Hunting Elephants – Chasing Dreams

Are you an elephant hunter?

I am.

Hunting elephants isn’t about poaching or killing magnificent creatures for monetary gain. It is about winning big, really big, I’m talking mega-big, seemingly pie-in-the-sky deals, promotions or relationships – the stuff you dream about but that information may tell you are beyond your grasp. In sales parlance, this is called “hunting elephants.”

I’ve hunted and killed my share of elephants and have enjoyed the glory and massive financial rewards of victory. I’ve also been the victim of bloody, gory, brutal defeats. Yet, rather than set my sites on smaller prey, I continue to hunt elephants.

Why? Because the biggest successes in sports and business result from flying in what I call the “red zone.” It’s where the greatest opportunities lie, but the harshest danger lurks.

Success and failure are handmaidens in the pursuit of such goals.

Success and failure are handmaidens in the pursuit of such goals. If you are risk averse and fear failure, you move farther from the red zone and landing your elephant. Reaching beyond what is comfortable is always a high wire act. This is why your attitude is as important as your aptitude in realizing success.

To truly succeed, your attitude must be dyslexic. You must believe “no” means “on.” And, this is so regardless of how many times you fear risk or the potential of failure. If you hunt elephants, you will fail a lot. We all fear failing. Most of the drama we fear never materializes. Yet, this fear, for many, is immobilizing and highly detrimental.

When going after your elephants, think of fear as f.e.a.r. – false evidence appearing real.

If you’re not failing enough, you’re not testing how successful you can be. And, it’s likely that your fear of failure is limiting your growth. Here’s what Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest NBA player of all time, exhorts:

“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

For me, I experienced 15 years of failing to close a deal to win a major league sports franchise – which was the dream and elephant I hunted. I failed at the very last moment at buying the Lakers and Kings and Prime Ticket while I was CEO of Sony. I failed in hunting the Miami Heat even though the deal was virtually completed. I failed at acquiring the Oakland A’s and this time even after the deal was completed! In early 2000, I failed in my attempt to join the group to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers. But, through each of those painful failures, I built intellectual, experiential and reputational capital.

In 2010, after a long and challenging drama to try to acquire the NBA franchise, the Golden State Warriors, we, my partner Joe Lacob and myself, were certainly the dark horse as some of the greatest hunters in the world were stalking that prey. No one gave us much of a chance. In fact, The San Francisco Chronicle, on the final day posted the headline in the paper, “Larry Ellison Wins Bid For Warriors.” Ellison, the owner of Oracle, generally caught whatever he hunted. Fortunately, the night before we had proven our merit to the seller, built a good reputation with the league, and hung in ferociously in the hunt. We signed the deal, acquired the team, and read with some joy the newspaper’s erroneous account of another hunter’s triumph.

A year later, I successfully became a co-owner in the group that acquired the Los Angeles Dodgers. I’ll never stop chasing my dreams. I’ll never stop hunting elephants. And I’ll never stop experiencing the many punctures, trials and tribulations on my journey to success.

Photo: Andresr/Shutterstock

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