Posted by Frederic Lucas-Conwell
Yossi Ghinsberg’s story starts in the Amazon jungle. He remembers this instant vividly, and will forever, though it happened over 30 years ago. He was on the shore of the Beni River in Bolivia, nearly dead after three weeks alone in the jungle. A riverboat just a few yards away was about to round a bend and disappear down the river. Desperate, Yossi gathered the little energy he had left and waved his arms at the boat. He wanted to shout but only gasped. At the last instant, someone turned his head and saw something unusual. A scream followed - "Yossi don't move!" Miraculously, Yossi's life was saved. Though he had no previous experience trekking through the jungle, Yossi is a survivor. Extreme persistence, determination, and a little luck helped him to survive his time in the harsh and unforgiving environment of the Amazon jungle.
Starting a company has a lot in common with surviving the jungle. Entrepreneurs are constantly surrounded by the unknown. They need to be ready to adapt or react to unforeseen situations immediately, and they have to have the resilience to persevere through multiple setbacks and failures.
What could we learn about resilience, survival, and entrepreneurship from Yossi’s GRI profile?
It was at Singularity University that I first met Yossi. He was speaking to a group of entrepreneurs who were delighted by every single moment of his talk. Of course, entrepreneurs’ challenges are not quite the life-and-death experience that Yossi faced in the Amazon. And yet, his story resonated with these young innovators, inventors and founders.
What did his jungle adventure teach Yossi? "The great revelation for me was that I discovered I was stronger than I thought."
After his experience and his three months of recovery in the hospital, Yossi charged ahead into entrepreneurship and never looked back. He returned to Bolivia, helping to establish ecotourism via Chalalan, an Eco-lodge in Bolivia's Madidi National Park that has helped the indigenous community overcome poverty, retain their culture and conserve their land. He started a design company that crafts furniture from recycled materials, he established 12 centers for the treatment and research of opiate addiction from Mexico to China and founded two tech companies to create mobile social apps, among other ventures. Plus, he regularly delivers motivational speeches.
How much of an explorer or adventurer is there in an entrepreneur? "There is much happening in business that you need to be ready for," says Yossi. "It's not like the fighting of beasts in the Amazon forest, nor the hunting of food without knowing where you can find it, but it is the everyday unexpected, unexplored perils that keep your business alive or cause it to perish."
Understanding our behavior can be helpful in many situations. Among other things, a GRI behavior profile measures how we act most of the time and how successfully we adapt to our role; often a job, but also any other position we may have in life, such as in our family or friendships. At the GRI we call those two elements the Natural and the Role. When the two are close there is usually higher success in the role, because you don’t have to stretch too far from your natural, comfortable behavior to perform your role.
On the right is Yossi’s GRI Profile. Although entrepreneurs are forged in different ways, what does Yossi’s unique profile tell us about his survival and subsequent successes?
Yossi’s GRI Profile is interesting. It shows that he is naturally a self-starter, confident in his opinions, and motivated by challenges. He relishes variety in his activities and puts pressure on himself and others to think and act quickly. Yossi naturally reaches out to people, involving them and leading them. He says, matter-of-factly, “I do what needs to be done with confidence.”
There is a high level of agreement between how he naturally behaves, shown in the Natural profile, and his understanding of his need to adapt, as his Role profile indicates. The small differences between the factors (the dots), tell us that Yossi chooses to take even more risks and move ahead more intensely and forcefully – interesting when you know how much he has already gone through!
"How I survived in the jungle is very consistent with what the GRI profile shows," says Yossi, "and also with my last decades building companies and braving new territories."
What was Yossi’s emotional behavior when exploring the Amazon, or during his other adventures and experiences? What was his inner narrative and voice that directed his reaction to his environment, whether Mother Nature or Silicon Valley?
He says, “When you are in the jungle struggling to survive, there is this inner voice that keeps you alive. Although the context is different, it’s the same voice that speaks to you for staying motivated, engaged, and striving in your day-to-day endeavors.”
Yossi’s profile shows us one combination of behaviors that results in entrepreneurship, with his tendency toward risk-taking, an appreciation for challenges, and an internal confidence that he will succeed. He is energized by the risks and challenges that he seeks out, and persists, even when the odds seem to be stacked against him.
Even so many years later, Yossi is still Yossi, with big dreams and an impetuous desire to find new challenges. “With age comes humility, responsibility and legacy, but daring to take risks with a bit of innocence is part of who I am. I continue to relate to the younger me.” He has maintained a consistency to his inner narrative that extends to his external choices.
Your story and your reaction to environments are going to be different than Yossi’s. How does your inner narrative guide your past and future behaviors? How can you align your narrative with your choices, as Yossi has done? What’s your unique way to perform over the years? Taking the GRI Survey will capture that information and help you answer these questions.
More about Yossi Ghinsberg: His remarkable story was shared first in his book, Jungle, a Harrowing True Story of Survival, then through a Discovery Channel documentary. In 2017, Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame will star as Yossi in the drama/thriller, "Jungle," based on Yossi's experiences in Bolivia. Yossi speaks globally about his experiences, relating them to business, entrepreneurship and motivation. He is also a successful entrepreneur. Visit Yossi's website
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