As I start my travels to start the Utah Business Leadership Trek, I peer out through the porthole of my vehicle. Denver. Planes with propellors. Grand Junction. I cling to my phone. EDGE signal unavailable. Utah. Fewer bars. Crazy bus drivers. Last Facebook status update. Dirt tracks. Red sand.
This is a bad sign
I’m not a typical participant for this type of trip. I’m at my most comfortable in a Starbucks with my laptop, good WiFi and a chai tea latte. The reason I came clearly isn’t to hike. I came to figure out a few things about myself in my desire to become a better leader. So goodbye to the comfort zone for one week, and I will discover how I perform.
What I don’t realise is how far outside my comfort zone I am.
The first night, we camp next to the truck. Sleep is tough, as it’s well below freezing, we are sleeping on a rock, and we have tarps rather than tents. Exit plan: sneak into the truck while everyone is asleep and get the hell out.
The idea of the week is that after we are all orientated and can function safely in the desert, we are all allocated team roles, and we are the ones who figure out where we are going that day, how we can get enough water to keep going, and where we might camp that night. Over the course of our interactions, we learn some leadership theories, and also more about ourselves through constructive peer feedback. It sounds great to me – this is why I came. Now if we could do this in a nice little coffee shop somewhere, that would be even better. Exit plan: steal water and walk back to civilisation.
We are issued with food, water, climbing gear and five wet wipes. We move away from the truck.
This is the cleanest we will be for the next seven days
We walk down into the canyon. Lunch. The echo invites us to sing “In The Air Tonight”. We hike on. An exit point. By the time we get to the top, I am ready to curl up into the foetal position – however, the sun is dropping fast and we need to find a camp. The decision comes down to me – I vote we move on a little further, and blind luck rewards us with an area we can camp in.
As darkness creeps over us, we reflect upon the day’s activities. Today was an important day – later I will realise that I was able to make some fairly reasonable decisions while under stress and outside my comfort zone. For the moment, I just want a shower and a decent hotel room. Perhaps an hour or so playing on Xbox. Exit plan: fake an injury and get taken back to the truck. Gain control of the vehicle get the hell out.
I’m through it, Harry
The next day, everything changes. We head through canyons and make it past a lot of strange obstacles – huge boulders, ungainly packs and bird poo. The team works well together to get us going in the right direction, and over any obstacle we encounter. There are no more exit plans – the only way out is through. We are Ninjas. Our kung-fu is strong.
After that day, I knew nothing could stop us. Hundred foot rappels, steep ascents over exposed rock faces. I was right.
I like to think that we all found out a little more about ourselves during the week. We can work with total strangers. We can be comfortable being uncomfortable. We can make decisions quickly when needed. We can always contribute something, even when we know nothing. We can communicate well with anyone, even though we have strengths and weaknesses. We are not too proud to get feedback. We will act on it and become better human beings.
Leave no trace, take nothing but bruises
Cut off from the world of technology, I felt a little like Samson without his locks. The canyon has turned into my Delilah, and I can’t help but feel that I’m a little bit in love with this place.