ of living in The Great U.S. of A., to return to South Africa to be closer to the bush and the people.
I had no idea if/how I was going to make a living (which was rather important, especially since our first child had been born and I was getting a real understanding of just how expensive nappies are!)… But again I felt like I had no choice: I just kept looking forward, stayed focused on my mission, didn’t wait around for life to happen to me, was fortunate to collaborate with some incredible people and teams, and created opportunities.
Now I absolutely love helping organisations pursuing excellence by sharing my passion, my experiences, my photos and my message in my keynote presentation on the powerful success lessons from Africa’s 3 big cats.
I’m excited to be able to give through my Thriving in a Wild World presentation a refreshing, exciting and potent lens through which people can view, change and better their everyday life in their work and in their personal worlds.
I’m excited to be able to give through my Thriving in a Wild World presentation a refreshing, exciting and potent lens through which people can view, change and better their everyday life in their work and in their personal worlds
I still guide regular safaris in the great reserves and national parks all over Southern and East Africa, and once a year a photographic safari to see the Great Migration in Tanzania. For more than two decades now, I’ve had the privilege of watching and photographing Africa’s great beasts, and the learning never stops.
Here are a few of the age-old, powerful success lessons from Africa’s 3 Big Cats I share with organisations, athletes and teams in my Thriving in a Wild World presentation, that I hope help you to also achieve your dreams and thrive in our wild, changing, challenging world:
Some success lessons from Africa’s 3 Big Cats:
In the ruthless marketplace of Nature, it doesn’t matter where you are on the food chain, even for the predators, it’s fiercely competitive: it truly is “eat or be eaten”. And that’s why for these hunters, everything necessarily has to be about getting RESULTS.
One way to continually get results and survive competition is to do what no-one else is doing; to occupy a NICHE in that marketplace that’s unique, distinct. Each of Africa’s three big cats –lion, leopard and cheetah- has a distinct physiology, appearance, behaviour pattern, hunting style, habitat and prey preference. What can we learn from them?
Lion – SYNERGY
At the top of the ‘pecking order’ is the lion, the only truly social of the big cats. Lions collaborate to form teams we call a ‘pride’ which allows them to synergise their efforts to be able to hunt the massive herbivores -wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, buffalo and in some cases even elephant- that the other cats can’t hunt. This way they can get results that the other felines can’t. Their collaboration and synergy also allows them to defend a much larger or more prime territory, which in turn gives them access to prime habitat and resources.
Relationships between team members are key. Lions are constantly reinforcing the strong social bonds between the pride members and male coalitions, with greeting rituals, play, and exercising the stalking, movements and muscles used during the hunt. Every member of the team is extremely powerful, committed and hungry. Every member of the team takes ownership and performs – there are no passengers holding the rest of the team back.
Do you continually work on key relationships? Are you collaborating to create synergy?
Leopard – ADAPTABILITY
The leopard is a solitary hunter; versatile in almost any circumstances and habitats, but most comfortable anywhere where there’s cover. Because its hunt is typically a mindful, patient, focused stalk to within metres of its prey, followed by a lightning fast chase over a short distance, its energy expenditure during the hunt is relatively small, and it can afford to be highly opportunistic, feeding on a huge variety of prey. This and the leopard’s incredible focus, enables it to survive not just the competition over a specific prey species, but changing circumstances and climactic conditions.
Pound for pound, the leopard is the strongest of the 3 cats for its biomass and in areas where it’s at risk of losing its kills to larger predators, it can hoist prey three times its own body weight into a tree for strategic protection, where it will feed at its leisure sometimes over up to 48 or even 72 hours.
Do you approach your goals mindfully and with focus? Can you adapt when things change?
Cheetah – EFFICIENCY
Because the cheetah is built for speed not strength, it is right at the bottom of the totem pole of the large carnivores and is constantly at risk of losing its kills and its cubs to the larger carnivores. So it avoids competition by hunting typically on wide open areas where it can run down its prey, and during the day –sometimes even in the heat of the day- when its competition is sleeping. It also specialises, hunting mostly medium to small gazelles.
With incredible speed, but limited stamina, the cheetah has to be very careful and strategic in terms of opportunity selection and energy expenditure, and has to make its efforts really count. As a result, the cheetah has the highest ‘conversion rate’ of Africa’s three big cats: about 80% of cheetah’s attempts result in successful kills. Mom proactively creates low risk opportunities for the cubs to learn how to hunt, and through this enabling and empowering leadership, the species continues to survive in spite of the odds and massive competition.
Are you making your time really count? Are you creating opportunities?
Do you want to get your staff excited and motivated to achieve growth, exceptional teamwork and results in the face of challenges, change and competition? Contact Lorne at [email protected]
Lorne Sulcas is a performance partner and international motivational and business speaker. He speaks at conferences and events around the globe on Thriving in a Wild World™: Game-changing success lessons from Africa’s 3 Great Cats of sustaining growth, results, leadership and extraordinary teamwork in the face of massive challenges, change and competition.
“I was blown away by Lorne when I saw him speak. He has humour, real stories and a superb message in his presentation. His knowledge and how he shares this is amazing… I am thankful to him for the chance I had to hear him talk. Lorne is unique and I really feel he would please any audience. At the event I saw him at his was and still is one of the most talked about presentations.” – MATTHEW NEWNHAM – BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER, ASTRAIA TECHNOLOGY, SOUTH AFRICA
“Your presentation was brilliant, Lorne. In my job, I hear a lot from motivational speakers and much of it is a rehash of other presentations or literature. This was different…… Pure, base animal behaviours captured through tireless detailed observation and then expertly translated into the world of human beings in the workplace. An intellectual triumph.” – MARK SUDDABY – GROCERY DIRECTOR, TESCO STORES, UNITED KINGDOM
“Lorne, I want to personally thank you … The crucial lessons you shared in your presentations added real value to our IPM conferences, Excellence Mindset and out of the box thinking… brilliantly relevant to our world. Your delivery is professional, entertaining and inspiring – every time… absolutely outstanding. Whenever I talk to IPM delegates, ‘that wildlife guy who talked about the lessons from the animals’ is one thing they all really remember and still talk about.”
– DALE CROSSMAN. ED.D, IPM PROGRAMS, NASA, U.S.A.
“Thank you for the opportunity to listen and learn from Lorne’s exciting and astonishing life experiences. His presentation really resonated with me. I loved that he could adapt his talk to meet our current business’ needs and give us the shake up we needed. I’d really recommend his presentation. He is such an inspiring individual.” – MARCELLE MAGGOT – HR MANAGER, ASSOCIATED MEDIA, SOUTH AFRICA