Peter Leshak is a writer and handyman who spends part of his time fighting forest fires. When a television reporter asked him about this dangerous and difficult occupation, Leshak shrugged off his concerns by saying, “I think of it as a paid adventure.”
Without doing anything nearly so treacherous, many entrepreneurs are drawn to their work by a desire to live an adventurous life. While we often think of travel as being an intrinsic component of adventure, that’s not always so. My favorite definition says an adventure is any undertaking the outcome of which cannot be known at the outset. We don’t embark on an adventure so we can have our preconceived notions verified; we do it to be exposed to something new or challenging.
How can you bring more adventure into what you’re doing? One way is by creating a profit center that meets your definition of adventure. For many people that means finding a way to get paid to do things that most people pay to do. When some friends and I were traveling through the mountains of Colorado, we saw a man in a truck that was mysteriously covered in canvas. Being curious, we asked him about the strange vehicle. He said he was on a highly secret mission testing a new truck’s performance in the high altitude. Testing new products has the potential for paid adventure. Patagonia, the maker of travel clothing, does testing both inside the company and in the rugged outdoors. Manufacturers of everything from sporting goods to household appliances use independent testers to try out new things.
A woman who loved to stay in elegant hotels started a business to evaluate the service in such places. Now she poses as an ordinary guest while rating everything from room service to the hotel spa. Her opinions help hotels improve their services while she enjoys staying in opulent surroundings.
If you’d like to get some experience in evaluating services, locate a mystery shopping service in your area (or online at one of the sites such as www.MysteryShop.org that operates internationally) and sign up. You may be given some less-than-adventurous assignments, but you’ll get a sense of what goes into evaluations and gain experience to help launch your own specialized service.
Maybe your idea of adventure is to spend time in another country. The adventurous entrepreneur realizes that there are unlimited ways to get paid to go places. The founders of the Italian Pottery Outlet in Santa Barbara began their business as a wholesale operation, selling the items they imported to retail shops. After they held a well-attended parking lot sale to get rid of their surplus, they decided to open their own retail operation. Today, their business stretches even further via a website. Like other importers, they’ve created a business that has a built-in adventure component.
Research can be a passport to adventure, too. Writers delving deeply into a subject often find themselves chasing information in diverse locations. Dava Sobel’s Galileo’s Daughter includes letters exchanged between the scientist and his convent-bound daughter. The book required massive research and a bit of detective work in both the U.S. and Italy.
Real adventure comes from our personal passions, of course. LaMar Hanson is a high school counselor who organized a student trip to Ghana. This wasn’t just a travel experience, however. After gathering dozens of used computers, he and his students delivered them to a Ghanian village and installed them in a school, beginning a relationship that continues long after the trip.
It wasn’t only the trip that provided adventure, however. Hanson and his students had to find creative ways to finance the project. “We tried everything from car washes to a silent auction,” he says. It was a learning adventure from conception to conclusion. He could turn that experience into another adventure by starting a business to advise other student/teacher groups.
Collectors claim to be on a perpetual adventure since they’re always on the lookout for the next addition to their collection. Although most collectors acquire things for themselves, some entrepreneurial treasure hunters enjoy building collections that they resell for a profit — after having all the fun of the search. When Southwestern decor was all the rage, for instance, one clever woman became a traveling shopper, going to New Mexico and buying objects for restaurants cashing in on the craze.
Challenge yourself to create a paid adventure that’s just right for you. You could plan a different project every year. Take your cue from John Goddard, whose entire life has been a paid adventure: “If you really know what things you want out of life, it’s amazing how opportunities will come to enable you to carry them out.” It just takes a bit of imagination and a spirit of adventure to claim it.
There’s more where this came from.
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