It all began at 4.30am, on 25 November 2013, at Johannesburg airport.
I had arrived at the international terminal one hour early, and nobody was there waiting for me, as planned.
I was starting to feel anxious and dubious that it was a scam. I looked around and all I could see were swarms of foreign people in transit walking straight past me. I could not recognise any of my Australian team members, or for that matter, the African tour organiser that supposedly was meant to pick me up.
I waited an hour, and suddenly my concern partially subsided. An Aussie entrepreneur and high profile business coach tapped me on the shoulder and asked: “Are you here for the Ultimate Growth Adventure?”
I was delighted to finally meet someone who was here for the same reason. Eventually, the tour organiser had arrived … on African time!
The adventure was about to begin.
Spending an intimate week with Creel Price and his Accelerate Global team was a dream come true. Not only would I spend valuable time with a high profile serial entrepreneur, I was also given the opportunity to learn about ‘Decisionship’ methodology, among the African flora and fauna and at the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship.
To be handpicked and invited to South Africa by Creel among 2,000 or more eligible candidates was too good to be true. I felt I had won the lotto, as my odds of being selected for such an amazing and prestigious experience was very slim. Somehow, I passed the test and the five-day South-African boot-camp awaited me.
I was about to experience adventure and entrepreneurship in one breath. Creel’s love for the outdoors partially stemmed from his close connection with Richard Branson. As we all know, Richard is a fanatical adventurer, and his view is that the best way to learn about business and be inspired is through extreme adventure.
For this reason, Creel established the Ultimate Growth Adventure (UGA) program, as a way of bringing people in business together through adventure; allowing each person to share their wisdom and experiences of entrepreneurship in an environment that breeds challenge, competition, team bonding and decision-making to new heights.
Creel believes that effective decisionship is all about “making fast, informed decisions without the angst”. Personally, I think it’s also about stepping outside of the comfort zone and having a clear vision of the bigger picture, especially when forced to make difficult decisions under high pressure and under stress.
Either way, both methodologies and philosophies are vital for the long- term success of an entrepreneur or business owner.
Upon my arrival at the lodge after my long flight, I met my team and settled in my room for a well deserved rest. The next morning had arrived like a lightning bolt and I was well on my way to making decisions and working outside of my comfort zone with my newly formed ‘red’ team.
Our team was among three other teams, each with their own colour, theme song, flag and military-style code of conduct. For the next five days, my team was my gang, my best friends and certainly the people I had to rely on the most to make tough decisions with, in a competitive and fast-paced environment. The message from Creel’s team was clear – “You make the wrong decision, you pay the price!”
My heart began to throb, after realising what I had signed up for. I felt like the ‘biggest loser’, getting ready for slaughter: extreme pain, sweat and tears, embarrassment and a steep road ahead. My skills were about to be put to the test on an emotional, physical, and intellectual level, just like most bootcamp style programs.
Over the next five days, I pushed my skillset to the next level with my teawm, trying my best to avoid the traps and penalties that constituted the curriculum. Some activities included: trivial pursuit, painting a picture on canvas, cooking a meal in a masterchef cook-off, building the tallest spaghetti structure, climbing a mountain with a bucket of water, crossing a river over rocks and performing a 15-minute stage act.
At face value, all these activities
sounded fun, easy and mildly challenging. However, we were not familiar with the strict rules of each game. At the announcement of each competition and task ahead, we felt like vulnerable prey awaiting some kind of punishment and ridicule.
The true test was complying with the strict rules and guidelines of each activity, including limited resources, time restraints, weather conditions, personality differences and decision-making profiles of each team member and, most importantly, learning to make fast and effective decisions without the angst.
I must now confess that my 20 years of entrepreneurship and success as a coach and business owner had not prepared me well for all these types of activities. Not only did I have a reputation as being very average at trivial pursuit, I also suffered from mild anxiety from the idea of getting on stage and making a fool of myself. To make things even worse, I discovered my athletic limitations when I sprained my ankle attempting the river crossing activity.
Fortunately, I just managed to reach day five of this amazing adventure when my ankle became victim to the relentless UGA program. Luckily, the boot-camp was over at this point and it was time to say goodbye to my comrades.
On my way home to Australia, I carefully reflected on the experiences from this trip, what lessons I had learned and how this would be useful in life and in business going forward. What came to mind first was the importance of trust and learning to leverage on the skills and talents of other people, especially when working as a team, under challenging circumstances.
My second thought was the importance of effective decision-making and learning to stay calm and rational when forced to make many simultaneous decisions outside of my comfort zone, especially when the best solution was not necessarily at hand or clear to the team.
My other valuable lesson was the discovery of my ‘gut feeling’; a precious tool and resource entrepreneurs need to use more when forced to make decisions under extreme circumstances. Your gut feel is most likely the right decision, before your conscious thought and rational mind starts to distort the reality of the situation at hand, and the best decision going forward…
Excerpted from an article originally published in the April/May 2014 issue of Think & Grow Rich Inc. magazine. If you are a subscriber to Think & Grow Rich Inc. magazine, you will receive this article in your April/May 2014 issue of TGR. If you are not a subscriber, click here to subscribe.