The Wild vs. The Zoo
I’ve seen lions chase down and kill wildebeest in the wild. I have seen them fight off hyenas and jackals to defend their kill.
I have seen lions at the zoo.
I’ve seen elephant herds thunder across the savannah in the wild. I have seen bull elephants crash into each other as they fight for dominance on the plains of Amboseli in southern Kenya.
I have seen elephants at the zoo.
I’ve seen giraffes eating from the tops of acacia trees with their 17-inch long, black tongues in the wild. I have seen giraffes run with great strides to get away from a pride of lions.
I have seen giraffes at the zoo.
I’ve seen mountain gorilla families feed in the dense jungles of the Virunga Mountains in the wild. I had the 500 lb. silverback male beat his chest less than 10 feet away from me to make sure we knew who was in charge.
I have seen mountain gorillas at the zoo.
Don’t get me wrong… I enjoy going to the zoo. How else can you see these mighty animals here in America?
But… nothing compares to what I saw during my time in Zaire/Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Kenya. The zoo in fine, but it isn’t the wild.
Here’s another thing: 20-30 years later I can remember these encounters in the wild like they were yesterday — and I can tell the stories about these encounters with vivid detail. But, I don’t seem to tell any stories about the zoos I’ve visited.
(The one exception is the 2 rhinos we saw mating at the Ft Worth Zoo. They were both motionless and almost indifferent. He must have been on top of her for a good hour! Snapped a photo. We still do tell that story… haha)
The wild is memorable and worthy of story telling. The zoos are fine for a day of entertainment, but rarely go beyond that.
The wild is dangerous. The wild has your senses heightened at all times. The wild has all of an animal’s instincts on display.
At the zoo we are reminded not to feed our popcorn to the animals.
The wild is the “real” real.
The wild is… well… WILD!
What Would Happen If…?
What would happen if, say one of those bull elephants I saw in that intense fight in Kenya, was “tranked” and air lifted to the elephant enclosure at the Bronx Zoo?
What would happen if that proud male silverback gorilla, watching over his family of 9, guiding them through the jungle and vegetation of his territory, was taken down by a tranquilizer gun and was placed in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park?
These are both world class zoos – the very best of the best. Best doctors. Best enclosures. Best diet.
- What would happen to these wild animals that now find themselves in the zoo?
- How long until they were subdued and could be trusted to join the other animals in their enclosure?
- How long would it take to bring a “tameness” to them as they respond to their keepers?
- How long until they were no longer wild?
A zoo animal is certainly not a tame animal. But… they aren’t wild either.
Each night they are brought into their cage. They receive vitamins. Their food is handed to them. A doctor is ready at a moment’s notice. They mate under close supervision at zookeeper approved times (whether they want to or not). After sunrise, the doors are opened and the animals can wander back out to their enclosure to be greeted by guests.
To me, a zoo animal has wild within them, even to those born in captivity, but it is suppressed and dormant due to the needs, environment, culture, keepers, visitors, and expectations of zoo life. If all goes well, the wild will never show itself again… except maybe a slight edge to impress guests.
Anyway… you get the idea. HUGE difference between a wild beast and a zoo animal.
Let’s get to the point here.
Caging Up The Wild Entrepreneur
I have been an entrepreneur the vast majority of my life. I’ve loved it!
- I have done straight commission sales.
- I have launched my own e-commerce business and ran it for a dozen years.
- I was an East African missionary raising 100% of our financial support.
I felt “wild” in the sense that if it was to be, then it was up to me. My work ethic, my skill, my commitment to learn and grow, and my energy to lead and be the best at what I was doing is what gave us a home to live in, food on our table, and enjoy a quality of life to raise a family.
There were no paychecks unless I took action that resulted in compensation.
It is not in arrogance that I say that. It is a fact of any entrepreneur that call the shots. It is also not to say that God is not my provision. He IS Jehovah Jirah.
I love being an entrepreneur! I believe it’s part of my DNA. The years of being an entrepreneur have been the times of my life when I felt most fully alive and on purpose.
But something happened along the way…
A few years back I lost my focus and my edge. Things went downhill and got quite turbulent financially. I tried to recover, but I was struggling.
I was tired. I got lazy. I let a series of difficult circumstances in life get the better of me. I forgot who I was.
I then got a job – a good job. It was what I felt I needed to do to stop the bleeding. It’s the kind of job that could easily develop into a nice career. It brought stability after some tough times.
BUT… in the summer of 2020 when I was hospitalized with COVID, everything changed. There has been a growing feeling that what was once wild, is now becoming a distant memory. What once used to make me feel alive and on purpose has been missing. I have been getting adjusted and quite comfortable to life in the zoo.
You remember that scene from The Lion King when Simba had lost his way and forgotten who he was – his father Mufasa had to remind him (watch the brief video).
That’s me! “Rich, you have forgotten who you are. Remember who you are!”
If you’ve seen the movie, what did Simba do after this encounter with his father, Mufassa? Did he saunter back to the oasis with Pumba and Timon and think about it some more, do a “Ben Franklin” on the pros and cons of returning to the Pride Land, and then lay out a 3 year transitional plan to begin a safe transition to adapt into a controlled situation back into the wild…
No! That’s not how the movie went.
He took action! Simba immediately got up and ran back to reclaim his domain, fight for what was his, and rid it of the enemy that had moved in, in the void of his absence.
Furthermore, his actions inspired those around him to rise up, take action themselves, and come together.
Wild at Heart!
I have been reminded over and over again this year of WHO I AM.
I’ve been reading several books. Bob Goff has been a voice to me like Mufassa. Putting myself in the company of successful entrepreneurs has re-awakened the wild within.
I don’t want a “nice career.” I would rather fight and blaze my own trail. It’s time to go wild!
John Addison said, “Life is too precious for timid dreams.” I am a man of dreams, and I am excited about what I see.
I am in a fantastic place.
This may be cliché, but for me I feel like I am the zoo animal that is caged up within my job. Being told when, where, how, and how much – giving up control on a significant portion of my life. For some, the “job life” is perfect. For me, I relate to what John Eldredge said in his book, Wild at Heart:
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive, because what the world needs are men who have come alive.”
“Deep in his heart, every man longs for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.”
What kind of husband, father, friend, or man would I be if I wasn’t the “real” real me? Answer: a fake imposter living the sad life of somebody else’s expectations for me.
Once again, John Eldredge says, “For after years of living in a cage, a lion no longer even believes it is a lion . . . and a man no longer believes he is a man.”
That may seem a bit dramatic, but only to those who prefer life at the zoo.
I’m not answerable to anybody else’s opinion. Therefore, the time has come for me to leave the zoo and return to the wild.
I am excited!
I am ready!
I am wild at heart!
Rich the entrepreneur is back!!