What the Achuar Tribe Can Teach You About Overcoming Obstacles

This post is by Karol K of newInternetOrder.com.

“The who?!” says you.

The Achuar. Image by Enrique Amigo, used under Creative Commons license

The Achuar are small community or tribe of South American Indians living in the Amazon.

When I say tribe, I really mean it. The Achuar live in small villages. A typical household is shaped as a large oval, without outer walls and with a high roof made out of palm tree fronds. Their way of living is somewhat typical to other South American tribes. Women gather and take care of the household while men hunt and work in the forest.

There’s no Internet, no iPods, no electricity, and no medicines—the nearest doctor is thousands of miles away. Basically, there’s nothing we take for granted in our everyday lives.

How can a community survive with no doctors and no medicines? (Even without witch-doctors.) The community members have to figure something out on their own, and create substitutes out of what’s available around them. That means that an average man has to know which herbs and plants can be turned into medicines.

Over the generations the Achuar have gathered rather extensive knowledge about all of this. So whenever someone feels a little under the weather they just toss some herbs into a pot, mix it with other herbs, and voila—the medicine is ready. Of course, strict proportions need to be maintained, so it’s a bit more complicated than this. But what’s interesting is that they can create a medicine for many common ailments: headache, fever, food poisoning, diarrhea, and so on.

That’s not all…

As if that wasn’t unusual, the Achuar have decided to publish a book. Yes, a book. A book containing their knowledge of herbal treatment. I don’t mean just some words jotted down on a palm frond. I mean a normal book, printed on white paper, and written in Spanish (not perfect Spanish, though).

I don’t even know how they managed to do it, or where they started. I have literally no idea where I would start if I were to publish a book while living in the middle of the rainforest, and knowing almost next to nothing about how the modern world functions. Yet they did it.

So I have just one question for you…

What the heck have you done lately?!

If a small tribe living in the Amazon can publish a book, what can you accomplish? I doubt that you have bigger obstacles standing in your way. Here are a few lessons you and I can learn from the Achuars.

1. “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.”

This quote’s actually from Henry Ford, not the Achuar. But fortunately it ties rather well into this post!

2. Don’t worry about what other people think about your project

Whenever somebody says something is impossible, what they really mean is: “I don’t know how to do it.” So if they don’t know, they can’t help you. Fine. Ignore them, and get an opinion from someone who can be of help. Simply become a leader yourself—stop searching for one.

3. Obstacles are not something that should keep you from trying to achieve your goals

An obstacle in business (or in life for that matter) is nothing more than just that—an obstacle. Just like an obstacle on a treadmill. You need to find a way around it and keep running forward.

4. Focus only on one nearest possible task that can be executed right now, and take action

The steps will reveal themselves once you’re on your way. When you think about it, the nearest possible task is all you need to know in order to achieve anything. After this first task is done, come up with another one, and then the next one, and so on, until you achieve your final goal. Besides, it’s rarely effective to be doing more than one thing at a time.

And now for the ultimate take-away from this post, something you might actually want to write down and keep in sight, as it’s highly motivating by itself:

The Achuars have published a book. What the heck have you done lately?!

Are you still in the mood to complain over how tough life is, and how hard it is to go out there and create something of your own? Don’t be. It could be worse—keep that in mind. Besides, transforming your life takes only five steps.

Karol K. (@carlosinho) is a 20-something year old web 2.0 entrepreneur from Poland who shares his thoughts at newInternetOrder.com. Tune in to get his Getting Things Done (GTD) tips and other personal productivity advice.

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