Embracing purpose can often present a challenge, but for Richard Field finding clarity of purpose, was not something he necessarily chose. In the case of this Supernova, purpose chose him in the most unlikely of scenarios.
Imagine you have just moments to live. An event has occurred and you know that you are knocking on heavens door. Who would you think about? What would you regret? Would you feel that you truly gave the world, all you had to give?
This is exactly what happened to Safari guide Richard Field, when in April of 1999 he was attacked by a Lion in the wilds of northern Botswana. The quick thinking of Richards’s clients miraculously saved his life, but this near death experience went on to change his life forever.
I first met Richard in an inner city café, and whilst he is now living the urban life, his heart and soul remain in the African wilderness. Today he continues to run a business as a safari guide in Africa, and shares his amazing story as a professional speaker.
Chatting to Richard it is clear that whilst many of us would remain traumatised after such an event, being attacked by a lion has only made this guy stronger, wiser and more determined to share his love of the wilderness with as many people as possible. As a result of the experience, he is today a passionate advocate for animal welfare and conservation especially when it comes to protecting lions, rhinos and elephants.
I have been lucky enough to have this supernova share his amazing journey with us. Whilst many of us cant relate to being attacked by a lion, Richards recount of his story is full of wisdom and lessons that benefit all of us. Enjoy!
As a WORLD CHANGER in raising awareness of animal welfare and conservation, you have obviously been driven by a sense of purpose and passion in your life. How did you discover your ‘WHY’ and once you found what you were aiming for, how did you execute your dreams?
When I was a kid, all I wanted to do when I grew up was be a safari guide. This desire was fostered from early memories in South Africa’s Kruger National Park with my family, and from fairly regular visits back there. It felt like home and I ached physically whenever we left there. I occasionally tried to think of other ways of making a living, but none grabbed me at all like the idea of living in ‘the bush’. It was all I ever thought about. Most teenage boys had pictures of girls on their wall, whilst I had pictures of lions.
In most ways I was a quiet kid, very shy and reserved, but I lit up whenever I was in the bush, and my parents could see that, and fortunately they never tried to convince to do anything else.
When I was 19 I went and did work experience in South Africa and Botswana, and this was pivotal for me. Prior to that I was floundering in university, hating every minute of it. After that experience, I knew without doubt that Africa was there and it was a viable option – I could make that life happen. I found myself with more spark, and I loved university after that and actually did alright.
I moved to Africa to live in 1996 not to fulfil my life’s purpose, but rather just to do what I had always dreamed of doing. I was happy to work for $200 a month in my first job – I would have done it for free. And in some ways that has been the way that I have lived my life – money has been a secondary concern and I have found myself drawn to the things that I would be willing to do for free. In some ways that is still the way that I operate – I would only ever want to work in a ‘job’ which I would be willing to do for free although I now have a greater understanding that people often don’t value things that are given for free.
To be honest, I don’t know what my ultimate purpose is, but I feel driven to connect people with Africa and its wild animals, places and people. I also feel driven to do what I can to help conserve Africa’s wildlife and in particular the wild places in which they live.
Some speak of luck. In pursuing your passion do you feel that you have been guided by luck (fate, synchronicity, providence), or was your success as simple as setting a goal and executing?
I have always been terrible about setting goals – in fact it has really only been the last 12 months where I have written down concrete goals. Before that it would be fair to say that my life was like a sail boat, and my direction was driven by the wind rather than my own decisions. My initial life in Africa was driven by a selfish desire to experience Africa’s wild places and wild animals for myself. Eventually this was superseded by my desire to share these experiences with others. This is when Africa really began to be fulfilling. Now I feel like I can use some of these experiences to help the places and animals that I love dearly. I do find that when you decide on something, you tend to meet the right person who can help you move along to the next point on your line of purpose, and I think goal setting is powerful in that way because you begin to recognise the things you need to see and hear, and the people that you need to get to know. With that said, I think it helps if the goals are set around your passion rather than money – money hasn’t been able to inspire me continually, whereas I will get out of bed any day of the week at 3am and go and sit with a pride of lions in Botswana.
This ‘Project’ (Confessions of A Supernova) is very much about embracing a purpose greater than our individual identity. Do you feel that your ‘purpose’ in life was something you were born with, or is purpose created by life experience alone?
To be honest, I have no idea but I’m not sure that it really matters. I believe we all have a purpose, and that if we follow what is in our hearts that purpose will reveal itself as you move along the journey. I have thought about it like a labyrinth, where you can move freely around the outside as much as you like, because that is what is familiar, but it takes guts to leave the known world behind and open a door into the labyrinth. Once you go in, you can again walk around on the level you find yourself until you are willing to open the next door. And so on, until you begin to have less fear about what might lie behind the following doors. When you reach the centre, you probably are already living your purpose – however that looks for you. You just have to open the doors, walk through, and then keep walking.
It is the sharing of stories that creates change in the world. What moment in your life, made you passionate about acting as an ambassador for Africa’s wildlife?
I was badly mauled by a lion in 1999 whilst guiding a safari. It was quite a profound and frightening experience which I was very fortunate to survive. It also made for a great story, but it was a story that I was very reluctant to tell, because it had been an ordeal for me, my wife and family as well as those who were involved in saving my life and I didn’t want something so personal to just become a story. So I tried to create a life where I never had to tell that story. When on safari, I never told my guests the story and when I began organising trips back to Africa I wanted people to do so based on my knowledge and understanding of safari rather than the big story. I began doing some speaking in 2007, but rather than use the lion story, I co-created a keynote based around wildlife behaviour.
Last year I left my paid job, with the intention of beginning my own safari company. At the same time I decided to began contemplating the lion incident. I realised that I had been running away from it, but it had never really left me, and life had always been a bit of a struggle. Maybe I needed to embrace it? So I began writing about the incident and soon for the first time felt like I wanted to tell the story, because in writing about it I had discovered things about the experience which might be of help to others. One of the big lessons I learnt was about personal responsibility, and how taking responsibility for the lion attack, rather than blaming the lion had allowed me to return to being a safari guide. All I had to do was change my own behaviour rather than the lions. With this in mind, I began to think about lion conservation. What could I do to help these incredible animals that are dramatically losing ground on the African continent. So I decided that if I was going to do the talk that the talk in some way needed to help lions. It has expanded to include rhino’s, elephants and a children’s charity in the townships around Johannesburg.
You can make one wish upon a STAR to enable world change. What is your wish, and why?
My wish is that we can conserve and protect the world’s existing wilderness areas for generations to come. Wild places are intrinsically good for our souls – we need places where we are no longer in total control, and it is vital for our own good that we get to see and experiences wild animals in places other than a zoo. These wild places, animals and the peoples of the land have the power to humble us ‘civilised’ western folk. Nature isn’t there to be dominated, it is there to teach us – and we have so much more to learn then can never be taught on a computer.
Ever increasing populations, and the mighty dollar will of course be continually placing these wilderness areas under continual threat until we begin to recognise how vital they are for our well being – even if we never set foot in them. Imagine if you knew that you would never be able to set foot in a place that is truly wild? Our souls would wither away and die.
We all have someone in our life that has ignited a spark in the soul. Who is that person in your life, and what was the one thing that person told you, or you heard them say that changed your life?
I think it is hard for anyone to do anything positive if they don’t feel positive about themselves. Growing up I never felt that I fitted in, or that I was worth very much as a person. That changed when I met my now wife Beck. We met on a student exchange to the US. I was a frightfully shy 18 year old who struggled to talk to girls, and she was by far the most open, honest and friendly person I had ever met. There were no agenda’s and I could actually talk to her. We became firm friends, and while I can’t remember anything specific that she said, the fact that she cared about me gave me a feeling that I was actually a half decent person. When you know that someone believes in you as a person it is easier for you want to live up to that belief. She is still my greatest inspiration and also keeps me on the straight and narrow.
Check out the following video to learn more about Leadership Lessons for a Lion!