Are You an Evolutionary Hunter?
by Alex Charfen
Years ago tribes had hunters. The hunters were the ones who couldn't sit still, would kill a woolly mammoth then barely get it back to the cave and already be thinking about their next adventure. They would wake up energized every day, sharpen their weapons, go out to meet the sun, and be ready for whatever experience that day may bring. The tribe loved the hunters. They knew the truth; the hunters were essential for survival. Yes, they were different, but their differences were what made them great. Those differences made them do the work no one else would, and accomplish exactly what the tribe needed to survive. The hunter was one of us. I know, because I've always been a hunter.
From as early as I can remember, I've gotten up before the sun, biologically compelled to track down my prey, or the opportunities and challenges ahead. I started in the business world when I was eight years old, working for my dad; an awkward kid who was isolated and bullied at school. I found much-needed solace and acceptance in the sales conversations and transactional nature of the business. I understood the marketplace far better than the classroom. Even then, I sensed that business is what changes the world for the better, and I knew I wanted in. It quickly became clear that I had no choice; business and commerce chose me. I'm glad it did because it probably saved my life.
I found comfort in commerce and built my life around the business. Through the years I've made a fortune, lost it all, then I made another fortune, and this time, I figured out how to protect it and build it. Now, I'm no savant. I've made big mistakes, more significant than most, but I've been right a few times too. My prey wasn't just business opportunities and sales, but knowledge. I've read thousands of books and studied every great hunter; from Plato to Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, and even Steve Jobs. I'm constantly consuming data and information, discovering new hunters, more people like us.
Society tells us how different and unique we are as humans, but hunters are much more alike than they are different. While incorrigible, impatient, frustrating, confusing, they all have been relentless in their pursuit of what's next. 10,000 tries to invent the light bulb? A completely natural quest for Thomas Edison, the master hunter. Build a car that redefines the possibility on four wheels, while simultaneously developing a space exploration company? Not a problem for master hunter Elon Musk. Even Bill Gates, famed for his achieved goal to put a computer in every house, has refocused his energy towards enhancing lives around the world, including the elimination of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in the developing world. Having developed the Gates Foundation into the largest transparently operated private foundation in the world, do we really think he can't do it?
The list of hunters and their great accomplishments is endless, and their drive to contribute to the world has no limit. Still, the strengths that make hunters so successful also make them crazy. But that's society's way of making sense of them. How else can we explain Sir Richard Branson, Ingvar Kamprad from IKEA, and Azul Brazilian Airlines' David Neeleman all being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, yet becoming captains of their respective industries and redefining them? Henry Ford and Steve Jobs were diagnosed with dyslexia. How did this not stop them from literally changing the world? Pablo Picasso suffered from bouts of deep depression, is this necessary to create some of the most transformative and valuable works of art the world has ever seen?
Society needs labels to understand how hunters don't conform with established standards for behavior. I suspect all the late great hunters throughout the ages would be labeled with some identifier that supposedly helps the rest of the world understand them better. Things like a troublemaker, disciplinary problems, workaholic, manic, bipolar, ADD, ADHD, compulsive, obsessive, hyperactive, anxious, disordered, and even disabled. The problem is that these labels, in and of themselves, can create the pressure and noise to cause the symptoms they describe. They become the self-fulfilling prophecies for people like us. Many of today's star hunters were not eager students in the traditional sense. Some used their keen drive for gained advantage to game the system, or survive the system, and succeed. Other, highly sensitive, or future-focused visionaries, appear distracted continuously.
Schools were set up for compliance, and hunters just can't comply. They are constantly thinking about how to do things better, and that doesn't sit well in an organization clinging to tradition and standardization. Hunters resist and avoid this kind of constraint because they know they can do better, and nothing will stop them from trying. I tried. I spent most of my school years resigned to the hallway or in the principal's office. Rarely was I rewarded for being a hunter in school. Too many young hunters today find themselves confined to an educational system where the goal is sitting still, memorizing equations, and taking multi-day standardized tests.
Those who fail to comply because they simply can't find their natural strengths and attributes suppressed. The most sensitive and demonstrative hunters are rejected, attacked, and backed into a corner, forced to react as any hunter would. The proof is our overflowing juvenile detention facilities, and the young adults crowding our prisons. It's the nagging question, “how do I get ahead” that compels us to find gained an advantage in the world. Without guidance, protection, and support, the question drives us even sometimes to break the law. I wonder what these people would have been, or will be if they only recognized their so-called issues as the strengths that they are. Could seeing themselves as a leader, not an outcast, have saved them?
Growing up, I struggled. I stood in the shadows a lot; I tried not to be noticed. I barely scraped by in school, and sometimes I didn't know if I would make it, or if it was even worth it. I finally found success because I realized what made me different could be used to build something amazing. The hunter is hardwired to contribute and support the tribe. Evolution was physiologically conditioned us to care because nothing we do matters without others. Around the world, we see creative works, charitable foundations, endowments, public institutions, set up as monuments to great hunters who shared their fortunes with the greater tribe, our world.
Today our tribe knows the hunter by another name, entrepreneur. Society calls this person the 1%. They think he or she made their money fast and easy. They seem to leave one successful company to start the next, just because they can. Everything comes naturally to them, right? The historical argument that the wealthy create human suffering needs to be updated, corrected, or demolished. Entrepreneur isn't a dirty word. Hunters, or entrepreneurs are creating wealth in unprecedented amounts, and in previously impossible time frames. Through Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg has connected people all over the world and facilitates a social revolution. Jessica Alba, unable to stop her compulsion to contribute, has transferred from the silver screen to establish the Honest company, helping families live with less toxicity.
The hunter is a momentum-based being, seeking and thriving on the sensation of moving ahead, and believing the impossible is not only possible, but it must happen. As the masses desperately cling to the status quo, hunters press on in search of innovation and contribution, the same way our species seeks oxygen after being held underwater. All of you hunters, who feel broken in some way because of an itch you can't scratch…you constantly dream of the next adventure…You look out the window and swear you could see what happens if only everything went perfectly…Here's my call: Sharpen your weapons, rally your teams, and set your course. Here is welcome news; there is nothing wrong with you, and you are not alone.