The Lion Tracker’s Guide to Life

I recently finished reading The Lion Tracker’s Guide to Life by Boyd Varty. This was a book recommendation shared in one of Tim Ferriss’s Five Bullet Friday emails earlier this year (I think). I remember being intrigued by it and that I couldn’t find it in Kindle format, so I forgot about it for a while and then ended up buying the physical copy.

Book cover for The Lion Tracker's Guide to Life.

How would I describe the book?

The Lion Tracker’s Guide to Life is about getting out of our heads and in touch with our physical senses, about paying attention, about how to find a path in life that is your own. It is told from the viewpoint of a male author and directed towards males and the “male experience” in both past and modern days. It is also the story of three men tracking a lion. 🦁

What is my biggest takeaway from the book?

The approach that Boyd describes of following your instincts and what “feels right” (i.e the concept of “first tracks”), both using your mental intuitions but just as much your physical intuitions, resonates with me.

Would I recommend this book?

Yes! But…

It is definitely tuned towards male readers in the sense that the author describes his coaching focus and experience coaching men through his practice. I think this transcends gender but it might be a bit off-putting to some of the opposite sex. Excellent storytelling throughout and it is not a long book so makes for a quick read.

Very satisfying. 👍🏼

Here are some of my favorite excerpts (which I’ve stored in Readwise) are below:

I don’t know where we are going but I know exactly how to get there might be the motto of the great tracker. “Track. Track. Track,” Ren has said to me at other times.

I understood him to mean find the first track, then the next first track, then the one after that. He does not set our into the unlikely chance of finding a lion in the future. He works with what he has now, in the moment. Joseph Campbell said, “If you can see your whole life’s path laid out then it’s not your life’s path.” In the bush and in life, we don’t get trails fully laid out. We get tremendous unknowns and, if we are lucky, first tracks. Then next first tracks.

I suspect that part of being a man is that you will as a matter of course fall asleep in your own life. It will happen. Knowing this seems important to me.

The journey out of that will begin not with the call but with the desire to hear the call. The desire itself has an energy. Part of waking yourself, if seems to me, is made by paying attention. Most of us are looking but not seeing.

Why mentors are important:

My ability never seemed to match his expectations. This is common between the father and the son, the dynamic making for an innate tension. This is why in native traditions, the mentor to the young man is never the father but a close male relative.

The track of the father is to find him within you. To find what he gave you and what he didn’t give you. You must use both sides. The medicine of transformation is innately built into this relationship.

It’s hard to grasp the change in the quality of your consciousness until you have spent a few days and then weeks and then months in a wilderness. Seeing someone who simply doesn’t have the social programming you do is profound because it forces you to see that a huge part of what you might think of as “this is how I am” or “this is what you do” is not you at all but patterns of behavior and thinking you have adopted from the cultural story. You have been told what to be and want. This realization is immense as it is the beginning of a much deeper question about what we actually want.

The core of coaching does have a powerful central premise: your beliefs about life are not reality. A great coach asks you to question your deeply held beliefs and rules for yourself. You can go only as far into the experience of creating life as the limits of your personal belief system will allow. I am astounded by the simplicity of this: Track what makes you feel good and bring more of it into your life. Notice what makes you feel lousy and and do less of it.

This is an example of the storytelling throughout:

The tracks of the pride suddenly diverge. The pattern of movement changes from a general direction to sudden irregular movement. Each lion moved in a different direction. Renias whistles. “Thinhala zi lava ku hlota.” These lions want to kill. The change in the patterns of movement tells the story of a hunt. Lions are most dangerous on two occasions: when they have cubs and when they have meat.

I know that one of the great dangers of my life would be to live without danger. In our encounters with the edges, we come to know ourselves more deeply. Neurosis is a substitute for real suffering. Fearfulness is the most common state in a life that asks for no real courage.


🗒️ Note: I enjoy reading books but I usually forget a lot of what I read within a few months. Writing these posts is one way I’m trying to preserve what I learn from what I read. Hopefully, they will inspire you to read and write more as well. 🙌

4 Comments

Ha, that’s exactly why I do my occasional book reviews too, in order to pay attention more as I read and also to remind myself of what the book was about! I still can’t quite figure out what the life take from your book is. To live in the now? Why does one need danger to feel alive? It all sounds a bit adrenaline junkie to me!

😃 Another way to state my main takeaway from the book is that most of us need to work on paying more attention to what makes us feel full/alive and follow that “track”.

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