The lion is more than just an animal. It has become a symbol of strength, dominance, and regality. I mean, just look at the picture above. How majestic!
When I looked at the live like animals series and saw that I had not yet written about the lion (my favorite animal), well…
How to Live Like a Lion
Know and Demonstrate Your Strength
Lions are cats, and cats aren’t known for being brave. “Scaredy cat” comes to mind. Despite being cats, lions don’t fear many things. Why is that?
They know their strength.
What if a lion thought it was weaker than antelope, wildebeests, and zebras? It would starve! Instead, lions are so confident in their strength that they will even attempt to take down elephants (if other food is scarce)!
One of the saddest ways to live your life is being blind to your strength(s). Here’s the tricky thing: the world won’t tell you your strength.
Zebras don’t whisper into young lion cubs’ ears telling them that they are strong. Lions learn of their strength by seeing their parents’ strength and exploring their own abilities.
I vividly remember when I graduated with a degree in finance. I couldn’t get a job for a full year. According to the world, I was worthless. Nobody saw my strength. No zebra whispered in my ear, “Stephen, you’ll be great.”
Up until that point, I had wanted to settle for a normal job so that I could enjoy the rest of my life. But being overlooked ignited something inside of me I didn’t know I had. I believed I had a lot to offer, and because I wasn’t given a chance, I developed a massive chip on my shoulder (and let me check… Yep, it’s still there).
I grit my teeth. I no longer wanted to settle. I wanted more. For the first time in my life, I wanted to maximize my potential and prove the world wrong. The rejection I faced after college was probably the best thing to ever happen to me. Years later, I have written three bestselling books (one of which is in 17 languages) that have improved thousands of people’s lives.
Honestly, I feel like I’ve been overlooked in various ways my whole life, and I know I’m not the only person to feel that way. I bet MOST of us feel that way, just because of how the world works. Feeling underappreciated is common because strength cannot be given to you. It can’t be spoon fed to you like the information we learn in school. It’s something you must learn on your own… in the wild. You have to figure out what you can do and basically force it upon the world.
The world is a harsh place. It won’t budge unless you make it budge.
Since we all have to discover our strength and prove to the world that we belong, let’s get specific about ways you can develop and demonstrate your strength.
1. Develop a skill.
I’ve been (over)analyzing things my whole life. But it was only when I combined my analytical personality trait with writing that I found success. I developed my current writing skills from 12 years of practice. I know I’m still not the greatest writer, but I’m considerably better than I was (and hey, it’s been good enough to sell lots of books).
My roar of strength began when my writing skills and insights converged to be especially meaningful to people. It amplified when I discovered the power of mini habits to transform my behavior. It climaxed when I wrote Mini Habits and it succeeded. It was a long process to get there, but it was worth it. I found my strength.
If you’re wondering what sort of skill you should even try to develop and where to begin, consider reading Do What You Are—it uses your personality type to show you suitable careers. It’s a good starting point for discovering your natural strengths. Once you find something that you connect with, use a strategy like mini habits to develop and nurture it into something special.
Skill development cannot ever be emphasized enough. There’s little more fulfilling and important than honing a skill that can serve you and the world for many years. It’s obviously important for career, but your skills can also enrich your life in other ways. I’m pretty good at basketball—I’ve played it for thousands of hours—and it’s a big source of fun and stress relief. If you’re musically talented, that can be a powerful and fulfilling way to express yourself. Skills are a core part of strength because they enable us to do great things.
2. Never stop fighting for your beliefs and the life that you want.
As long as you’re alive, fight. Lions and other animals fight to survive. Humans can fight to thrive!
I almost shut down this blog six different times, but sticking with it has been one of the best decisions of my life. It led to my dream career!
Fighting sometimes means quitting, too. I’ll never forget when I quit my job on the first day because it wasn’t in the direction I wanted to head. Not quitting this blog and quitting that job were both examples of fighting for the life I wanted, and they both paid off in time.
But it was hard. When I quit that job, no income meant I had to move back in with my parents for cheap rent (in my late 20s). And considering I almost quit this blog six times, I obviously didn’t have a lot of success between those moments of doubt. One-time decisions get most of the attention in hindsight, but it’s even more important that you are willing to fight through the challenging times that often follow these big decisions.
Persistence is usually the difference between success and failure. I love Einstein’s quote as a real-world example of that.
“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
~ Albert Einstein
Einstein was obviously smart, but what if he gave up super easily? He’d be a smart, forgettable guy with crazy hair.
It’s not that (s)he’s such a great actor, writer, blogger, entrepreneur, news anchor, or anything else, it’s usually that they persisted longer and fought harder than anyone else. Strength isn’t seen at the top of a mountain, it’s seen in every fall on the way up the mountain. Do you have the strength to get up as many times as it takes to reach your goal? If so, you won’t be stopped. If not, you’ll be stopped unless you’re extremely lucky.
Be like a lion, and show the world your strength. The world won’t find it for you—you have to find your strength and figure out how to show it.
Use Teamwork for Greater Success
The lion’s reputation as the king of the jungle is hardly helpful when they’re hunting for food. Most of the animals that lions hunt are actually faster, more agile, or even stronger than they are (elephants, giraffes). How then, is a creature with some physical disadvantages at the top of the food chain? Claws and teeth, sure, but their true strength is in numbers, it’s in the pride.
Lions are highly strategic beasts (yet another reason for me to love them). They rarely hunt alone, and instead use teamwork to take down prey. They also use different teamwork strategies to defeat different types of prey. For example, lions will often lie in hiding near a watering hole. If it’s a faster animal like an antelope, one lion will begin to chase it into the waiting paws of the other lions so that it can’t escape. If it’s a slow, but powerful and dangerous animal like a giraffe, the lions will simply surround it and try to topple it over. If it’s an entire herd of buffalo, the pride will ignore the larger buffalo and try to separate a weaker or smaller buffalo from the rest of the herd. Lions are far more deadly together than they are alone.
Sometimes in our life struggles, we forget that we live in a world full of talented people. Other people can help you solve your problems, teach you new skills, and remove or help carry some of the burdens you feel. If you need professional work done for you, simply go to upwork.com or fiverr.com and browse the numerous skills at your disposal (alas, you do have to pay for it). If you need personal help, there are doctors, rehab specialists, masseuses, psychologists, and dentists. You have to pay for help (that’s how the world works), but it doesn’t have to be expensive. Books are inexpensive, and there’s every type of book for every type of problem you can imagine.
Try to do everything yourself, and you’ll soon discover hardship. This blog has had about 50 different designs since 2011. You wanna know why? I’m terrible at design and I kept trying to do it myself. I did enjoy trying for some reason, but I would have saved time, money, and energy to get some help from someone who already had design skills.
My career consists of writing books, and I can just about guarantee you that anyone who tries to write, publish, and sell a book without any help will fail. You need editing. You need proofreading. You need cover design. You might need help with marketing, too. You can’t do it all yourself if you want to succeed. Traditional publishing contracts are attractive to many writers because the publisher handles everything except for the writing, which allows the author to focus on their craft. Just as a lion is nothing without the pride, a writer is nothing without an editor, proofreader, and graphic designer.
Collaboration can enhance any aspect of your life. We all have talents and weaknesses, and with the support of others, we can outsource our weaknesses as we focus on our strengths. Whatever you’re not good at, there’s someone who is. They can teach you or do it for you, and you’ll wonder why you ever insisted on doing it all yourself. When you get help with your weaknesses, it gives you more time and energy to maximize your strengths.
Maintain Key Social Bonds
Lion prides will squabble over food, but otherwise, they do seem to like each other pretty well. They frequently lick and nuzzle each other to establish and strengthen their bond to one another. Time Magazine says males do this for survival reasons:
“Male lions will nuzzle other male lions in order to make sure that when another coalition of lions comes along, the social bond is intact enough for all lions to hold their ranks instead of scurrying off and letting the rest of the group get killed.” 1
Human survival entails more than life and death. The complexity of our emotional framework and the astounding power of our brain makes existence so much more than eating and reproducing to prolong our species. That’s why humans that are extremely blessed with material goods can get depressed and even kill themselves.
As a lion shows affection to maintain the stability and safety of the pride, we should make efforts to let our friends and family know that we’re there for them. If you stand by someone else, 95 times out of 100, they will be there for you as well. You do the lion equivalent of “nuzzling” people by giving them gifts, calling them and telling them they’re important to you, or spending time with them. Like a lion, the strength of your relationships will be key when you find yourself in a dire situation.
As Time says, Lions are better at this than we are.
“If lions can rouse troops to fight enemies, maintain relationships, and cement their entire society through a series of nuzzles and licks, then it may be fair to say people are biologically impaired, and that the lions have found a far simpler solution to order.
If only congressmen were willing to nuzzle across the aisle—how much progress we could make!”
Disclaimer: How NOT to Live Like a Lion
There are a few ways that you should NOT live like a lion. Do not:
- Mark your territory with urine.
- Roar to intimidate unwelcome guests.
- Chase down wild animals and eat them raw.
- Sleep for 20 hours a day.
Beyond those minor details, the regal lion can teach us a few things about life.
This is a part of the Live Like Animals series.