It is one thing to meet an amazing person and be wowed.  It is another to meet an amazing person who changes the way you think about life. Alayne Cotterill is one of those people.

Alayne is a wildlife biologist living in Kenya who works so closely with wild African lions that she has been charged by them over two hundred times.  Over. Two. Hundred. Times.

“I think it was a good lesson to stand up to a pride of lions.  I think I learned a lot about myself having to spend a lot of time on foot with a pride of lions, my own limits. And I think I’ve used that in life since then. You know there’s a situation, and it’s not necessarily physically scary, it’s physically dangerous, but you’re very scared of something, you’re very nervous of something, and I’m like, “Well, I’ve stood up to charging lions, over and over again.  I can do this.” – Alayne Cotterill, Wildlife Biologist

I admire how in her quote, Alayne put something so terrifying – being charged by wild lions – into such a positive context.

Not surprisingly, I have never faced down a charging wild African lion and, frankly, I’m OK with that. However, I have faced many “lions” – extreme challenges, both personal and professional, that have pushed me to my limits. From caring for family in times of terminal illness to managing the ups and downs of running my own business, there have been many times where I have had to face down fear and give my best in a high-pressure situation.

Only after identifying the “lions” in my life have I been able to reflect on and learn from the experiences as my journey continues.

What are the “lions” in your life that you have confronted?  When you deal with pressure and stress, are there ways you can use those experiences to your advantage?  Next time it happens to you, just think WWACD, or “What Would Alayne Cotterill Do?”

My bet is that you will be brave and you will be successful. Watch Alayne Cotterill elaborate more on being charged by lions here.

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Video Transcripts (for reference): Alayne Cotterill excerpts on being charged by a lion.  

Erik:  What has studying prides of lions taught you about analyzing your own behavior?
Alayne:  Um, I think it was a good lesson to stand up to a pride of lions.  I think I learned a lot about myself having to spend a lot of time on foot with a pride of lions, my own limits. And I think I’ve used that in life since then. You know there’s a situation, and it’s not necessarily physically scary, it’s physically dangerous, but you’re very scared of something, you’re very nervous of something, and I’m like, “Well, I’ve stood up to charging lions, over and over again.  I can do this.  It might just be going in for an interview. It might be actually having a difficult conversation with somebody. It might be anything like that, but it’s given me a sense of inner strength, actually.  The lions themselves, you know, they are a great social animal, and it’s wonderful to work with a social animal, but the are also quite ruthless and I wouldn’t want to take on the traits that they have.  However, watch how affectionate they are with each other and that’s very beautiful.  And how tactile they are, you know how cats are, even domestic cats, I love watching how they move and how they are able to react and everything else.  But I think I was able to learn more about myself through just pushing the limits by putting myself in a situation where I was really, really well out side of my comfort zone.  So that definitely teaches you a lot of things.

Erik:  How did you feel the first time a lion charged you?

Alayne:  I..I think I probably almost needed a change of underwear. [laughs] It’s like an icy cold feeling. It’s just that, “Oh, my god.”  It’s just very unrealistic.  In think in the television era, we almost feel somehow that it’s not real and you realize that it is real.  And that intense fear is really – it happens so fast that it’s quite hard to describe, I really struggle to describe it, but then you also get a great sense of achievement afterwards because if you don’t run away and the whole thing goes well and you effectively win this confrontation then you get a huge sense of pride or… pride is the wrong word… of “Phew!” [laughs] I mean you get a big kick.  And of course the adrenaline, you get a huge endorphin buzz as well.  It’s probably the same guys that jump off buildings and what have you, it’s a bit similar in feeling. Um, so that’s the immediate chemical benefit from those endorphins… I think also though, learning that - one thing that learning from those confrontations with lions is very good because you learn that they are not indiscriminate killers. I mean, anyone of those situations, they could take me out, no problem at all.  And yet you watch their behavior and you realize that they don’t just want to kill anything.  They are very just… They really assess the situation and make a decision based on all sorts of different factors.  So, it was quite interesting being out there amongst things that could potentially kill you – elephants and lions, because you’re out there when you’re walking around, you’re with the lions but there is everything else.  And the fact you can survivor even amongst them, shows you that these things aren’t trying to kill you at all. And I think a lot of us when we come to Africa think that “Ah, God! This is going to try and get me! That’s going to try and get me!” No, no. they are going about their own business, they don’t want to kill us. If we get in the way or we scare them too much they might and well do it, but they don’t want to do it necessarily.

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Erik Michielsen is the founder and CEO of Capture Your Flag, an educational media company creating video-based programs for career learning and professional development. His mission is to bring Near Peer Learning programs to the world, as he believes a gap exists in between peer learning and expert learning that Near Peer knowledge sharing programs can fill. Since 2009, he has been producing the Capture Your Flag career documentary interview series with 75 rising leaders – including Alayne Cotterill - to build a Near Peer, Q&A knowledge repository to help aspiring individuals find Near Peer Exemplars who have been through what they are about to go through.

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