I am giving you fair warning, I need a little aid developing my thoughts on adventure. Consequently, there will a be a plea for your help at the end. Let me start with a little context.
A case for adventure:
Cai is a little different from his classmates. It is very evident when we are skiing. Skiing is something a lot of people do in Colorado, but the only young kids we see in the backcountry tend to be ones who come with us. Why is this a distinction? When you ski in the backcountry you are much less able to predict the conditions. One day Cai is dealing with a snowpack of thigh deep unconsolidated nastiness, on others he is being bounced around by bullet proof sastrugi, all while being buffeted by a mini cyclone. Then there are the times when he is floating amidst acres of the lightest blower powder. This is very different to the controlled environment of the ski resorts.
The thing is not only does he ski differently to his friends, he also approaches life differently. He is aware of how a balanced stance allows you to meet changing circumstances. The value of working to climb a hill to have a sublime run back down is obvious to him. He looks for efficiency when he is working. He recognizes that when things are hard there is no point focusing on how miserable they are, it does not make life better. Finding the beauty in a moment however does. He knows to share the load and he knows when and how to lift the spirits of his companions. He is 12 years old.
I want to be clear here, of course I am proud of my child but I do not think he is some kind of super being. I just think he has been fortunate to have spent a lot of time in nature. Even more important he has had real adventures. Experiences where we have not known what the outcome will be. Times when he has had to dig deep to reach the trail head or the sanctuary of a cabin or tent.
Behaviors that define success:
I recently came across an article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) called The Behaviors that Define A-Players. Wikipedia suggests that, “Behavior is the range of actions and mannerisms made by individuals, organisms, systems, or artificial entities in conjunction with themselves or their environment, which includes the other systems or organisms around as well as the (inanimate) physical environment. It is the response of the system or organism to various stimuli or inputs, whether internal or external, conscious or subconscious, overt or covert, and voluntary or involuntary.”
It makes sense that uncertain outcomes are going to hone more extensive responses to a stimulus than a rote situation. Like teaching someone to roll a kayak, if you allow the participant to practice on only one side, they will learn to right their kayak in the pool very quickly but they will not be able to replicate the feat so well in moving water. Those who practice on both sides take longer to initially acquire the skill but they are more likely to perform it where it matters. This example of bilateral transfer points to why adventure may be so critical in developing other life skills.
Here are the behaviors that HBR pointed to, they are no different to the ones developed at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), Outward Bound (OB) or any other Adventure Education establishment.
* Set stretch goals and adopt high standards for themselves.
* Work collaboratively.
* Volunteer to represent the group.
* Embrace change, rather than resisting It.
* Take initiative.
* Walk the talk.
* Use good judgment.
* Display personal resilience.
* Give honest feedback.
If I have developed any of these behaviors I did it outside, especially when the stakes were high and the Gods were not on our side.