About a year ago, two friends and I were camping in the woods at Enchanted Rock, a state park about an hour outside of Austin. This park is a wonder of nature. Enchanted rock is comprised of a series of granite deposits that stick up from the earth, a seemingly random occurrence, sitting in the middle of not much in the Texas Hill Country. Gently rolling scruffy land that is dotted with grasses, cactus and scrubby oak and cedar. The landscape is rugged. Sunsets cause the pink granite to glow orange, which gives the night light an ethereal quality.This place is truly enchanting.
There are hundred of boulder created caves and dugouts to explore.
All kinds of critters live in and around this rock. You can find tons of deer, turkey, raccoons, armadillos, poisonous snakes, scorpions, venomous spiders and the occasional mountain lion.
I had an encounter with a mountain lion.
That night of camping, my friends and I decided to go for a night hike. It was an overcast, starless night and it was about to rain. There was an electricity in the air. We walked for about twenty minutes, each of us with our flashlights facing the ground. We walked far enough and decided to head back. Just then, one friend shined a light into the woods “What’s that?”, he said. From the tone of his voice, we were concerned. We shined our lights in the same spot. There, a very short distance from us, perhaps the distance of three cars parked end to end, perched upon a rock, resting as a kitty cat does when it might want to leap, was a large tail-swishing mountain lion. Its paws under its torso, head elongated, it watched us. Its large and shining eyes glistened in our torch light. It was curious.
Now, I grew up in Texas and I have heard many stories about what these cats can do. We call this animal by many names. Puma, cougar, mountain lion. That last word there…lion. The animal can get to huge sizes that compare with its African ancestors. This cat truly is an American lion.
I have heard about cats that swat at one sheep in a flock. The cat gets into a blood lust and kills all of the sheep. Disturbing site.
These animals can jump enormous distances and have a ferocity of a house cat with a mouse. In fact, I had a hunter once explain the mountain lion to me like this:
Hunter: Kid, ever seen a cat play with a june bug?
Hunter: You’re the june bug.
Looking at this animal in the eyes, I am aware that a predator is staring at me and my heart starts beating in my throat. This wild animal that can take down large deer is interested in what it sees. The three of us keep our lights on it. Suddenly, it vanishes into the darkness. “What the hell? Where is it? Find it! Find it”! We shine our lights around frantically. Blip. Up it pops, but much closer to us. It likely moved ten feet in a blink.
I grew up with big dogs and understand the concept of alpha dog and how to be one. With this in mind, I made a pro-active decision. I expanded myself as large as I could, with my buddies next to me to seem larger and I dug as deep into my primal-man-self as I could and I let out the largest reverberating roar that my body was capable of making. I tried to blast that cat with intimidation, to let it know that a grizzly is before it.
What did the cat do? It did not move a muscle. It did not flinch. It only quietly stared. The swishing of its tail stops.
I began to feel very afraid. I felt that anything could happen at this moment. If the cat makes the choice to lunge, the odds are against us, strongly. I know with certainty, while staring this lion in the eyes, that I have very little control over anything.. I can only barely control my panic and not run. I know he will chase me as prey if I do. I stood there and watched this cat. We looked at each other for some time as the three of us kept our lights on it. We slowly began backing away. Eventually, it moved out of our light and disappeared.
The next morning, our camp had large cat prints all around it.
The lesson I learned in this moment, while staring eye to eye with this cat was that there are moments in life where I will be unequivocally not in control and that what happens in the following moments, I will simply be along for the ride.
Sometimes, as an entrepreneur, the risk you assume and face can feel like you are staring a predator in the eyes. With risk, a situation can go either way. If you have considerable “skin in the game”, a loss is going to be painful. So, we do the best we can in all situations. We strive our best to give what we are capable of and the rest, we must go along for the ride.