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Thinking adventurously

Culture · 5 min read

Thinking adventurously

You may not feel like an intrepid trailblazer sitting in your office, writing a business plan for your next round of venture capital. It's a less threatening environment than, say, sailing solo around the world non-stop.

Your laptop is unlikely to swallow you whole like a 90-foot rogue wave in the Southern Ocean. And you probably know where your next meal is coming from (given there's a Pret A Manger down the road). However, the adventurer personality and entrepreneurial mindset have more in common than you might think, and surprisingly, there's isn't simply one type of personality that can make a success of personal or business adventure – we're all capable in our own ways …. 

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Exploring risk

Whether you're trailblazing an expedition into uncharted waters or pioneering your own business, it's very much a voyage into the unknown. The common factor is that both entrepreneurs and adventurers like to take (qualified) risks. 

When Ed Stafford walked the entire length of the Amazon River in two years, he was almost killed by tribes, animals and tropical disease. Entrepreneur Jeff Bezos left his well-paid job at a hedge fund to set up a business in his garage selling books on the then, unexplored environment called the internet. Amazon is now worth US$427bn (and has moved out of the garage).

Interestingly, taking such a risk can make you less reckless. Research has shown that people who partake in high-risk, life-threatening situations like exploring perform better if they have a ‘distrusting' attitude. Distrust sounds negative but it really simply, means being alert to the potential dangers of a situation and not taking anything for granted. The research went on to find the same alert attitude in successful entrepreneurs. The risk of losing everything leads them to take greater precautions and react with more urgency when things go wrong.

Act and react

The reality is that whether you're navigating the Cape of Good Hope or setting up a self-tying shoelace company, it won't always be plain sailing. The Myers-Briggs psychological profiling system shows that adventurers (and entrepreneurs) are ‘sensing and perceiving' individuals – they have the ability to use their senses to understand what's happening in their environment, basing decisions on facts and information rather than intuition. They then act, fast. 

For example, unique male gift and accessories company Men's Society recognized that the devaluation of the pound due to Brexit would have an effect on their import business. So founders Hugo and Bella Middleton began manufacturing more of their own products for export. It's important to have a plan. And just as important to be able to adapt it.

Adventurers and entrepreneurs need to be a mixture of logical and spontaneous people. They can also be more thinking or feeling depending on their personality according to Myers-Briggs. ‘Thinkers' want knowledge to understand how the world works. ‘Feelers' base their views on inner beliefs and values. However, either trait can make you a great entrepreneur.

Thinking and feeling

For ‘Thinker', Kunal Kapoor, founder of The Luxury Closet, the challenge was to understand a conundrum that troubled him: why is it easy to resell a car but difficult to resell a luxury handbag? Discovering the answer led him to set up an online marketplace to buy and sell designer items.

However, the ability to orient yourself to other people and understand what's important to them, key attributes of a ‘feeling' personality, can be just as successful in business.

Take Viktor Grabovskyy and his co-founders of ForeverSpin. They didn't actually know what they wanted to sell as a product with their new company. So they spent time brainstorming an idea that had to meet certain criteria such as quality, elegance and nostalgia. Consequently, their high-quality metal spinning tops appealed to a variety of people.

Thinkers are more direct in their communication, valuing the truth over tact. That can be useful when you have to tell your Polar co-adventurer that their frostbitten foot will have to be amputated. Or when a member of your staff is not pulling their weight. People who are more feeling oriented are more tactful in their communications with other people, appropriate for interactions with customers. Both approaches offer value for the entrepreneur.

Visionaries and perfectionists

Many different types of people hanker for adventure, including both visionaries and perfectionists. Visionaries see the big picture, the ultimate goal, while perfectionists concentrate on every detail. In business and in life, the visionary might choose the adventure where a focus on the outcome is what really matters – the base jump that's never before been attempted, or the new route across the Mountain range. For the perfectionists, every step is equally important and precision is paramount. Perfectionists are good at climbing rock faces. Visionaries don't have the patience.

With the fast pace of modern business where markets can change by the minute, visionaries like Elon Musk might seem to have the advantage. Keeping ‘the eye on the prize' is a valuable asset. 

Hugo Middleton of Men's Society enjoys the changeable nature of entrepreneurship – for him adapting to circumstances is all part of the ‘Big Picture'. 

"The more you plan, the more you can overthink things and consequently not act."

But any adventure needs planning and preparation as well. And ‘perfectionism' isn't always a ‘nice to have'. Ask Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who had to varnish 1,500 tins of food so that they wouldn't rust when readying his provisions for the Golden Globe Race in 1968. You could call it extreme varnishing, but it's varnishing all the same – not the most exciting activity – but the kind of detailed thinking that saves lives (and businesses).

Similarly, taking pains to build your SME in the right way is what matters to a certain entrepreneurial character. The guys at ForeverSpin spent a long time testing how best to use crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter before launching their spinning tops. Wes Knight, co-founder of luxury watch startup Erroyl, believes research and hard work are the most important skills in setting up his enterprise.

Commitment and resilience

Whatever your personality type, there are two qualities you will have to display whether you're climbing a mountain or setting up a business: commitment and resilience. Of the nine sailors who entered the Golden Globe Race in 1968, five retired, one sank, one abandoned the race and one jumped overboard. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston was the only competitor to finish. In comparison, the ForeverSpin founders were initially trying to start up an IT company but couldn't secure the funding. Undaunted, they went back to the drawing board and came up with the world's most desirable spinning top.

The simple truth is that just as with any worthwhile venture in life, whether it‘s crossing the Andes, taking your first sky-dive of building your own business, it's not going to be easy. 

As Kunal Kapoor points out, "I think I underestimated how hard it is. There's at least double the complexity, double the effort. But it's a great journey."

After all, for adventurers and entrepreneurs, isn't it the ‘great journey', that matters just as much as the final destination. So whether you're an actor or re-actor, thinker or feeler, visionary or perfectionist, there's an adventure in life and business waiting for you.

Thinking Adventurously

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Thinking Adventurously

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