Lessons From Teddy Roosevelt’s Near Death “River of Doubt” Exploration

Lessons From Teddy Roosevelt's Near Death "River of Doubt" Exploration

I just read “The River of Doubt” about Teddy Roosevelt’s (TR’s) near death adventure on the River of Doubt in the Amazon, and I couldn’t help but pick up several great business lessons.

After getting crushed in his 1912 re-election bid, TR decided to explore the River of Doubt to both forget his woes and to recapture some badly desired attention. He almost died during the trip, however, and he never fully recovered.

Lesson #1: Control your ego. TR was an amazing achiever (prolific author, naturalist, explorer as well as a politician) but he had an outsized ego and a machismo obsession that he dragged his sons into. TR did not plan well for his River of Doubt expedition, thinking he could handle anything (he couldn’t).

Also – his tough talk and machismo caught up with him during WWI. One of his sons died in the war trying to live up to TR’s machismo standards, devastating TR. And, TR’s tough-talk-diplomacy and love for battle seemed very outdated when 10 million men ended up dying gruesomely on WWI battlefields.

Lesson #2: Delegate but don’t abdicate. TR delegated all the planning for the River of Doubt trip to subordinates without monitoring details. This proved nearly fatal for everyone, as the entire group was woefully unprepared for the travails they faced.

Lesson #3: Do background checks. TR did not do background checks on the hires for his trip, and this again almost cost him his life. His quartermaster who planned the trip was utterly incompetent, and one of the Brazilian laborers turned out to be a thief and a murderer (who shot a fellow laborer through the heart).

Jay Voorhees
Founder/Broker | JVM Lending
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