Book Review — “Wild Success: 7 Key Lessons Business Leaders Can Learn from Extreme Adventurers” by Amy Posey and Kevin Vallely
If there is a worse time in history than during the Covid-19 pandemic to review a book that ties the lessons of extreme wildlife adventure to an excellence in one’s business skills, I truly don’t know when it would be — and I certainly hope it isn’t up ahead. With mass global unrest on the rise — both in the medical and financial markets — and unemployment rates here in the U.S. rising to perilously high levels, the notion of actually getting and keeping an office job right now feels like a wildlife-set adventure all its own. With that in mind, however, most folks are aching to break loose and to lose themselves in stories: stories of high adventure that seek to entertain, even as they enlighten. And that, in a nutshell, is what stuck-at-home readers across the nation will find in the new book Wild Success: 7 Key Lessons Business Leaders Can Learn from Extreme Adventurers ($28.00 USD, McGraw-Hill).
Written in an engaging style equal parts drive and clarity by fellow adventurers and leadership consultants Amy Posey and Kevin Vallely — both key executives with The AIP Group, a leadership development firm that (as per the book flap) “combines insights from the adventure, science, and business worlds for unique and effective leadership training” — Wild Success presents the “devil-may-care” spirit of this world’s thrill seekers as a top ingredient for continued success and relevance in the business world. If applied as an update to the old 19th century self-reliant adage “pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps,” Posey and Vallely’s modern-day variation may operate more along the lines of “push oneself off by one’s bungee cord.”
As with so many books of this type, the reader’s initial impulse may be to dive into the book at a key spot that appeals to one’s own area of interest, or concern. For this reviewer, the book’s third chapter (entitled “Growth Mindset: Sitting Still Means Going Backward”) was what grabbed me. (It probably helped that I was seated in a chair at the time.) After starting my exploration of the book midway through rather than at the start, though, two things happened: First, I was thrust atop the cold wintry North Pole region traversed a remarkable three times by the Australian open ocean sailor and polar explorer Matt McFadyen. And second, I was so taken with this chapter’s approach to “How to Build Your Growth Mindset” — a three-point maxim presented near chapter’s end — that I decided to go back to the first chapter and experience each of the seven adventures — and business lessons — in the order with which the authors opted to present them.
The result? A book that is very well-positioned to reach and please two different kinds of book readers. For those who enjoy a good story and find they can absorb life lessons best in that format, the stories that begin each chapter — such as that of the world’s greatest big-wave surfer, Mark Mathews, or Roz Savage (four-time Guinness World Record holder in ocean rowing) — will be what is most keenly enjoyed. Those who respond better to numbered lists, and who find their way to wisdom through bulleted points, will embrace the no-nonsense summations at the end of each chapter.
While reading this book, I was reminded of another business book that I had read some years ago entitled Theodore Roosevelt on Leadership: Executive Lessons from the Bully Pulpit by James M. Strock (Three Rivers Press / Random House). Although the sheer scope of the late great President “Teddy” Roosevelt’s life accomplishments still dwarfs those of most others in our world, during this century or the last, a resonance with Roosevelt’s lifelong passion for growth and mastery across all areas of life can be found amply across this deft and absorbing new look at courage and commitment both in business — and in life. My only gripe is that the book ends on an exclamation point — which, to paraphrase Shakespeare, makes me think that the writers doth exclaim too much. The quoted words of Henry David Thoreau, however, save the day directly beneath it in the oft-repeated “I went to the woods” quotation from his still-remarkable Transcendentalist work, Walden (1854). Blessed are the book editors.
In a subject category increasingly overwhelmed in recent years by an approach and presentation that often feels like nothing less than variations on the same dot-to-dot pattern, Wild Success stands out for its unique take on the topic of success in business. Authors Posey and Vallely present a united front and a well-organized look at what the subtitle declares are the “7 Key Lessons Business Leaders Can Learn from Extreme Adventurers.” That being said, I still do not see a bungee cord jump anywhere up ahead in my future — cognitive reappraisal (see page 16) or personal sustainability (see page 167) notwithstanding.