I was recently talking with a friend. Every time we talk the conversation is an extension of a debate that has been going on for generations. There has undoubtedly been well over a million cases of beer consumed while trying to hash out the issue of how to improve the success rate of, well, anyone. That would include individuals, entrepreneurs, executives and business owners alike.

We were beginning to think that there just wasn’t a logical answer to the issue. Kind of like a discussion over whether UFO’s exist. We know people who have an explanation for them, but no one is quite sure whether they’re crazy or not. Recently my friend surprised me though. Out of left field he sized up the issue quite nicely with a powerful and unexpected comparison.  I don’t know where he came up with it, but it’s fitting to the times.

I’ve heard every kind of twist and theory you can ever imagine over the years as to why some people and some businesses thrive and others just survive and even fail. To my friend, it’s really very simple. It’s all about what kind of Tiger you are. He says that people are like tigers. And, there are only two types of tigers. One is a Jungle Tiger. The other is a Zoo Tiger.

The Zoo Tiger loves to lay in the sun all day. His day is one of entitlement. His day is centered on reactive expectations waiting to see what happens. He depends on someone feeding him big juicy steaks every day. In fact, he expects this high-end room service to the point that he’s forgotten how to hunt. He doesn’t need to. He makes no decisions other than when to take a nap. He’s lazy. He doesn’t have to exercise. Exercise just doesn’t make any sense. In fact, he’s getting fat. He’s warm in the winter and stays cool in the summer. His muscles are not honed. He is prone to sickness. And, he quits learning because there is no reason to continue to learn. He fears risk of any kind. He learns things once an believes that his one lesson will serve him a lifetime. Any more effort than that just means more work. And, who wants to work when everything is done for him. He is happy with his safe little world.

Now the Jungle Tiger is another animal all together. The Jungle Tiger is constantly honing his skills because he has to. He is constantly studying his world and looking for opportunity out of necessity. Every day he must adapt to his changing surroundings. He must always be aware of new dangers. He is lean and mean and strong. He is proactive and prepared. He is healthy and aggressive. His first lesson in life was of survival and he must add to those lessons every day. He must always improve himself with new and advanced skills. He must get better at stalking; hunting; finding shelter and protecting and providing for his family. He is committed to getting better daily just to survive. There are no surprises in his world, and if they do arise, he has a plan.

So, the question is, which tiger are you?  One just survives, the other thrives.

We can live our life today as if we’re in a zoo, fat and happy and afraid. Or, we can run free, take some risks and be in charge of our own fate. For me, there is no question of which tiger I want to be. And, if you want to be successful in the world that we live in live in I do not believe that you have a choice of what tiger you need to be. Otherwise you’ll be eaten alive.

What do your stripes look like?

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