’I don’t know where we are going but I know exactly how to get there’. When I opened Boyd Varty’s new book ’The lion’s tracker’s guide to life’ this phrase immediately caught my attention and I started reading right away…
Boyd Varty is a South African tracker who is also a psychologist, writer, life coach and storyteller. He grew up in a very special area in South Africa: Londolozi, a Zulu word meaning 'protector of all living things’. As from 1973, this area was completely transformed from overgrazed, eroded and neglected cattle ground to an extraordinary nature and game reserve. What makes it an extra special place is that when Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years in prison, Londolozi was the place where he stayed to rest and recover.
Finding your track
’I don’t know where we are going but I know exactly how to get there’ perfectly captures the essence of a tracker in the wild. Varty uses a powerful metaphor: tracking lions represents tracking your own life! It is all about finding your own track: discovering those experiences and people that make you feel truly alive. This way of ‘tracking’ is not so much about the final goal (‘the lion’) but more about the track itself.
In this book, Varty tells a true story about an adventurous quest, tracking a group of lions in Londolozi. His companions are two of South Africa’s best trackers: Alex and Renias. For hours and hours these three men walk through the bush. Sometimes they seem to have lost the track, but Alex and Renias demonstrate how a good tracker gets back on track. Varty uses this special search quest as a great illustration of what tracking entails and how he -and the reader- can use this in their own lives.
Born to be wild
During reading this book it crossed my mind that long ago, ‘we’ were full-time trackers. Hunter-gatherers relied on hunting animals for their survival. But why would one now, with plenty of food available in your local grocery store, start ‘tracking’? Varty explains that in these modern times, people have a more limited ‘scope’ in terms of sensing and recognizing what is important to us and our lives. We have a strong outward focus, scanning for what is expected from us by others, which makes us lost in ‘I should’ and ‘I must’. He writes: ’’obsessed with perfection and doing it right, we want to go straight to the ‘lion’’’. Many people have lost touch with an authentic, ‘wild’ part of themselves. That ‘wild’ part holds essential information about what brings us to life; living as opposed to surviving.
To track or not to track, that’s the question
What exactly is ‘tracking’? Varty explains: “Tracking is a function of directing attention, bringing our awareness back to this subtle inner trail of the wild self, and learning to see its path. Life is full of information. You must train yourself to see what you are looking for”. So this is NOT about thinking and rationalizing, but more about recognizing what is right for you by using your senses and intuition. Signals that you can feel in your body can be practical and powerful: does something make your muscles feel tense or relaxed, do you feel a little sense of freedom, curiosity or mostly aversion?
How to recognise a great tracker ‘in the wild’
I found that the trackers in this book share a set of distinct qualities:
Calmness and awareness: the trackers are mostly relaxed, calm and don’t worry easily. They ‘trust the track’.
Open and receptive: all attention is focused on what is happening in the here and now. Also, they are open to unexpected signals and changes.
Using all senses: they perceive subtle signals such as body language, scent, sound, movement near or far, and tiny marks in the grass or sand.
Curious: asks ‘why’? They do not immediately accept things at first sight (or sound). A tracker can see a single item a thousand times and see a new detail or aspect each time.
Recognizing the track: a tracker knows or feels which information is essential, belonging to the track. These can be subtle signals, leading the way like a compass.
Step by step
The motto of a great tracker can be summed up by that captivating sentence: ’I don’t know where we are going but I know exactly how to get there’. The adventure of tracking always starts with the first track. Starting from that first track one tries to find and follow the next track. Step by step. The whole track is never visible immediately. Tracking entails working with whatever is perceptible at this particular moment, with the intention of finding the ‘animal’. It is all about taking small steps (actions), trusting that this will lead eventually to something bigger.
Getting on track, as an entrepreneur and as a human being
I see a parallel between tracking and entrepreneurs setting out their course. This process includes having many conversations with various people, experimenting, ‘tasting’ various options, taking small steps and at a certain moment feeling a sort of traction, a ‘hot track’. It also involves discovering which problems potential customers encounter and how you could solve these by offering a matching service or product. This is how new, successful businesses emerge. This process is not about blue-printing, but largely a journey of discovery. In his book, however, Varty uses the perspective of human beings, searching for the manifestation of their best lives. I see tracking as a transformation process, bridging the gap of who you think you should be and who you already are, in essence. Varty writes: “No one can tell you what your track will be or how to know what calls you and brings you to life. That’s your work to do. But a great tracker can ask: how do you know you love something? How do you feel when you are fully expressing yourself? Learn that feeling and then start looking, not for the thing but for the feeling. It’s there if you can tune yourself to it.”
Get on (your) track!
In short: you can learn how to track your life (and work)! Every time you discover a ‘track’, something that resonates with you and make you feel alive, you can make more time and space for that in your life. In the same way, you can start eliminating those things that feel like survival, dissonance or cramp. By doing this, you will get a clearer sight on your next track, your unique way of living your life, according to your ‘vital spark’!
Loes Meijlink | TheSparkCompany.nl | Loes@TheSparkCompany.nl | +31 6 11799488
Personal Coach, Team Facilitator, Singer