Summer Reading Lessons

In my work, I usually spend a fair amount of time on planes and reading is one of the things I most enjoy to pass the time. I equally love reading for personal and business growth as well as for the sheer pleasure of a great, all-engrossing novel. And summertime seems to beckon me to read even more.

Today, I’m remembering one book in particular that I really enjoyed: Part of the Pride: My Life Among the Big Cats of Africa by Kevin Richardson (for obvious reasons!) You may not know his name, but you would likely recognize his enchanted face from a YouTube video which went viral a couple of years ago showing Richardson’s instinctive and hands-on work with lions and other big cats. The video is utterly amazing to watch but of course, reading the full story in the book made it even more so.

The Lioness Principle I so fervently believe in and teach suggests that each of us has a sixth sense, an intuition, an ancient knowing, and a connection to a greater whole which is communicated to us by the way we feel. For many, that knowing is so under-developed as to be almost invisible to them. But for some (and more and more all the time), developing a constant awareness of that instinctive knowledge has led to a greatness and fullness in their lives and businesses… helping us not to be or sound like clones of each other but simply outstanding individuals.

I was struck by multiple stories in Richardson’s book which demonstrated The Lioness Principle but I’d like to share this one with you here:

“I’m not on a one-man crusade to change the way people work with tame lions. While I believe, naturally, that my way of relating to predators is good for me and good for them, I cannot write a textbook for lion-keepers on how to form relationships with their animals. It doesn’t work that way.

Two things have worked for me and I believe work for most people. First, I have a highly developed sixth sense and I’ve learned to listen to it and be guided by it above all else, above what I have been told by others, above what I think I already know, above what I have read. I’ve been told not to look lions in the eye, not to turn my back on them, not to crouch or kneel in front of them, not to run from them or make any sudden movements, not to speak loudly, all of which I have done because at some moment in time while interacting with my lion companions my instincts have told me it was the right and perfect thing to do and on more than one occasion it has saved my life, the life of another, even the life of other cubs.

I’ve also learned about animals slowly, over a number of years, and I’m still learning. How do I teach someone else to do what I do in the way that I do it? I can’t.

I love to ride motorcycles and I have broken the one-minute, fifty-second barrier for a lap around Johannesburg’s Kyalami racetrack. I could teach someone to ride a motorcycle but I couldn’t teach them to do a lap on that track in one minute, forty-nine seconds. You have to learn that for yourself, and the only way to learn how to go fast is to take it slow.”

People ask me all the time how I learned to do or say things the way I do. My answer is pretty much the same as Richardson’s. As a communication and personal leadership coach, I could give you word-for-word scripts on how to do most anything but the most compelling and impactful thing I could teach you is to hone your awareness of your internal knowledge and personal voice and to just keep at it every day… trying, learning, experimenting, and then course-correcting for yourself.

This week, as you interface with each other, patients, clients, as well as your personal friends and family, try becoming aware of what your “gut” is saying about the situation, what the other person really wants, what might make it better. And cut yourself some slack when it doesn’t go the way you’d hoped. Keep at it, incrementally learning and correcting your approach and your skills.

This is the way you learn to go fast around the track… or play with lions… or master your craft.

“The only real valuable thing is intuition.”
~ Albert Einstein