Why I view business as an adventure

I’m a certified intensity junkie. As a pro photographer I spent 200+ days a year on the road in just about every country you can think of and found myself with the good fortune of hanging out  helicopters, on the side of mountains and underwater - with one hand holding onto a camera and the other holding on for dear life. I’ve had enough thrills, spills and close calls for several lifetimes and I have loved (and continue loving) every minute of it.

All that is to say that getting a first-hand look at the amazing places planet Earth has to offer is highly recommended if you’re fortunate enough to have the opportunity.

But what I’ve learned from my years of travel is the biggest adventure of all is exploring what really makes this world so magical and inspiring: the people and cultures that populate it. And although it’s not commonly thought of as such, business is one of the very best ways to embark on that human- and culture-centric adventure.

Here are a few reasons why building a business is an adventure:

You’ll find yourself in places you’d otherwise never go

Traveling for fun can take you to all kinds of beautiful and inspiring places ( a couple of my personal favorites are Iceland, New Zealand, and Hawaii - all of which make it easy to ignore one’s inbox…).  And, indeed, those are incredible places for a working photographer to visit - or lovely vacation spots for the rest of us. But if you’re after adventure, then business is the ticket.

A true adventure shows you life from a new POV that forever changes the way you see things, and business will take you to even more rare corners of the world- places where you’ll get the incredibly valuable opportunity to see a slice of life as experienced by real people, from a point of view you’ve probably never considered.

These places are likely to be decidedly unglamorous, but somewhat counterintuitively - that’s exactly why they’re so valuable. Anyone with the money can buy a ticket to a posh resort - but the places you’ll see in the context of business aren’t accessible any other way. 

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You might find yourself on the floor of a factory in the US or abroad, persuading the men and women on the assembly line to go above and beyond for you and your product, getting to know each other during the long hours of downtime, and learning how to see the world through their eyes.

Or navigating a crowded and dirty bus terminal trying to find the right way to a client meeting in BFE when you don’t know where you’re going - maybe in a foreign country where you can’t read any of the signs and the locals aren’t keen on helping.

And on the other end of the spectrum, you may end up in a posh boardroom of a high rise, sitting across the negotiating table from someone you’ve seen in newspaper headlines - which sounds great until you think about the sky-high stakes and how intimidating the human across from you can be.

Relaxing? Decidedly not. Comfortable? If you’re lucky- don’t count on it. But mind-expanding and transformational? Absolutely.

You’ll hone your people skills to a razor’s edge

Just as business will put you in places you’re unlikely to be in via any other means, it will also put you next to a wildly diverse and unexpected variety of people. As a few examples from my own career as a photographer, I found myself working side by side with everyone from pro athletes to coffee farmers, billionaires to factory workers, bush pilots to tech savants and everything in between… you name it.

My point is not to boast, but to illustrate that exposure to an impossibly wide variety of people is a natural byproduct of business - of what happens when you literally go to the ends of the earth to get something across the finish line.

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And more than just meeting these people, you’ll likely need to forge relationships with all of them. And make no mistake - the setting in which you’re building these relationships will probably make things harder, not easier. It’s a trial by fire for your communication skills and emotional intelligence, but one that will ultimately be a source of exponential growth.

You’re often in uber-challenging circumstances like a high-pressure project, fighting jet lag and dealing with a language barrier. You’ll need to switch social gears in an instant, shaking hands with the billionaire one moment and the coffee farmer the next. And unlike most social norms, if you meet via business, you’re rarely doing so under the obligation that a friendship will persist.

If you can build genuine, lasting relationships under these circumstances, you can do it anywhere, anytime - and whether you realize it or not, you’ll be honing soft skills that will pay massive dividends in the future.

I could fill volumes with the often difficult and exhausting human moments I’ve experienced as an entrepreneur - but I could fill even more volumes with what I learned from them.

The real adventure happens inside you

Just as athletes embrace the discomfort of training in order to break through plateaus, if you learn to embrace the sometimes arduous adventure of that is business, you’ll grow immeasurably as a human.

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You’ll soon find yourself questioning your own long-held assumptions, considering things from new angles, and bringing more finely-honed people skills to the table - all due to the unique point of view you’ll get on people, places and cultures.

After being on this cultural adventure for a while, I think you’ll find a few things to be true… First, that it’s amazing how much humans can communicate with each other when they want to, despite language or cultural barriers. Just a few words of shared vocabulary are often enough to hash out even complex situations.

And second, that despite superficial differences - nationality, religion, lifestyle, etc - human beings are far more alike than not. Regardless of where we come from, our occupation or lifestyle, fundamentally we all want the mostly the same things - and learning that there is no “them” but only “us” is potentially the most valuable lesson of all.

Adventure can take many forms, and going on adventures that embody diversity of people, place and purpose can be a transformative experience like no other. And although not always thought of as such, business is among the most powerful catalysts for such adventures.

The only word of caution before setting out on the adventure of business - you might get hooked.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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