Into the Wild: The Importance of Knowing Your Limits

Business & entrepreneurship, Career

I recently read John Krakauer’s Into the Wild.   This book details the true-life story of Chris McCandless, a twenty-four year old drifter who died in the Alaska Wilds back in 1992.  McCandless came from an upper-middle class family and graduated from Emory University with a 3.72 GPA.  He had the privileged background and intelligence to perhaps accomplish anything he desired. But he was restless, and instead fled his family for a nomadic lifestyle.

His heroes were London, Tolstoy, Thoreau.   When he entered the Alaskan “bush”, he did so with only five pounds of rice and a gun that was unlikely to kill larger game.  He ended up starving to death after just four months of solitude.   He died pursuing a dream, but there has been a lot of criticism.  Some argue he had a death wish, or that he was too “unprepared.”   That he was arrogant and lacked the survival skills to accomplish his dream, which also makes him selfish.

I don’t want to compare something as common as starting a business to going into the Alaskan wilds–but I related to this character.  There have been times where I’ve second-guessed myself and thought perhaps I should have worked for others longer, so that I would be better prepared for owning my small business.  After all,  wasn’t it somewhat arrogant and selfish of me to start a business so early?  My family depends on me and so do my clients—wouldn’t a little more seasoning have been ideal?   Despite these doubts, I know I was ready.   But perhaps you’re facing uncertainty in your own life?  Perhaps you’re worried you lack the experience, money, etc….

Then again, you never truly know what you’re capable of until you take that risk.  No business is guaranteed to succeed and you won’t know for sure until you try.  So long as you have the basic competency required, who’s to say that waiting would be better?  After all, how many people spend their whole lives talking about what they are “going” to do rather than just going ahead and doing it?

Ways to Prepare


Maybe you’re considering starting your own business.  Perhaps you’ve already started but find yourself in over your head.  Here are some ways to prepare for the daunting journey that is being self employed:


It’s almost a cliche, but nothing is more important than having a trusted mentor (or multiple mentors).  When you’re stuck, these are the people with the experience to help you resolve your issues.  Just remember that mentorship is a “two way” street.  For example, I try to remind my mentors of business opportunities, to have them speak at events I throw, etc., so that hopefully I’m giving to them as well.


I’ve always learned best from reading.  Perhaps I’m a visual learner.  Reading relevant books and/or magazine/newspaper articles in your industry is one of the best things you can do to learn and stay ahead of newer developments.  In many fields, this isn’t just recommended: it’s a requirement.


This is another way to prepare and in many instances is a bare minimum of what is required.

Start/Join a Group

Perhaps you can start or join a group to learn more about your field.


Teaching is one of the best ways to learn.

Bring in Another Expert

Ask for a second opinion, bring in another expert (if so permitted in your field).


In this modern age, the answer is likely out there somewhere.  There’s probably not any issue you can face that someone hasn’t already dealt with.


There’s no worse feeling in the world than being in over your head.  When you’re starting a business, however, there are going to be times when you feel stressed out and unable to deal with certain problems or issues.  When that occurs, I hope the above list helps you out.  And if you feel you lack the requisite skills, then perhaps the above can help give you the confidence to finally break away and start your own business.




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