A Leader’s Greatest Nightmare

When I was 9 my dad took us, 5 kids, on a weekend camping trip to Buttle Lake, Vancouver Island. It was a bit too cold to swim so dad came up with an adventure plan. In this valley the mountains literally rose right out of the lake, but behind the campsite there was a ravine that looked promising for a hike to a view of the lake. No trail, just scrambling through deep old growth rainforest. About an hour into the hike we came to a ravine that was impassable except for an old massive uprooted tree that spanned the gap horizontally about 25 feet high . My dad tested the option and proceeded carefully across. I can’t remember how my siblings navigated the log but I think one of my older brothers shimmied across on his bum.

When it was my turn I started across, hands in my pockets, being casually careful but not cautious. About halfway across the log, in one smooth motion, the mossy bark on the left side of the log gave way and with it went me. As I was falling it did seem to me this was the end and I would die. Miraculously a young fir tree was growing directing beneath me, and as I fell through the air the tree and its branches broke my fall just enough that when I hit the ground the sharp broken rocks on the steep slope tore my clothes and banged me up… but I lived!!

My poor dad watched the whole incident and was convinced that I had died. When he heard my voice from below crying, “I’m ok, I’m ok” I’m sure those were sweet sounds for his ears. Needless to say that was the end of our adventure and we slowly and very carefully picked our way down to the campsite.

If this was a parable and our task was to extract leadership lessons from it I think we could fill a white board. Here are a couple to get our minds thinking.

From a Leader’s Perspective:
1. Leaders need to assess risk before attempting an unknown path, (in our case no path at all.)
2. When faced with a high risk situation, stop and establish the safest plan and then guide the process.

3. Positive outcomes are not always our doing, but be thankful when they happen.

From a Crew Perspective.
1. Even 9 year old kids can put their lives at risk due to ego, overconfidence and poor judgment.
2. We should expect “rotten bark” to break off but often we are simply unaware.

3. Going through life with your hands in your pockets in many situations is simply too casual.

From a Wonder perspective:
1. Life can go sideways with one misstep.
2. Sometimes a tree grows in an exact spot just to break your fall. Be grateful for these “trees” that mysteriously appear from time to time.
A couple of weeks ago Karen and I camped at the exact same location. Every morning l looked up at the ravine and had a moment of reflection.

Steven Falk

P.S. Don’t forget, People Can Change and The Power of Success is in TEAM

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