By Eric Spencer, MTAS
I’m an outdoors guy and an avid backpacker. I love spending time on the trail. As spring approaches, my wife and I are already planning which backpacking trips we are going to tackle this year. As we are considering parks to visit and routes to take, it’s made me look back and reminisce about some of the lessons I’ve learned over the miles, much of which can be applied to our roles as leaders.
Get your trail legs. Trail legs are essential to being successful in hiking long, continuous distances. The concept is to essentially don’t go too fast and too hard right out of the trailhead. Oftentimes a trail, like life and leadership, starts with an uphill climb. If you start too strong and too fast, it will wear you out and make the hike that much tougher. Go at a speed that will allow your legs and lungs to get stronger as you go. Once you get those trail legs, you can pick up the pace. The same goes for leadership. Don’t try to cover too much ground at the start. Take your time, learn the capabilities of yourself and your team, and make improvements as you gain those trail legs.
It’s all about attitude. Backpacking is extremely rewarding, but honestly, it’s not very comfortable. Dealing with a heavy pack, everchanging weather, bug bites, and constant rocks and roots that trip you are just part of the journey. Keeping a positive attitude will help you overcome the problems, frustration, and pain that are inevitable. We face these same issues in leadership roles. Success will only come with a positive attitude – pain is just part of the process.
Sometimes, the simple solution is the best one. If you are on the trail in the rain, you will likely see people in rain jackets and pants trying to keep dry. The problem with this is that as you hike, you get hot, and then you sweat, and it can get miserable under a rainsuit. The simple solution…use an umbrella. I’ve carried one for years and it serves me well. It will keep you relatively dry, but not near as hot. As leaders, we may think we need something transformational, like that rainsuit, to solve the problem, but a lot of times the solution is simple…just pull out the umbrella. It can be a lot more comfortable.
The main thing in hiking, and leadership, is to just keep moving. Putting one foot in front of the other will get you down the trail and to your ultimate goal. On every trip you take, you will learn something about yourself, and grow to appreciate that adaptability is essential. You’ll face something new, and through your resilience, you will be forced to find a solution. Resources are limited on the trial, so you will learn to work with what you have. After you have faced some challenges, you will understand that you are capable of much more than you realize. So, get out there, be present in the moment, enjoy the trip, and just keep moving.