The 10 Habits of Highly Successful Hunter Gatherers

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Articles, Lifestyle

In a recent chapter of my new book “Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health & Life”, I included an anecdote from Mark Sisson’s new book “The Primal Connection“.

While this entire new book by Mark is really good, he has a specific section of the book called “The 10 Habits of Highly Successful Hunter Gatherers”. This section was my favorite part of his book.

You can read the 10 habits above, and below I’m going to give you an example of how I’ve been incorporating each of those 10 habits into my own life. I’d love to hear how you plan on using these habits yourself, so leave your questions, comments and feedback below, and if you haven’t yet read The Primal Connection, click here to get it now.

1. Take Responsibility

This is about owning your life, owning your problems and owning the outcome. Life was harsh, unforgiving and unrelenting in hunter-gatherer ancestor times. Can you imagine them moping around with their heads hung low, judging themselves as failures when they didn’t catch the beast they had been tracking or when they discovered that the water sources they’d finally found was tainted? Instead, survival required that our ancestors regroup and forge ahead to the next challenge when they faced unfavorable circumstances.

I’ve personally decided to make it a habit to readily admit and accept when I’ve made a mistake – whether on a blog post or podcast or whether in a personal or business relationship, then move on – pushing pride aside. How about you?

2. Be Selfish

Being selfish is not about valuing yourself aove all others, but it does mean being as generous with yourself as you are with others. You don’t have to live life as a martyr, and the more you sacrifice your own health, happiness and sanity, the less you have to give. But when you have a healthy relationship with yourself, you’re able to give more valuable to others.

I have at least 30 minutes each morning that are “me-time”. My wife and I have an understanding that I can go away to a quiet place and simply meditate and prepare for the day. As a result, I’m able to produce and to give to her and the kids much more effectively the rest of the day. Do you have some me-time?

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3. Build A Tribe

You need a strong social circle, but sometimes life gets complicated and busy and we lose touch with others. AS a result, we may wind up feeling unattached and socially drifting. But as human beings, we’re built to thrive on relationships and social connections. So you must go out of your way to include opportunities for laughing, socializing and hanging out with family and friends.

I’m not a big fan of  limiting myself to “online summits” , blogging, podcasting, Facebook and Twitter conversations, and this was one reason I put on my live event – to bring real people together in flesh-and-blood format, and it’s also why I go out of my way to travel to conferences and not just sit at home in front of Facebook. What is your social outlet? Church? Tennis? Golf? Group bike rides? Have at least one a week.

4. Be Present

We moderns are used to walking around life preoccupied with our cell phones, our .mp3 players and our e-readers, often oblivious to what’s going on around us, or always rushing to the next big thing. When was the last time you stopped to smell the roses, breathe the fresh air, and simply use your senses to key in to everything around you – whether they be the subtle patterns in nature or someone you’re speaking with?

Rather than talking to my kids, wife or colleagues while I’m “halfway” present, distracted on my computer, I’m now trying to go out of my way to turn and give them full attention and eye contact, and to show that I am 100% present in the conversation. How about you?

5. Be Curious

The most successful older people on the planet are constantly exploring, discovering and learning, whether it be by reading books, learning music, traveling, starting businesses, sampling new foods, visiting new restaurants or doing anything else to make life an adventure. Once you settle and life becomes normal, you tend to disconnect and burnout. This is why retirement kills you.

My kids and I have been “fitness exploring” every morning – going out and discovering new places around our house to make forts, find cool stick and rocks, and simply play on obstacles. My wife and I go out of our way to travel to at least one new place each year, and try at least one new restaurant each month. I try not to get stuck in a rut, and play guitar, play tennis and cook as much as I can. How about you?

6. Trust Your Gut

Our ancestors relied on their sensory abilities to survive in a complex, dangerous and sometimes unpredictable world – and to listen to that “sixth sense” that can be so powerful. You are hardwired to be intuitive, and overthinking problems or second-guessing solutions can often leave you paying the price of indecision.

When I sense I’m making the wrong decision, or having difficulty choosing a path in business or life – such as whether to release a blog post (like this one), whether to let my kids watch a movie (like Batman) or whether to stop work and go snuggle with my wife (always a good move), I’ve going more and more with my gut. Life is too short to ignore intuition. How have you gone with your gut lately?

7. Pick Your Battles

For our hunter-gatherer ancestors, life was an exercise in cost-benefit analysis. In a situation that would normally ruffle your feathers, ask yourself what you stand to gain by fighting the battle. Is the battle substantial or essential, or just a simple matter of pride? You only have so many physical and emotional resources to go around – and this applies to both arguments and also to business decisions such as when to say “yes” and when to say “no”.

I personally get asked to do a lot of things. Articles, guest blog posts, product reviews, new business ventures, etc. I’ve had to learn to simply get rid of “shiny penny syndrome” because many of these things do indeed turn into time-consuming “battles”. When was the last time you said “no” and simply focused on quality instead?

8. Get Over It

By forgiving and repairing relationships, our ancestors were in a better position to glean the benefits of cooperation between group members, and a band member who wouldn’t give up a grudge would’ve been a serious drag to the rest of the group.  You need to know when to say no and walk away, without allowing bitterness to grow or festering negative emotions.

I’ve been using the concept of “breathing” to let things go. When I hear or see someone say something bad about me, or have a disagreement with my wife, I make it a habit to inhale deeply, then exhale and let my stubborn desire to “always be right” to simply flutter away. Try it sometime!

9. Sharpen Your Spear

In the twenty-first century, we face a challenge of trying to make a living in ever-changing conditions, and we have to be often willing to take on new roles with age and to adapt and learn new skills. As scie-fi writer Robert Heinlein once said “Specialization is for insects”. Don’t settle for the norm. Always be ready for something new.

I have this saying on the top of the to-do list I see every day: “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”. What do you think? What have you learned lately? How have you sharpened your spear?

10. Be Affluent

You are hardwired for vast amounts of downtime and leisure, but we often get caught up in the busyness of life and forget to take advantage of the abundance around us. Anthropological analyses estimate that hunter-gatherers daily foraging and food prep time was between two and six hours a day – leaving lots of time for leisure and play. But we moderns often feel pride in working 8, 10, 12 and 16 hour work days – grinding our fingers to the bone and our brain to exhaustion.

Each day, in addition to my 30 minute morning “me-time”, I try and include at least one simple indulgence. It can be a well-deserved glass of wine at the end of the day, a nap with my kids, or a walk outside in the fresh air without the pressure to turn it into a workout. How about you? What is your daily moment of indulgence?

Summary

So those are Mark Sisson’s “10 Habits of Highly Successful Hunter Gatherers”.

I’d love to hear how you plan on using these habits yourself, so leave your questions, comments and feedback below, and if you haven’t yet read The Primal Connection, click here to get it now.

 

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8 thoughts on “The 10 Habits of Highly Successful Hunter Gatherers

  1. dave sinclair says:

    Ben great write up. all good thoughts and actions to keep us from over reaching. I would add to the list "BALANCE". I keep having this bounce around in my head and checked it out in the dictionary and found one description as "harmonious arrangement or relation of parts or elements within a whole'. Something to strive for in any endeavor.

  2. “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” – Epic.

  3. Robert says:

    Love it Ben, I am currently reading Mark's book right now and the philosophy really makes sense. As a society, we have totally drifted away from those things that brought us to a place of success in the first place.

  4. Al Lyman says:

    Great post, Ben! Totally rocked. Thanks for sharing.

  5. kiki says:

    Lovely.

    Mantras are great but they can be fleeting — this is worth carving in stone.

  6. vegpedlr says:

    A lot of food for thought; not everything revolves around training and diet. I definitely need to reflect more.

  7. Afsheen says:

    Great post – you were right Ben, glad I took the time to read it. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Glad you liked it! Mark Sisson is great.

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