‘Survive Your Serengeti’ Author Reveals How to Hone Your Entrepreneurial Power

By Erica Christoffer, Multimedia Web Producer, REALTOR® Magazine

serengeti-frontChances are good in today’s economic environment that you’re working harder for less. Companies have cut back on jobs and unemployment remains high.

According to author and Africa-native Stefan Swanepoel, surviving these tough times requires us to rely on our innate skills. He urges workers in all fields, including real estate, to develop our individual natural talents while also surrounding ourselves with people whose skills complement our own.

In his new book, SURVIVING YOUR SERENGETI: 7 Skills to Master Business and Life (Wiley; March 1, 2011),  Swanepoel brings together his firsthand knowledge of life in the Serengeti plains of East Africa and the world of business, drawing parallels that bring insight for those trying to survive in today’s difficult economy.

The book is a business fable in which Swanepoel offers a tale of life in the Serengeti and what lessons it holds for today’s beleaguered workforce.


Surviving Your Serengeti follows the story of corporate executive Sean Spencer as he embarks on a three-day visit to Africa. Without cell phone coverage or any other form of technology to keep him wired in, Sean is forced to disconnect from the worries of his troubled business thousands of miles away, and instead, he becomes engrossed in the animals that rule this untamed land and the wisdom the Serengeti has to offer.

For 1.5 million wildebeest of Africa, their Serengeti is a 1,000-mile-long migration, filled with hunger, thirst, predators, and exhaustion. The journey is impressive, dangerous and so incomparably massive that it is often considered the number one natural wonder of the world. The migration offers us a unique window to the very essence of life itself, wherein we observe the seven primal skills necessary to survive the grueling migration – the same skills we instinctively turn to in order cope with and survive challenges in business and in life.

Watch and listen as Swanepoel talks about the inspiration for his book, and how these seven animals’ skill sets can help you hone your own entrepreneurial powers.

“While the challenges faced by those that live and die on the Serengeti plains are certainly in a different realm than ours,” writes Swanepoel. “The seven skills that the animals use to overcome their harsh conditions can help us rise above our own adversities and live a better life.”

Here are the skills Swanepoel outlines as exemplified by the animals that make the Serengeti journey: the strategic lion, enterprising crocodile, efficient cheetah, enduring wildebeest, risk-taking mongoose, communicating elephant and graceful giraffe.

  • Strategic Lion – For the lion, it’s all or nothing. If their strategy fails, they go hungry. For people whose primary skill is strategy, it’s all about organizing their thoughts, ideas, experiences, skills, expertise and expectations to accomplish the desired goal. Strategy is not just about the end; rather, it is the means to that end.


  • Enterprising Crocodile – Like the crocodile, enterprising people possess the energy, creativity and ambition required to see the possibilities in the future that others cannot. The enterprising individual is passionate about work, learns from mistakes, understands their personal weaknesses as well as their innate strengths, recognizes opportunity and makes strategic decisions with limited data.


  • Efficient Cheetah – The cheetah is the sort who finishes the job in the shortest possible time with the least amount of wasted resources. The ability to overcome interruptions, distractions, mistakes and mental and physical fatigue is key, along with the ability to focus on being effective and producing the desired results.


  • Enduring Wildebeest – Endurance, in its simplest form, is our ability to apply ourselves for relatively long periods of time. This quality keeps our mind going when our body wants to quit and gives us the mental capacity to continue moving forward, despite the obstacles, hardships, pain or fatigue in our path.


  • Risk-taking Mongoose – Risk-takers, like the mongoose, evaluate all the options on the chance they are taking before making a decision. They frequently review goals and determine the various routes to get to the destination. Often, they choose the path with the highest risk in order to gain the maximum reward.


  • Communicating Elephant – Successful relationships – in both business and in life – depend on good communication. Effective communicators understand that it’s not always best to use a lot of words when relaying an idea. In fact, the more words we use, the more our message can be obscured. Skilled communicators understand how critical both verbal and nonverbal exchanges are.


  • Graceful Giraffe – Graceful individuals develop interdependent relationships that are fostered through patience, self-discipline, dignity, honor and respect. They accomplish this by recognizing others’ strengths and weaknesses and attempting to build them up. Grace is a disposition that requires compassion toward others and the desire to extend good will. Grace represents style, finesse, kindness, professionalism and above all, doing the right thing.


Find out what animal you are! Take the quiz!

** A portion of each book sale benefits the African Wildlife Foundation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stefan Swanepoel’s life has been a “Serengeti journey”— from his birth in Kenya to schooling in Hong Kong and South Africa eventually, running a New York-based global franchise network with 25,000 sales associates in 30 countries. In all he has served as president of seven companies and two non-profit organizations. Now for the first time he has combined his love of wildlife and nature, his ability to captivate audiences, and his comprehensive life experience into a captivating message in a major trade book. In Surviving Your Serengeti he vividly portrays how this larger-than-life metaphor can provide guidance and inspiration for individuals and companies in today’s fast, busy and complex world. Stefan has authored 19 books and reports on business trends, real estate and social media. He lives with his wife and two sons in California.

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This post was contributed exclusively for REALTOR® Magazine.

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  1. Elaine Hegedusich

    This past week I attended a seminar hosted by Stefan….what a GREAT seminar! One of the best I have ever attended…Just started reading the new book and it is VERY involving! Take his quiz…it might astonish you!