Why does it seem to come so easily for some people?
Assuming that you’ve paid attention to the 15 Hidden Privileges that Make Adventure Easier, and acknowledged Bonus No. 16 - they’ve been at it for a decade or more already, there are three talents that will let you surge ahead of the pack.
1. World-class athletic ability (& training)
World-class adventure achievements will generally earn their own recognition, even if only in specialist media and among a small audience of aficionados. They should earn you athlete sponsorship from the brands active in your niche. As mainstreams brands increasingly embrace ‘adventure’ as a marketing strategy, that may catapult you into mainstream advertising - and then the money flows in.
However, if the activity is very niche, there may still not be enough money available for you to live from. Unlike conventional sports which may be supported by government grants based purely on athletic ability, adventure sports rely on brand sponsorships. They are not a prize for ability, they are a business partnership. The brands align themselves with you to help them sell more product.
The good news is that means not-world-class adventurers have a shot at sponsorship too. The bad news is that you can be the best in your category and still not do as well as some of your compatriots.
2. Shameless, charismatic self-promotion
Shameless self-promotion, particularly when combined with natural charisma, gets you a long way in most aspects of human endeavour. We’ve likely all seen the meaningless and contrived ‘world first’, and sometimes the simply not-true ‘world first’, and noticed that it still wins big money corporate sponsorship, and mass media coverage. You wonder how the hell they managed it? The charming man waiting to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge exists in adventure too.
Not that every expert self-promotor is selling a dud adventure. You can be a great adventure athlete with an inspiring idea, and also be an outstanding salesman. But the sales ability is a separate skill set.
Many of us cringe at the idea of this kind of braggadocio when it comes to our adventure dream. Our understanding of ‘adventure’, and informal outdoor sports in general, is imbued with a hefty dose of late eighteenth century romanticism. One response to expanding industrial capitalism, with its accompanying urbanisation, pollution and poverty, was to turn ‘back to nature’ as a pure and spiritual source of renewal. That idea still echoes, making many people feel that any attempt to monetise adventure is betraying its soul.
Possibly because most adventurers are always half-embarrassed about promoting their activities, the few that can do it with no shame, complete commitment and (for the win) charisma, get impressive results. It’s worth thinking about where you fit on the self-promotion spectrum and being realistic about the disadvantages it creates if you can’t bring yourself to do it.
3. Original, engaging story-telling
There are people who do adventures of minor consequence, who make little effort to promote themselves - and yet attract followers and media, and coming along behind that - book deals, speeches, sponsors.
Almost all of them are superb story-tellers, whether in words or images. If you can write well enough, you can turn your drunken bet to hitch-hike the circumference of Ireland in a month - with a fridge - into a best-selling book, a film and then several more books. If your photos and updates are quirky enough, you can turn your random wander across some continent into a burgeoning social media following.
This isn’t about just being good. Good writers and photographers still need to hustle and push and market themselves. This is for those with some indefinable mixture of raw talent and great work ethic, who naturally have a unique outlook on life that leaves rest of us captivated.
Most of us are not in the top 1% (or even 10%) on any of these three talents. You are probably:
- keen on adventure but realistically not world-class
- prepared to promote yourself and your adventure to some extent, but it makes you uncomfortable
- interested in sharing your story but likely not one of the literary talents of your generation
You are trying to answer the conundrum that was summed up perfectly in an email I received recently.
I've always been struggling to understand at which point something can be called an adventure and when such an adventure becomes interesting enough for others to hear. - Castor
How do you work out what adventure is possible for you while also worthy of funding and of sharing? Coming up in our next blog post....