I had been looking forward to watching The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, since the summer. I first learned of the movie at the Calgary Stampede last July, when it was announced that a prominent chuck wagon rider was involved with training the horses for the film. That piqued my interest. More compelling, much of the movie was filmed in my backyard so to speak, Kananaskis Country as we like to call it – arguably the most rugged and unforgiving region of the Canadian Rockies. And it’s an area I hike in virtually every weekend (hence all the pictures on my Facebook page in the Rockies). It never gets old. There’s something majestic about the Rockies – I have an infatuation with them. They’re roamed by predators (wolves, cougars, grizzlies, wolverines and many more); they’re stunningly beautiful and have an unparalleled ability to make you feel very, very small… hiking in the Rockies is an exercise in perspective and humility as much as anything else.
That’s why when this film came out, which is based on the legendary frontiersman Hugh Glass, I just had to see it…
The adventures of fur traders and trappers in the early-1800s was an exciting and extremely dangerous, yet seldom written about, era in our history. These trappers lived brutal lives, constantly flirting with death, be it from ambushes by Indians, the threat of starvation, sickness, predator attacks and hypothermia. These guys were as tough as they came; and in many cases, ruthless and sinister.
The fur trade’s structure had parallels to the startup and venture capital world today. Entrepreneurial trappers would do extensive research, plan out a coordinated strategy to make their way west in order to bring back an epic haul of furs to be sold to other entrepreneurs, fur companies, and the wealthy. Usually without the means to fund their journey (which would last for months, sometimes years, at a time), the most enterprising trappers would put together a team of other hunters, often gents with questionable and sometimes violent pasts, then pitch their plan to an investor, who would sometimes agree to fund the journey while being guaranteed a percentage of the haul.
So that brings me to the point of this article. The Revenant was a fantastic movie, and should win best of the year. But I also think it is a must-see movie for entrepreneurs because it highlights 4 critical keys to success in the business world.
The importance of perseverance: The most prominent theme of Hugh Glass’ life was his ability to endure through the most brutal of circumstances. The man went through hell, which was documented in the movie (although the filmmakers took some liberties with the facts), but stayed focused on his end goal, no matter how dire the outlook became. Despite many near death experiences, in the end Glass accomplished what he set out to do, and in the process became a frontier legend. His perseverance and discipline earned him the respect and admiration of everyone around him, including those of higher societal rank and those in the military. One of the best lines from DiCaprio (who plays Glass in the movie), which speaks to the frontier legend’s character of perseverance, is “As long as you can grab a breath, you fight.”
Can’t do it alone: Although he had success going on side missions alone, Glass’ near fatal decision to scout ahead by himself, in a known area of predators (Indians and animals), resulted in a savage grizzly attack that 99 times out of 100 would have resulted in death.
It was extremely uncommon to conduct solo scouting missions. Perhaps it was Glass’ belief that he didn’t need the help, or simply didn’t want it. Either way, it was the wrong decision.
There is strength in numbers, never forget that as an entrepreneur. Trying to go at it alone usually results in failure. At the very least, it results in what is called a ‘hero organization’ which is dependent on the strength of one man to succeed in the future. These companies not only fail more often, but they receive lower valuations because of that vulnerability. A one-person show is not the structure of how entrepreneurs build successful businesses.
There are resources and opportunity all around you: Aside from his perseverance, what made Glass the legend he was was his ability to survive, and thrive, in the harshest of environments. He accomplished this by becoming exceptionally resourceful, learning survival skills and tips from his enemy, the Indians. Glass respected their ability to live off the land and never waste. He learned how they ate (and what parts of animals were richest in nutrients), hunt, and build shelter; and used it to his advantage in the harsh environment of the Rocky Mountains.
While many trappers complained and were miserable during their journey, Glass was methodical and optimistic in his approach, always preparing for the next day, always keeping himself busy. Whether it was cleaning his highly coveted rifle, preparing meat for the winter, or making clothing from one of his latest kills, Glass was always in preparation during downtime. He did not partake in the debauchery and time-wasting activity many other men indulged in along the journey. His resourcefulness certainly served him well when his life was on the line. In fact, it was the only thing that kept him alive.
Success requires you to be “all in”: Hugh Glass never took any half measures. He couldn’t afford to. He had to be all in with the decisions he made and never second guess. Glass literally made a living, and stayed alive, by out-planning and outworking those who wanted to kill or eat him. Had he not adopted this mentality I think it is safe to say The Revenant wouldn’t exist as he would have died long before becoming a legend. Had he not been so committed to his mission, Glass likely would have been one of the thousands of men who died too soon on the American frontier. Watch the movie and you’ll see what I mean by being ‘all in.’
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Not only will you be highly entertained during the movie, but The Revenant is a film with the unique ability to remind entrepreneurs of four critical lessons on how to succeed when the odds are stacked against you.
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