Using Ancient Technologies To Navigate Modern Leadership With Boyd Varty

9 Nov , 2019 podcasts

Using Ancient Technologies To Navigate Modern Leadership With Boyd Varty

CMO Boyd | Ancient Technologies For Leadership


In this talk, Boyd Varty – tracker, coach, and storyteller – will teach you how to find the “track” of your own leadership. As we cross the threshold into adventure, Boyd will take us into the African wilderness where he grew up to discover how ancient technologies can powerfully inform the decisions of today’s fast-paced business world. In a world where we must navigate vast amounts of data and are ruled by the intelligence of the mind, we must learn to trust our instincts if we are to find our authentic leadership path. Boyd expertly uses tales from his life as a tracker in South Africa working at the world-renowned Londolozi Game Reserve to share unexpected ways to incorporate these skills into our daily lives.

The wild is also a powerful teacher of connection and demonstrates how the communities we build are key to our future prosperity. We are an ecosystem and as we come together as business leaders, we are fostering our personal evolution while contributing to the advancement of the whole. In South Africa they call this ubuntu, which speaks to the universal bond between all humanity.

In a world of artificial intelligence, only humans have the superpower of instinct and intuition and it can be used to aid in key decisions typically driven by facts and figures. When we are on the right track with our leadership and our life, we can make powerful moves that take us ever closer to the prize we are seeking.

Boyd purposely departs from the typical business conversation to take us into a world where our wisdom lies just beneath the surface of everything we think we know as leaders. This talk will inspire you to look at the power of your life and leadership through a whole new lens…one you have had in your possession all along.

Listen to the podcast here:

Using Ancient Technologies To Navigate Modern Leadership With Boyd Varty

In an effort to make this thought-provoking content from the Summit available to more of you within our Coca-Cola community, we’re providing full-length podcast from the 2019 Summit. After you’ve read, we encourage you to share your thoughts on the CMO Summit Facebook page and keep the discussion going within the community. Creating an open forum for the exchange of ideas and best practices amongst our most respected industry leaders and partners is why we do this. We invite you to make the most of it. This is the full presentation of Boyd Varty‘s talk titled, Using Ancient Technologies to Navigate Modern Leadership from the 2019 Coca-Cola CMO Summit. Enjoy.

Growing up in the wild Eastern part of South Africa, I’ve spent literally hundreds of hours following the trails of animals. I have to tell you that growing up, I thought that would be my path. When I pivoted into the world of coaching, I realized that all of those hours I spent following had so much more to teach me than how to move on the trail of an animal across the landscape. I started working with individuals, teams and leaders. I realized that this ancient art form had so much to teach us about finding what we’re looking for. That’s a little bit of what I’d like to share with you now.

Tracking at its core is about presence. It’s about tuning in to an ever-changing environment. I believe that we live in a time where things are changing so fast that we need to be able to make quick course corrections. We need to be able to read our environment and we need to learn to tune-in in a different way. This art form can take us there. What I would like to do in seeing that we had a fireside chat, seeing as I grew up around campfires in South Africa and seeing as though we’re at a storytelling gathering, I would like to tell you a story. There’s something about telling a story. There’s also something about listening to a story. I would like you to tune into the story.

Ancient Art Form Of Tracking: Story As A Tracker

We’re going to go to a very different environment now. As much as you can, become present in your body and listen to the story because what I’m offering is a mythology. There may be places in the story where you feel something in your body, something inside of you, recognizing attracts, something that is important to you. That’s what I want you to pay attention to as I tell this story. Listen to the story as a tracker. I’ll tell you that my story begins like many great stories in South Africa with a lion roaring. There were three of us sitting around a small campfire when that lion roared in the pre-dawn. The man on the left is a Shangaan man by the name of Renias Mhlongo from Shango. Renias was born under a tree and he grew up hunting and gathering on the land.

In fact, one of the primary ways that his family got meat is him and his brothers would go out and they would track lions and when they found the lions, they would run, screaming at the lions and chase them off the kill and cut themselves a piece of meat before the lions came and reclaim their kill. I can ensure a lot of you can understand that as a whole new dimension to take away meals. I was thinking to myself, I’m sure you have problems with your suppliers but I’m sure there are a few cases where if you get it wrong, your supplier could eat you. The man on the right is a man called Alex Van Den Heever. He has been Renias’ apprentice out there in the wild Eastern part of South Africa for the last several years. These are the men that I grew up with.

We worked as a tracking team for a photographic Safari operation. Our job was to go out and in very uncertain terrain, find the trails of animals, follow them, locate the animals and then we would call in via radio, so that people from all over the world who were on the Safari tracks could come in and have a profound encounter with a wild creature. Every day when we headed out, we know that the success of our operation, the willingness of people to come back, the protection of the land, the livelihood of the local people, it rests squarely on our shoulders as trackers. When the lion roared that morning, somewhere out there in the darkness, Renias did an extremely strange thing. He stood up from where he was sitting at the fire and he played a golf shot. He did a miming golf shot, which was totally weird, but he had seen golf on TV. He was fascinated by the idea of dropping a ball on a demarcated spot. I know what he’s doing. He’s throwing his attention out over the wilderness and he’s trying to drop it down on a predetermined area.

We live in a time where things are changing so fast that we need to be able to make quick course corrections. Click To Tweet

He’s starting to tune in and he kept his ears like this and then he turned to us and he said, “It sounds like a male lion roaring.” He could tell by the baritone that it’s a single male lion roaring. It’s roaring somewhere out there near a waterhole. That’s where we need to go and look. The wilderness we are operating in is roughly the size of Switzerland. To go out there and try and find a lion, to find its tracks, to get a sense of where it’s gone, it’s an exercise in a tremendous amount of unknowns. This is before you add in the fact that lions can on occasion bite.

What I’ve noticed is that the mentality of the tracker, the psyche of the tracker is to go without knowing. They understand that they have to go without knowing. In that way, start to produce outcomes. We jumped into an old Land Rover and we made our way out to the waterhole. It was a beautiful early morning drive. When we got to that waterhole, the vehicle stopped and we jumped out. Immediately, Alex and Renias started to walk in large ever-expanding circles. They’re starting to tune into what’s on the ground. You can see that the way the tracks are laid down there, there is a tremendous amount of information. There are tracks of where a herd of impala has come down to drink. There are tracks of where a giraffe has moved in this very elegant lope across the terrain. There are tracks of where some small warthogs have been startled who’d been wallowing in the end and they’ve run off.

As the tracker walks, they start to glean. They start to tune into that environment and see these layers of information laid down in strata. It reminded me that when I was a little kid, one of the ways that I was taught tracking is Renias would take me to a game path, which is a part that runs from a clearing to where there’s water. He would say to me, “Go look down the path and come back and tell me what you see.” I would walk down the path, I would look diligently and I would come back to him and I would say, “I can see where a herd of impala has walked down the path.” He would look at me critically and like a great mentor would say, “Young boy, go look again.” I would walk back down that path and this time I would come back and I would say to him, “I can see where those impalas walked. I also can see where a mouse was running across the path and the beautiful cave which are telling marks of a giant Eagle-owl as he swooped down to grab that mouse. There’s an impression in the sand where the side of his wing touched the sand. There’s information there. I could see where a squirrel had been running across the path and returning to a dead tree that he had a small hole in.

Every time I walked down that path, it says if I was tuning to an information that was there. When I started coaching people, that idea became absolutely fundamental. The idea that there was information there that you had to teach yourself to see it. You had to start to tune into it. Trackers call this track awareness. As I remember once, I was walking down a path that a leopard had walked down and some people were walking the other way. I was tracking the leopard and they were obliviously walking on the top of its tracks. There is information there. You have to tune yourself to see it.

Back at the waterhole, Renias was walking in large circles, him and Alex, and they spread out and they’re walking these big giant loops, starting to take in the information. Then suddenly, I heard Renias start to click and from a distance, that click was saying, “I’m onto something here.” He turned and he put his finger down. That means, “I’m on the track.” He’s cut the first track. I was researching American Trackers. The American tracker, Tom Brown says, “The first track is one end of a string and on the other end of being is moving.” It’s an amazing idea that as you get onto that track, you’re connected by this feign trail of where that animal is moved to where it is somewhere out there. When Renias gets onto the first track, he steps and then he steps onto the next first track and then he steps onto the next first track and then he steps onto the next first track.

One of the great skills of the tracker, as I watch him do this, and I see the infinite possibilities, 360 degrees of wild terrain. This lion could have gone anywhere but the tracker’s gift is to take that infinite possibility and dial it down to a moment of present action. Another moment of present action and then another single moment of present action. To take the infinite and dial it down to a single moment of action. That is how the tracker creates outcomes in this very uncertain environment. The other thing that he’s doing as I’m watching him is I notice that he’s starting to balance his speed with the speed that the lion was walking. In doing that, as he starts to move at the pace that that lion was moving at, he’s using his body to start to enter into the mood and mindset of the lion. He’s starting to feel that cat walking up ahead of him. He starting to go into resonance with that animal.

CMO Boyd | Ancient Technologies For Leadership

Ancient Technologies For Leadership: The mentality of the tracker is to go without knowing. They understand that they have to go without knowing to start to produce outcomes.


When I was young, he used to say to me, “You must let the lion come into your own body. You must feel its movement.” When I look down at the track that he’s moving on like that, I see more scientifically what he is doing in the instrument of his body. The way he’s tuning in it here, the way I’m tuning in is still up here. What I can see is that the back pad is landing well in front of the front pad. That tells you that this lion is moving fast. What I’ll do now is I’ll tell you the story as the tracks told them to us. The lion walked fast across an open clearing and then he turned and he dropped down into a ravine, a dry river bed where there was thick sand. I heard Alex clicked.

Alex was looking into this thick sand and he said to me, “It looks to me like this lion is listening to something.” The way that he could tell is when a lion stands in soft sand, its head hangs well-forward over the front paws. When it listens, it lifts the head up and the weight of the head traveling over the forearms creates a deep divet into the front paws. Standing in that soft sand, the trackers could tell this lion had stopped and he was listening to something. You can feel how as a tracker, you start to tap into story. You start to live inside and unfold these stories. This lion is moving fast. He’s dropped down into the ravine, he stopped, he’s listening to something and then he started to explode down that river bed. He started to move fast.

You could tell that he was bounding because of the distribution and the cadence at which the tracks were laid down. You could see he landed, stood, exploded and then he bounded again and flew through the air. He went like that for maybe two or three or four miles running like that down in the river bed. We followed. He turned and he cut up out of the dry river bed and into this beautiful open terrain. It was like low-slung Acacia. I remember thinking to myself that I’d spent my whole life walking in this area. I knew this terrain well but I had never exited this dry river bed at the spot. There was a distinct feeling inside of me that this lion was taking me somewhere. I was being led somewhere.

Living With Infinite Curiosity

What I’m going to say to you is that there is a track inside of you and you can learn to identify it. If you learn to identify it and follow it, it will start to take you places. It will start to take you places that you didn’t know you wanted to go. I think of trackers as living with infinite curiosity. Curiosity to me is like the discipline by which life pulls you to experiences beyond what you could have imagined for yourself. That’s why your story, Maureen, was so brilliant because you see that Miles Davis picture and it’s not a picture, it speaks to something in you. Because you’ve developed your track awareness, you’re able to follow it. The lion walks up onto this open clearing and he’s leading us somewhere.

Watching the trackers, they start to do a very interesting thing. I can see in their body language, they’re starting to go into what I call the following state. The following state is what I would define roughly as being in constant creative response to what is happening. They are moving on the track and I can see that the trackers get into this, you can see the energy state that they’re in. You can feel it coming off of them. They are absolutely obsessed with finding that animal. They haven’t allowed the future out there and discovering it to take them out of this moment. They’re simultaneously in two places. They’re absolutely obsessed but they’re here, they’re present. They place the track between them and they walk on it. If the lion veers one way, one will click and be on it. If it veers the other way, the other will be on it.

I should tell you that they’re not seeing beautiful clear marks in open ground. What they’re seeing is a little bit of a faint front toe. They see a little bit of the scuff mark of the back toe. They seeing whereas the lion picks his foot up, sand that has been stuck to the bottom of his foot falls off onto the top of blades of grass. They’ve taught themselves to see these things. Their eyes and their brain have developed search images so they tuned in. This is happening very fast. At the same time, they’re vectoring the general direction of this animal across this incredible terrain and their way pointing to trees up ahead, “It’s going to move left of that marula tree, moved to the right of that thorn tree.” They’re doing all of this very quickly. When you watch them do it at speed, the energy state that’s coming off them is joyful. They’re doing all of this. They’re clicking to each other. There’s communication flying. If I would try to distill it down to a word, whatever that energy is, it’s a powerful leadership zone because it’s an energy that you feel attracted to. Watching them, I would say that they are playing on this track. The track itself, the process of following is starting to bring them to life. I’ve also come to learn that that state, we can learn to spend time on it. We can learn to stretch the amount of time that we spend on it.

There is a track inside of you that will lead you somewhere and you can learn to identify it. Click To Tweet

We followed like that maybe 30 to 40 minutes, then an interesting thing happened. The tracks of the lion teed onto the tracks of a herd of about 300 buffalos. What you see here is where the lion walked up to a big pile of buffalo dung and he laid down and he began to roll on it. He began to cover himself in it. The image that came to my mind was of a sniper who was starting to apply camouflage to himself. Renias looked at me and said, “These lions are clever.” He knows that the lion is starting to mask his scent. The story is getting richer. Then the lion turned and he started to move on the trail of that herd of buffalo. What was interesting about it is we had been moving fast. We had been deep in the following state. Things had been happening. We’d been way pointing, we’d been vectoring, we’d been moving at speed on that track, but when he turned onto the tracks of the herd of buffalo, the ground had been churned up by the buffalo.

It was very difficult the moment we’re starting to ask for something different and immediately the track has started to make adjustments. If they tried to maintain the state that they had been in, we would have lost the track time and time again. They immediately slowed down. Here, we went into a phase where we started to pick slowly, we would get a track. We would move forward and slowly we would get another track. You would move forward and you’d get a piece of a track. The whole dynamics slowed down as we started to pick our way through the churn of buffalo dung and flies and all the remnants of where these buffalos had come through sometime in the middle of the night.

From the side came the tracks of a single lioness. You could see where she had walked in. She joined up with the male and then from the other side, a second lioness and then a third one came in. There was this beautiful story laid out on the ground with us pride came together. Lions are pretty much the only sociable cats. When they come together after they’d been separated, there’s this incredible moment of greeting. They come together and they walk around in circles and they rub up against each other and they bump each other and they pour each other. It was almost like in the way that the pattern of the tracks was laid down. You could feel a joy coming up off the ground. You could feel the energy of them reuniting there. There was even a beautiful place where as they started to move again, you could see tracks overlapping onto each other. The lions are walking up against each other. They’re rubbing against each other. The story is so rich.

What’s interesting about it is you can feel that magic coming up off the ground. You can feel the story unfolding inside of you in some way. There’s an intimacy in that, a closeness that happens to live as trackers, to live close to the way your life is unfolding. The way the story of that track is unfolding. We followed like that for quite some time and the tracking got better. We didn’t have to pick so much because the lions are walking all next to each other. Suddenly, we had four lions. The speed picked up and you could see they were moving pretty cohesively trying to close distance on the buffalo. We followed and then suddenly the track run absolutely cold. Prior to it running cold, you saw one track of the lioness breaking off and then you saw another lion bound.

What had happened when the pattern changes like that, it speaks to the lions are starting to hunt. They’re getting close enough that they’re starting to hunt. The pattern of the way the tracks are laid down changes and becomes very erratic. One line breaks off to the side, one jumps over a bush, they start to step lightly, they move in irregular ways, they’re closing in on the prey up ahead. We completely lost the track. You can imagine what it must be like to be going for four or five hours and suddenly no tracks. What the trackers do is they do two things. They do a few things that are interesting when they lose the track. One is they go back to where they last had a clear track. They’re absolutely certain. You might ask yourself, “When was the last time I was absolutely certain I was on track?”

The other thing that they do and what David was talking about is they try things. They move forward. They check open terrain. They check open game paths. Anywhere where they don’t find a track, it’s not wasted time, where you aren’t finding tracks. That’s helping you refine down to where those animals did go. Open ground is absolutely key. When I was young, Renias used to say to me when I was learning to track lions, he said, “Take your shoes off, track them barefoot because they tend to walk on open terrain.” The trackers start to move forward and they start to try things. They drop into a deep state of discovery. They’re willing to let themselves learn what’s happening. They’re willing to let the process unfold. They’re willing to be inside the discovery.

CMO Boyd | Ancient Technologies For Leadership

Ancient Technologies For Leadership: People who make consistent changes in their business, in their teams, and in their own lives are people who break it down to a small thing they can do right now.


Lions Making A Kill

What happened was at a certain point, we had our heads down and we were moving incredibly slowly the three of us. It must be quite something to see trackers from the outside, a couple of guys walking weirdly through the terrain. We had our heads down and we were incredibly focused. I don’t know how he thought, but he does it consistently. Renias started to click and he put his head up. About a mile away, he saw a Bateleur Eagle dropping out of the sky. He turned to us and he said, “In a story like this, with the tracks of the buffalo, with the tracks of the lion and that eagle dropping down, it can mean one of two things. Either one of the female buffaloes has given birth and that bird is dropping down to eat the afterbirth from the arrival of this calf or these lions have made a kill.”

I was struck by it again, how he went from this incredible detail to taking in something miles and miles away. What I’ve come to see with trackers is you’re either a detailed person or a big-picture thinker. The tracker lives in a constant bridge between detail and this larger horizon orientation. They move in continuously between being very present and closely focused and then taking in the bigger picture. They’re closely focused and then taking in the bigger picture. They orientate themselves constantly in this way.

The bird went down and we knew that whatever’s going on over there, that’s our best bet. We turned and we began to make our way towards where that bird had gone down. Over the long way off and it was also into a woodland thicket. The terrain is thickening. I should tell you too at this point, that lions tend to be most dangerous on two occasions. One, when they have cubs and two, when they have meat. If you come upon a lion that is unhappy that you’ve arrived, there are a few things that happen. The first thing that happens is you get scared. The first thing that happens is you hear the sound of the lion talking to you.

One of the amazing things about the natural world is it is honest. The animals will speak to you in a body language all the time. You know exactly where they are emotionally. They convey it to you without words through a beautiful transmission of presence. If you come upon the lion, the first thing that you hear is the sound. He starts to growl. You can think that someone started a dirt bike up in the bush. One time I looked up, I thought a plane was flying over. The lion growls to you. Then he stands up out the grass, the head starts to drop and the teeth go into a terrible snarl. The ears go back and the tail starts to whip and he starts to walk towards you. As he starts to walk towards you, a lot of ancient physiology floods into you. Something very old starts to happen inside of you. He starts to walk faster and the growl gets louder and then the rhythm changes and he goes into a bound and that tail lashes and he closes in on you.

In that moment your only option is a good lesson for life. When you become incredibly afraid like that, you have to step forward and you drop your energy down and you have to meet that charge. You have to stand and you have to become more present. Lions are afraid of your courage. That’s what I was told as a kid, “You have to stand. If you run, you get eaten.” It’s a fairly high stakes moment. You want to get it right. We start to move in towards where this bird went down and we went into a slightly thicker area. I felt my attention sharpening as we went into the thicket. We got to a point where we saw the bird at about 30 or 40 yards. He flew up. Immediately, the trackers are always gleaning information in every situation. We look to see if there was meat in his crop. We couldn’t quite see and he flew sideways from us and across us. He landed in a small Acacia tree. We moved in to where he had taken off.

We’re half-expecting to either find lions on a kill lying in a shady bush, we don’t know what exactly is going to happen. When we got to where the bird had taken off, we didn’t find anything. It doesn’t make sense. There should be at least some tracks here. It fits together in the story. Alex and I were so cavalier, we wanted to get back onto track. We started walking big circles again. We wanted to cut back onto the track. Renias realized something was wrong. He started to stand very still. I could see that he was assessing in his mind. Because he was standing still, he saw the flies going past him. He started to follow those flies. As he followed them, he put his head up and he began to test the sense scape, using all of his senses, feeling into the terrain in front of him.

Lions are afraid of your courage. Click To Tweet

He cut the scent of meat on the breeze. He followed it. If you imagine images of pies drifting in cartoons. He followed that scent and he came to a place where he found where the lions had indeed made a kill. He had killed a young buffalo. As he arrived at it, he looked at the kill and he was immediately into an equation. He was running a whole lot of information through his head. He was looking at the size of the kill as told by the horns and the hooves. He realized it’s a small calf. He’s thinking about what he understands about lion behavior. He knows that there’s a big male lion and three females. The big male would have dominated the carcass so the females won’t be full. When lions get really full, they get that food coma thing and they lie over and that’s them for the next eighteen hours. These lions aren’t quite full because the male has dominated the kill and it’s a small kill.

At the same time, he glances up at the sun like that. I can tell he’s feeling the sun on his own skin. He’s feeling the heat of that sun on him. He knows that the same sun that is now warming him up is starting to burn down on those lions. He’s using the instrument of his body to tune in. As he did that, I thought to myself, I’ve been walking like these lions have been walking. I’m thirsty and I haven’t even eaten a buffalo. All of this came together and we realized that what these lions are now going to do is they’re going to go and drink.

Renias said, “I know where the closest water is. It’s down at the river.” We moved into another phase of tracking, which they call speculative deductive tracking. Speculative deductive tracking is a kind of tracking. You take all the information and you use your best guess, your best understanding of the terrain, all of your experience, all of your knowledge of animal behavior and you try something. What we decided to do is that we would go down to the river. We would get onto the game paths that run along the edge of the river. We would walk along and we would hopefully cut the tracks of the lions coming down to drink.

I remember as we descended down out of this beautiful woodland clearing, we suddenly had a view of this incredible horizon. As far as you look east, it was wild land, wild terrain with stories like the one we were on unfolding. I felt something inside of myself in the face of that horizon expand. I felt myself aware of a greater sense of my own possibility to dream in the face of that. We got down onto the riverbed and the river had two levels to it. It had an upper bank, which is where the game paths were and then it dropped down into a thick section. Our plan was we’ll walk along that upper bank and we cut across the tracks of the lions if we’ve got this whole equation right.

We turned and we began to walk. We must have gone like that for five or ten minutes. Suddenly, on the path up ahead of us, there was a sound like with canvas slapping. As we looked down the game path, walking the other way towards us came a huge elephant bull. He’s been down in the river and he had been bathing in the river. As he made his way towards us, he kicks the ground and a little puff of dust came up and blew on the breeze. As one, all of us stepped downwind, we stepped towards where the dust blew and there was a small palm tree and we tacked ourselves in underneath it. This bull walked with this incredible elegance down the path towards us. Crouched down there behind that bush, it felt to me as he approached that someone had struck a huge gong and there was this tremendous vibration that started to fill the air. It was as if his presence and the size of his presence in that still air was entering deep into me. I felt my own body start to vibrate with it. I felt it started to run through me.

He walked until he was standing over us. He stopped because he smelled our feet on the path and he picked up some sand and he tested it. With that big head, he started to look around and crouched down on the ground. We were so close to him that his body threw a shadow over us. I could hear clouds of mud falling off of him. I could smell the crust vegetation on him. I could feel that tremendous feeling running through me. Slowly, he turned and he began to walk away down the path.

CMO Boyd | Ancient Technologies For Leadership

Ancient Technologies For Leadership: If we start to live as trackers, you can start to set out on one path and find yourself in line to have an encounter with something you didn’t know was meant for you.


As he moved away, it was as if that vibratory feeling, that gong-like feeling started to subside. It came slowly to a center inside of me. I knew that the elephant had given me a new center, a new central place that I would always know inside of myself from that moment. I thought of Joseph Campbell when he says, “We are not looking for the meaning of life, we are looking for the feeling of being alive.” If that was what we were after in this lifetime, then for a moment I had found it. I’d tell you, I could’ve gone home and I would have been so full of that day’s experience.

Continuing Down The Path And Seeing The Beauty Of Lions

What I’m saying is that I believe that if we start to live as trackers in a lot of different ways in life, you can start to set out on one path, but find yourself in line to have an encounter with something you didn’t know was meant for you. Something that was on your trail but you didn’t know you were going to have a part of them. That’s what it means to live as a tracker. It’s to open yourself to possibilities beyond what you could have imagined for yourself. We turned in and we began to walk down the path. Now, there are these beautiful elephant size footprints covering the path, like dinner plates, beautiful, wrinkled on the side. We moved on his trail for another kilometer, mile or under a mile or so. There suddenly on top of the elephant tracks come the tracks of the lions. They’re on top of the tracks of the elephant. We’ve seen that elephant and the lions have come after that elephant. We are truly starting to get in range. Renias clicked and he looked at me and said, “Come up here.” I know what he wants me to do. He wants me to come up to the front and I will start to follow. My job will be to track. The reason he wants me to follow is that he wants himself and Alex to look over the top of me into the terrain because he knows we’re close. We need people looking up ahead. If everyone’s looking down at the track, we find a foot in it and we don’t want that.

I put my head down and I started to follow. Alex and Renias were looking over the top of me. Because of the nature of the way that the trail was laid down, it was open ground and the lions were moving on these open pods. You could track fast and you could almost feel them walking up ahead of you. When one cat left, I was able to cut with him. When one cat right, I was able to cut with it. I found myself starting to go into a flow with them. I could feel them moving up ahead of me. I could feel that in every direction. It was all laid down there on the track. It’s like a kind of energy started to extend from me to where they were moving somewhere up ahead of us.

About 200 yards ahead, a monkey started to alarm. I know that the monkey has seen those lions. The track is telling a story and the monkey is talking to us. We kept going and about 50 meters beyond that an nyala, which is a beautiful type of antelope, started to alarm. The monkey’s alarming and the nyala is alarming. Beyond that, a squirrel started to call and the track is telling the story. I felt myself coming into a moment of pure presence. I was fully in the feeling of being connected to those lions. I could feel my environment talking to me and the tracks and the track had all started to merge. There was a single unfolding that was happening as a very deep state of presence. Into the midst of that, you can imagine all of these tracks are going away from us. Then suddenly, one lioness has turned and there are tracks facing 180 degrees back the other way. What’s happened is I don’t believe that she could smell us. I don’t believe that she could hear us but as we had started to go into this very deep connection with her, as we were going into energetic resonance, something in a wild part of her instinctual body has felt it.

She’s turned and she’s looked back down the path to see if she’s being followed. I thought of that Rumi poem where he says, “What you seek is also seeking you,” somehow to try and find our way first into the feeling of what we’re looking for. What would it be like if we found it? How would it feel? How would it ring inside of us? To live not in the rationale of what we’re looking for, but the way that it comes alive inside of us. The tracks continued and then they cut down off that high bank towards a deep thicket.

Standing on the bank, you could see the tracks running down into the river below and then thick reeded tunnels. The tunnels are made by hippos that come out of the central stream and up onto the bank. It was dancing there. We looked at each other and we had arrived at that moment where you ask yourself if you set out on any kind of journey to find a different way, you arrive at that point where you’re calling it the bold decision. It’s like, “How committed are you to creating those changes? How committed are you to finding a different way?”

Living as a tracker is to open yourself to possibilities beyond what you could have imagined for yourself. Click To Tweet

For a moment, we looked at each other and we knew we had to go. We had come too far and we knew inside of us that the option of turning around now, that option was gone. It’s nice to arrive at a moment like that where you decide, “It’s not a decision anymore. It’s time. I have to do this.” We stepped down the bank and we walked down into those thick tunnels. When we got down there at one stage, we were crawling through the undergrowth. Because the lions had walked there so freshly, you could smell the lions on the ground. At one time, we even went past a huge lion turd, which was incredibly unnerving when you’re crawling through a thicket.

We came out into the open, we came out of that jungle-y thicket that you see there, that type of reeded area. There was a bank like this, beautiful and sandy and a pool where a river had receded. You could see where the male had walked out onto that soft sand. The track was beautiful. I don’t know if I can say this, but Alex looked at the track and he said, “That’s art.” The male lion walked out onto this open sand and he walked up to the edge of the water and he knelt down and he began to drink. The tracks of the second female and then the tracks of the third female and then the tracks of the fourth female. The entire pride that we’d been tracking.

In from the side, from a different angle, came the tracks of another lioness. Next to the tracks of that other lioness, we suddenly saw the tracks of a civet. A civet is a raccoon-sized creature. When we saw the tracks of the civet, we all realized at exactly the same time that that wasn’t the tracks of a civet. That was the tracks of a cub. What had happened was the lions had left one of the lionesses in the river. They had hunted and then they had returned to the river where she had stayed with the cubs. This all dawned on us. As it dawned on us, that thicket that you see there, those thick green reeds all around, it felt like it got infinitely more claustrophobic. I felt my eyesight literally improve. I felt my sense of smell expand. I felt my hearing pop. We grabbed hold of each other and we dropped down.

We now know that we’re in a very thick patch of bush with a lioness and her cubs. Those cubs could be anywhere around us. We know that these lions are close. Something very ancient and wild came alive inside of me. I realized that there were many years that we were prey because that prey system switches itself on. I felt myself shaking slightly. I looked at Renias and it felt to me like he was all my feeling into the terrain around us. He is deeply connected, intuitive sense of almost feeling the scape around us for those animals.

What he was doing is he was listening to the very faint calls of the birds in the undergrowth. That language was telling him where those lions were moving. He kept us very still and quiet and you could hear very faintly the murmur of the birds. We got a sense that the lions had continued to move away from us. When he believed it was safe, he clicked and we stood up and we went back down that thick tunnel that took us all the way back up onto the bank. We got onto the bank. We all gave each other that kind of look that you give when you’ve been in a bit of an intense situation and no one says anything, you just all look at each other.

We began to walk along the bank and there were beautiful ebony trees and we would move to an ebony tree and we would look down into the river. I had my binoculars and then we would move a little bit more. We would look down into the river. We kept searching. Suddenly, there they were, beautiful animals and they had moved out onto a sandbank. We were still standing there watching. There’s this incredibly ancient moment. As we stood up hidden behind the trees watching this, I got onto my radio and I started to call in the position of these lions to the other Safari guides who had people out on Safari with them. We were still hiding in the thicket when the first Safari trucks started to arrive.

Trackers use the unknown to make them present, to make them feel alive. Click To Tweet

I was watching through my binoculars as I was watching the faces of people who are having an encounter with a pride of lions that they would never have seen if not for tracking. These lions were lying in a place where you would never have driven up on them. The look of awe and the look of joy and the look of connection that those people were in helped me understand what our role was as trackers. I also knew that piece of land, the people who worked there and our operation, it could continue to function. Those livelihoods were in place because we had gone out and tracked. What I’m going to say to you is that, if you start to live as a tracker, you start to find the inner track within, start to work out how it speaks to you. It will start to take you to places that may at times seem very singular. They may seem like they’re places for you but in my experience, people who start to take up the mantle of the tracker start to create opportunities and unlock things wherever they go. The way they love becomes inspiring. The way they are starts to create change around them.

Lessons From The Life Of A Tracker

Let me run through a couple of quick things just to land on a few points that I want you to take away with you if possible. It’s the intention of the tracker. I’ve now coached so many people who have arrived at a point in their life where they don’t know what to do. The feeling of being stuck, “Where are we taking our team? How do we move forward?” Something amazing happens when you arrive in the stuck place. Instead of saying, “I’m stuck. I don’t know how to move forward with this. I don’t know where to go.” You say, “My intention now is to start tracking forward.” Something starts to turn like it’s a magical thing. The quality of the attention changes and you say, “Now I’m starting to look for something. We’re starting to take this team. We’re starting to find a new way,” or tracking begins with wanting to track. Start with that intention and see what starts to come into your field.

The next thing is your relationship with the unknown. We’ve spoken about that. Trackers go without knowing, consistently go without knowing. Many people say to me, “When I know exactly what the next move is, then I’ll make it.” The art form of going towards the inner track is to make space for it, to give yourself the space to sit in the unknowns. We’ve touched on that. Trackers use the unknown to make them present, to make them feel alive. They aren’t afraid of it. We had sold a whole lot of security but you can take the unknown and allow it to send to you rather than scare you.

Develop your track awareness, Maureen and the Miles Davis picture, all of you know this because you look at marketing copy and you look at it and know what works and doesn’t work. There are places in your life where you are incredible trackers already. Apply it to other areas. You know that feeling of just knowing, that what you’re looking for are a very unique set of internal metrics. Apply it to leading. Apply it to finding purpose. Apply it to feeling alive. Develop your track awareness. Use your body to do that. Remember when Renias starts to move on the track, he tunes in. Find out who makes you feel energized in the body, who expands you, who makes you feel full. Notice when something contracts you, use your body, it will guide you forward in ways you can’t imagine.

The first track, take the infinite possibility down to a moment of presence and then another small moment of presence and then another small moment of presence. People who make consistent changes and create consistent changes in their business and in their teams and in their own lives are people who break it down to a small thing that I can do right now that’s a little bit better. These micro-adjustments are the things that start to create consistent, lasting change. You can teach yourself to spend time in the following state by paying attention, constant, creative response to what is occurring. You can start to stretch the amount of time that you’re in that state and it will emerge out of paying attention to how you pay attention.

You will lose the track. This is absolutely critical to know. It’s not Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid and you track infinitely across the terrain. You will lose the track. Why is it important to know? If you set out to make a big change in your life or in your team or in organizations that you’re leading and you lose the track, which you will, if you aren’t aware that’s a part of the process, it’s very easy to say, “We’ve got to go back to the way we knew how to do it.” Losing the track is a part of it. Be willing to discover, be willing to try new things, understand that the path of not here is part of the path of here. Let yourself be in a state of discovery rather than having to know. That’s the key. The vulnerability is allowing yourself that place.

Finally, and this is critical because what we’re being asked to do here is evolve the hero’s story. It had a certain individuality to it. It’s been the primary story of this era. What we are asking ourselves to do is make the hero story not a story about I but a story about us, a story about we. I’m grateful to have been a part of this. I hope that we will go out and as trackers, inspire other trackers around us. Having a team of other trackers around you means people won’t sell you their fears about why something is not possible. Build community, set out together to find something as a team. Thank you.

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About Boyd Varty

CMO Boyd | Ancient Technologies For LeadershipThe wildlife and literacy activist Boyd Varty, author of the memoir Cathedral of the Wild, had an unconventional upbringing. Born to a family of conservationists, Boyd grew up on Londolozi Game Reserve in the South African wilderness, a place where man and nature strive for balance, where perils exist alongside wonders. Founded more than 90 years ago as a hunting ground, Londolozi was transformed into a nature reserve beginning in 1973 by Varty’s father and uncle, visionaries of the restoration movement. But it wasn’t just a sanctuary for the animals; it was also a place for ravaged land to flourish again and for the human spirit to be restored. When Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years of imprisonment, he came to the reserve to recover.

Since childhood, Boyd shared his home with lions, leopards, snakes, and elephants and has spent his life in apprenticeship to the wisdom of nature. Boyd survived a harrowing black mamba encounter, a debilitating bout with malaria, even a vicious crocodile attack, but his biggest challenge was a personal crisis of purpose. As a university student, he studied psychology and ecology, supplementing his education by learning martial arts in Thailand, hiking through the jungles of the Amazon, and apprenticing to a renowned tracker from the Shangaan tribe deepening his intimate knowledge of the natural world. Boyd grew up speaking the local language and learning the true meaning of coexistence between people and with nature.

Village life was also a central part of Boyd’s upbringing and now forms his core driving philosophy. He understands the benefits and fulfillment village life offers, and wants to help others create this effect in their lives, communities, and businesses.

Boyd has a psychology degree from the University of South Africa. He is a certified Master Life Coach, the author of two books, and a TED speaker. Boyd has spent the last ten years refining the art of using wilderness as a place for deep introspection and personal transformation. Having taught his philosophy of “Tracking your Life” to companies and individuals all over the world, he has been featured in The New York Times and NBC.

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