Book Review
Title: "Surviving Your Serengeti: 7 Skills to Master Business and Life"
Author: Stefan Swanepoel
Publisher: Wiley, 2011; 176 pages; $21.95

Various clichés have been used to describe the recessionary market. The seemingly lawless nature of today’s real estate transactions has brought to mind for many the Wild West. Others might say, more generally, about the economy at large, that "it’s a jungle out there."

Longtime real estate industry analyst Stefan Swanepoel appears to agree with the latter assessment; to help us all navigate this jungle, Swanepoel has just published "Surviving Your Serengeti: 7 Skills to Master Business and Life."

"Surviving Your Serengeti" is a parable. It’s a modern-day, fictional story about very lifelike characters: regular old Americans who have had a rough go of things lately.

There’s a retiree-turned-real estate broker and his wife/business partner whose business has been hard hit by the housing crisis. There’s a teacher who got laid off, and has found herself somewhat accidentally successful in multilevel marketing. Her husband owns and operates a renewable energy company that is struggling, desperate to land a big contract to stay afloat. There’s an unemployed banker and his wife.

These three couples — strangers to one another — find themselves nursing their respective work-world wounds on safari in the Serengeti.

Shortly after showing up to the safari, the energy entrepreneur realizes that one of the safari’s leaders is an old friend from business school who he hasn’t seen in 30 years. His friend, a native-born African like Swanepoel himself, shows up in the story as an oracle of sorts.

He shows up throughout the safari, painting vivid pictures of how various species survive and thrive in the face of their natural adversaries, the seasonal cycles, and the circle of life on the wildebeest-eat-wildebeest ecosystem that is the real-life Serengeti.

This businessman-cum-naturalist-cum-Serengeti sage engages his companions in conversations about their own lives and delivers lessons about the critical skills each of seven different Serengeti species relies upon, and how those same skills can be harnessed by the safari attendees to overcome their current business struggles and flourish.

Each chapter focuses on the survival skills of an animal — lions, crocodiles and mongooses, oh my! Every chapter concludes with Swanepoel taking the inspiration of the animals’ skills and stories from the abstract to the concrete, summarizing clearly what the skill is, explaining how to recognize it in yourself, providing actionable tips readers can take to optimally harness the power of each skill in their own businesses and lives, and offering a line or two of inspiration.

"Surviving Your Serengeti" vividly describes the endurance of the wildebeest, the cheetah’s efficiency, and the elegant grace of the giraffe, and deconstructs them into aspirational bullet points and to-do’s.

In this quick read, Swanepoel tells a tale inspired by his own recession-era return to Africa, and the energy and inspiration he personally drew from Serengeti wildlife. Fans of motivational business books will find "Surviving Your Serengeti" to be a unique, uncomplicated narrative with easy-to-digest morals to refresh their recession-weary business lives.

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