In this note, we will be discussing the wisdom behind a beautiful short parable called Life Safari by John Strelecky. I first found Strelecky while I was a marine mammal trainer in Florida and picked up a quick short book titled Why Are You Here Café. It took me a few years to get around to reading it, but when I finally did, my whole view of life was altered. When Life Safari came out, I quickly nabbed a copy and read it in one sitting. It’s a really short, brilliant story of a young man visiting Africa and his adventure with his guide, Ma Ma Gombe. As they journey across the great continent of Africa, Jack learns more about life and how to appreciate it as well as everyone you meet along your journey. He completes one of his greatest dreams by seeing all the African animals on his journey, and realizes what he needs to do to get the most out of life.
While short in length, this book is an absolutely enormous volume in regards to wonderful tips and wisdom. And I’ll share some of my favorite big ideas with you in our first Animal Notes.
- Why are you here
- Big Five for Life
- Mad How Disease and Who can cure it
- Worrying about the future versus experiencing the now
- Enjoy the Lions in front of you
- Learning from our mistakes without judgement, complaining, or giving up
Why are you here?
“Why are you here in Africa, young Jack?”
I shifted my gaze out to the waving grass and grazing animals. “I don’t know exactly. I was struggling to find my place back home. I was struggling to find what made me happy. My whole life I have dreamed of seeing the animals in Africa, and so without knowing what else to do, I focused on that. Now I’m here.”
I turned and faced her “And you, what brings you to this particular place?”
She hesitated for a moment and looked into my eyes again. “I am here because you and I were supposed to meet,” she replied. “I believe your Big Five for Life and mine are connected.”
WHY ARE YOU HERE? This question is a HUGE theme in most of Strelecky’s books. In fact, the first book I read of his was called The Why Are You Here Café,
So, Why are you here? This is a literal and contemplative, figurative question. Look around at your surroundings, your home, your city. Why did you choose this place? But also, look introspectively and answer why are you here on earth. What do you feel you are here to do? What is your purpose for existence? It’s a poignant question for those who are looking to fulfill their Big Five for Life.
Which brings us to Big Idea #2-
Big Five for Life
“They are the five things you want to do, see, or experience in your life before you die-the five things that if you did, saw, or experienced them, you would consider your life to be a success as you have defined success. They are not about what your parents think, or your neighbors think, of your boss, family, or even your spouse thinks. This is about what YOU think.”
Do you have any dreams for yourself? Would you like to publish a book, or host a television show? Do you want to travel the world? Or even travel outside your country? If you were free to do ANYTHING in your life, what would it be?
These answers are your Big Five for Life. They are our purpose for being here, and give our life meaning.
What are some of your biggest FEARLESS dreams?
Take some time right now and think about what you want more than anything in the world. Write them down, and remember these dreams as we continue with our story and our note.
Mad How Disease and Who can cure it
“When people figure out their Big Five for Life, they are in a unique situation. They know where their life is, and they know where they want to go. So what question do they need to ask?”
“I guess they ask ‘how do I get there?’” I replied.
“Ah, and then they would be yet another victim of Mad How disease.”
Mad HOW disease.
Yeah- we can get fired up about our Big 5 for Life. But usually our next question is HOW do we do this?
Strelecky shares that when someone asks “how do I get there?”, they encounter barriers, learning curves, and obstacles. With the first challenge we hit, we are full of energy and passion for our Big 5. But as we continue to hit challenge after challenge, spending days, weeks, or even YEARS figuring out how to surmount each obstacle, our energy wanes. Eventually, we give up because we are all out of energy for our Big 5, because we don’t know how to do it.
So instead of asking HOW, let’s ask a different question- WHO has already gotten from where I am to where I want to go? Then go find out what the WHO did, and imitate them.
And Strelecky encourages us further with this aspect. With a suggestion toward the six-degrees-of-separation theory and experiment, he shows us that even if we don’t personally know someone who has done what you dream of doing, there is an excellent chance they know someone who can help you or at the very least, know someone who knows someone who can help you.
What is interesting about the experiment conducted by Stanley Milgram in 1967 is not just that on average only six people separate two strangers. When asked to get a package from the mid-west to a particular person in Boston by sending it ONLY to acquaintances, the single greatest factor in whether someone would deliver the package or not was the perceived value of the package. The higher the perceived value, the more likely they were to help.
Someone in true pursuit of their Big Five for Life has terrific value. With only the maximum of six degrees separating you from the person who can help you achieve your dreams, and with it being so valued to you that there is an excellent chance they will say yes to helping you, what do you have to lose?
Worrying or focused on the future, versus experiencing the now
Ma Ma Gombe extended her arms wide and looked at the open plains. “And on whose schedule are we walking?” she asked.
“If we are always worrying about what comes next, we sacrifice the chance to interact with everything that is going on around us. We can never get to the future, young Jack. When we arrive there, it is no longer the future, it becomes the present. So we can either enjoy life as it happens, or we can always be getting ready to enjoy it.”
Which side of the fence do YOU sit on? The one on social media, paralyzed by the fear of missing out (on what others are doing) that you don’t experience any yourself? Are you so focused on recording a memory that you don’t get to fully experience it? Are you so worried about “what comes next” that you don’t appreciate what’s right in front of you?
It took me a long time to realize this lesson. But when we walk in the present, and appreciate it for what it is, we become open to all that life is ALREADY giving us. As Jack learned from Mama Gombe- “I stopped focusing on how far we were going to walk each day and began celebrating every step we took.”
And this is somewhat related to Big Idea #5
Enjoy the lions in front of you.
There was a rustle in the grass on the other side of our makeshift enclosure. The lionesses were less than 20 feet from us. I could see their muscles stretch taut across their shoulders as they moved and they appeared to be evaluating the situation.
I looked at Ma Ma Gombe. “What should we do?”
“Enjoy them, young Jack”
“Enjoy them? We’re trapped in the middle of a thorn hut on the savannah with lions sitting 20 feet away.“
Enjoy the moment, young Jack. This is what you came to Africa for, is it not? Here you are where seeing a lion is a part of your Big 5 for Life, and you have three of them in front of you. Enjoy them.”
Okay, I’ll admit, when most people dream of going on a safari and seeing lions, rhino, elephants, and other animals, a HUGE majority of them don’t usually imagine being stalked or hunted by lions. But Ma Ma Gombe’s words are wise beyond her years.
When we want something with our whole heart, and we go for it, there are two things to remember:
- Things are more than likely not going to go EXACTLY the way you imagined it going, as Jack experiences in meeting lions nearly face to face. He may not have envisioned seeing lions THAT close, but he did dream of seeing them. The fact that he got that experience (and spoiler alert, he lives to tell the tale) and it’s something he dreamed of his entire life, no wonder Ma Ma Gombe tells him to just swim in it.
- We make our effort to pursue our goal, but we have to remain unattached to the outcome. Jack pursued seeing lions. It’s not his fault that in his journey he came under the lions’ radar.
“When you have done all you can, you must detach yourself from the outcome. It does not good to worry about what may happen in the future, and it does no good to worry about what you did in the past.”
Do your best and let the universe take care of the rest.
And finally, we have Big Idea #6
Learning from our mistakes and experiences without judgement, complaining, or giving up.
“Going left when you should have gone right is only a problem if you never turn around, or if you completely stop walking. We humans seem to be the only animals who struggle with this” Ma Ma Gombe said.
“Monkeys will taste different fruits and learn which are good and which are not. They don’t stop eating just because they find a fruit that wasn’t edible. And they don’t keep eating non-edible foods, hoping it will be good to eat.
“Giraffe don’t continue down the same path if it is blocked by a fire. They don’t sit down and complain that the fire is there, or blame someone. The giraffe simply finds another way.
“And each time they learn something new, they remember it.”
Okay, seriously, if you aren’t making mistakes in your life, are you even living?
As Brian Johnson from Optimize has said in his coaching classes- there ARE no perfect human beings, and you nor I will NOT be the first perfect humans.
We make mistakes, and if you are on your journey to your Big 5 for Life, we’re bound to make more than one as we travel towards a fulfilled and successful life.
What’s more important is that we LEARN from these setbacks, and KEEP going forward. And never ever give up.
Alright, that’s my super quick look at this wonderful gem- Life Safari by John Strelecky. If this piqued your interest, you can check out more of his books on Amazon. I highly recommend it, and you could find a grand idea which also changes your life.
Let’s finish off with a couple favorite quotes from the book. These were all by John Strelecky writing as our wise and wonderful guide through the African country, Ma Ma Gombe. She says:
“Dreams are in fact realities waiting to happen”
“All creatures have a Big Five for Life. We humans are just the ones who seem most disconnected with it”.
“Our words can tell our mind what to believe. And if we say the same words long enough, even our souls begin to think they are real.”
“This is a big beautiful playground we have been given. What are you going to do in it?”
What ARE you going to do in this wonderful playground called earth during the recess we are experiencing called life?
Maybe we can connect to the earth in healthy, positive ways? Make a difference in our lives and the well-being of the planet? What are your objectives on this grand Life Safari?
Mad How Disease reminded me of the book Peak by Anders Ericsson where he explains the tenants of deliberate practice. One of which is finding the people that have done what you want to do and learn from them. Figure out how they practice and do the same.
Loved you first note! Great work!