Live like a tracker.
Our lives today are totally different to the lives that our ancestors lived 50,000 years ago, yet our brains are pretty much the same. Our culture, knowledge and technology have changed rapidly in the last few decades, and our brains haven’t had time to adjust and evolve – they are still stuck in the stone age. ‘We’re running 21st century software on 50,000 year-old hardware’ (quote unknown).
I recently wrote about how this impacts us when it comes to investing, but I want to take a different angle today.
Our culture today presents us with many ‘shoulds’. I should do this, I should be this, I should have this. It’s pervasive from the time we are young. Culture tells us what is valuable, what is meaningful, what contributes to a good life. It’s a road mapped out for us.
But I want you to think for a moment about a tracker, tracking a lion on the plains of Africa. The tracker is not guided by the road – if he follows the road he will never find the lion. The trackers goes somewhere else, somewhere totally different. The tracker goes where most people will never go. A tracker has a heightened sense of awareness and uses the subtle signs left by the animal as his guidance system. When the tracker finds a trail, he follows it boldly. He moves fluidly between broad vision and extreme detail and his energy state is exactly what the moment needs. He knows when to let go and when to keep pushing.
I wouldn’t call myself a very spiritual person, but every now and then I come across something that truly resonates, on what I suppose I would have to call a ‘spiritual level’. Most recently, it was a series of interviews on my favourite investing podcast between Patrick O’Shaughnessy, CEO of O’Shaughnessy Asset Management, and Body Varty, a South African tracker. Boyd is a storyteller, a life coach, and his family owns and runs Londolozi, a luxurious safari camp where he grew up. They make an unlikely pairing you might say, yet their connection is electric (see below for links to the conversations).
Boyd talks elegantly, poetically and convincingly about how to apply the principles of tracking animals to your life and here is my account of their conversation.
Boyd tells us that inside us all is a wild-self. It’s the part of us that comes from our ancestors, from our evolution. It is coded into us and it is part of our DNA. It’s not something that has to be created because it’s right there, in us. We also have our social-self which overlays our wild-self. We deeply need this part of us because we are social animals. But in our heavily consumeristic society it has become so dominant that is has overpowered the wild-self.
Boyd believes that we all need to reconnect with our wild-self.
In modern life Boyd tells us that we wake up, get in a box, drive to a box to sit in a box and stare at a box (and don’t we just?). We don’t know ourselves in a natural place anymore. We don’t have silence in our lives anymore. We don’t spend enough time outdoors anymore. He described depression as an undiagnosed homesickness for knowing ourselves in a natural place.
We are so absorbed by the ‘role’, by the ‘responsibility’, by the ‘pressures’, by the ‘drive’, by ‘more’ that we have lost sight of our tracks and of what we really need or want.
There is a word for the tracks, and it is purpose. Boyd talks of how you know that someone has found purpose when you notice that they are living life differently – they are not doing it the way we were all told it had to be done. All the things that they thought were incredibly important have fallen away. They have found the feeling of enough. They are not trying to get something just to feel ok. They are deeply involved in something. They are guided by their inner compass. They are in touch with the wilder part of themselves and have followed the trail to a life that is an expression of who they are on the inside. They have found what they are searching for.
I know it starts to sound a bit ‘woo-woo’, but I do believe that we need to find a new way of living, because the way we are doing it now is destroying us and our world. The never-ending drive for more is leaving us, if not susceptible to a full-blown breakdown, certainly in a state of low-grade constant stress.
And I am not here trying to tell you to drop everything and go and become a tracker. But if you have fallen asleep in your own life, and woken to find that it’s somebody else’s life, then maybe start looking for the tracks. Boyd says to ‘move into the wilderness of life’.
How do we do it? Well, Boyd says we just have to find the first track and to find it we have to be open and aware, just like the tracker. We need to follow a feeling. If we notice something or someone that brings us to life, or inspires us, then we have to follow that track. Just take a first step and see where it leads.
All too often we want to see the whole path laid out in front of us – we want to know that it will work out. Or we don’t know what ‘the thing’ is so we sit waiting for it to come to us, telling ourselves ‘when I know what I am supposed to do, I will do it’. And meanwhile we continue on with more exhaustion, more work, more coffee, more alcohol. More of lots of things, but almost certainly not more of the things we are actually seeking.
Boyd talks about finding more time, more meaningful connections with people, more quality time with our family, more solitude, more freedom, more wilderness, more night skies, more laughs, more time creating something just for the sake of creating. These are the real ‘mores’.
Unfortunately, the more always comes back to money. The response is always ‘I just need more money’. And of course, that’s what our culture tells us is true – that if we just get the money then everything else will be fine. And sure, having more money makes some things easier, but it definitely doesn’t sort everything out.
As I always say, money is the not the goal, it’s the tool. After all, no one would choose to have $1 billion if it meant they had to live in a box. We do really need to find what it is we really want in life, and not what society says we should want, and use our money to help us create a life that bring us purpose and joy. I really think we could all benefit from living more like a tracker.
Patrick interviewed Boyd over three different podcast episodes. The first is here:
He interviewed him a second time, and it’s broken into two parts. The first is just Boyd and the second also features his sister Bronwyn:
You will not regret spending three or so hours of your life listening to his stories and wisdom.