The trail was great. Packed perfectly, grippy snow. Climb. Climb. Climb high above Lake Superior to a view that no matter how times you lay eyes on it, never gets old.
The trail was gone, blown in and buried.
We “sort of knew” where the trail “should be” but stood far from certain of which way to go. “I think it goes down there”,Jon offered, pointing down a steep rock face. Charlie was quiet, taking some pictures. He mumbled something about riding too hard the night before and sore legs. I hadn’t mentioned the potential for HAB (hike-a-bike), though neither seemed surprised by the “enhanced experience”.
I wonder what my partners were thinking? How often, if at all, have they considered turning back. Did it go through their mind? What would they do if they were alone?
Speaking of HAB. This little gem (above) was taken early last spring, half-way through “The Grind”. Pushing and pulling our bikes through ankle deep water and swamp grass. I’m happy to report we’re all still friends. I might even go so far as to say our relationships were “enhanced” by the experience. Adventure has a way of galvanizing a group, enhancing individual resolve, and magnifying, if even just temporarily, resiliency.
It is worth noting the experiences previously described were not intentional acts. A group of people met and went for a ride. Certain actions were taken, leading them places, resulting in subsequent action, reactions, and so on. A negative word was never spoken, at least not within earshot. I’m sure there were a couple “wtf” moments, I know I had a couple. Most impressive, and worthy of review, is the fact fingers were never pointed, no arguments, no blame, we simply rode (and walked) on. Eventually we’d laugh. Honestly, there have been a couple fingers pointed in reference to the rides, but this in a PG blog, so I’ll leave the context and digit choice to your imagination.
Life is an adventure. Life at home, at the office, driving to work, raising kids, our relationships. What can we learn from the adventures we take “off-the-beaten-path”, and how do we apply those lessons to “real life”? Why do our adventures through day-to-day life get so messy, plagued by agendas, politics, competition, and bad behavior? Is it the competition? The scarcity of success? The lack of accountability? Selfishness? Just business?
Take a minute. Think about how tightly we cling to opinions, politics, getting ahead, agendas, criticisms, and how quickly it is proven not to serve us. Are they truly serving us? Do they ever serve us? I can guarantee, politics will not help us find lost trail, nor will they inspire anyone to trudge through ankle deep water. In fact, if it were to happen at work or in a story on social media, people would go to great lengths to make sure someone took the blame, lost their job, or at the very least endured deep shaming.
These are not rhetorical questions, I am trying to prompt discussion. Surely we can have a conversation, share ideas, and learn something? In our civilized day-to-day life, can we agree obsessions with getting ahead, personal agenda, politics, success, criticism, and manipulation of our bias by media feeds a growing divide amongst us… a divide when analyzed will show a dissolution of human community. Yet, by means of a simple change in venue, wherein people are removed from a politically charged, manipulative, bias driven… “world”… We can in-fact achieve the complete opposite result, with people who barely know each other? Is it simply a result of stripping away the politics and individual agendas… allowing us to truly see the dependance we have on… each other… that we can suddenly work in harmony, overcome obstacles, and later celebrate the victories…? Or is it the vulnerability we feel when taken outside our element, far from the protective womb of our comfort zone, that we intuitively know we must temper our ego and criticism, believe in others, trust them, and let them lead?
The Adventure doesn’t start until something goes wrong. What happens when things go wrong at home? Someone gets blamed. What happens at work? Someone gets blamed, maybe worse. At home, work, on a trip, mistakes aren’t the beginning, they’re the end. Is it really an end? We allow mistakes to be the end, we teach our kids to see mistakes as the end, skewed by a broken lens. Adventure in its most natural form is mystical, hard to grasp, barely tangible, more philosophy than physical. Adventure is a culmination of good and bad, mastery of emotion to not go to high on the highs, nor go too low on the lows, and the wisdom to compartmentalize results, avoid fixation on a singular outcome, to make decisions, and move forward. Loss is a classroom, not a prison cell, that if allowed will graduate us forward in life. We should begin everything with the end in mind (Stephen Covey), Adventures included, but remain flexible on the path, factoring potential for things to go wrong, almost inviting them to go wrong. The ultimate dinner date, table for two, just you and failure, enjoying a relaxed evening and good conversation, recapping all of the lessons learned.
Bringing things back to the beginning, a snowy ledge overlooking Lake Superior. Three friends of varying familiarity, the trail lost. Going back wasn’t an option, an unspoken understanding. Mind you we could have turned back. No one would have known the difference, this piece likely would not have been written, and life would have gone on, the consequences of an easy out not realized until a day down the road when the decision to face adversity wasn’t optional. Why do we crack under pressure? Adversity is meant to be practiced. The military practices war-time scenarios in the most brutal, pressure packed simulations a soldier can imagine. Professional sport teams, successful endurance athletes, all of them preparing and simulating adversity, pressure, forced to make snap decisions under duress. You succeed by voluntarily practicing to failure, not by avoiding it. This beings us to what I love most about Adventure Culture. Failure is part of the program. Oh, something went wrong? That’s cool, we’re probably going to have to change our plan. Life goes on. We adapt. Failure is considered a key ingredient. You went on an adventure and nothing went wrong? That’s like someone giving you a cake with no frosting. Folks with an adventure mindset look forward to the challenges, calling audibles, and the little nuance setbacks bring.
Do not become so attached to an outcome that you would be unwilling to accept something better. Losses are temporary. Fail forward. Success is waiting for you.