Author Topic: On Being Bold  (Read 883 times)

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Offline daftandbarmy

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On Being Bold
« on: April 27, 2017, 18:20:52 »
On Being Bold: The Spearhead Traverse and Operating at the Edge of My Possible

“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.” Measure for Measure, William Shakespeare

Recently, I successfully completed a lifetime bucket list item: The Spearhead Traverse. This world class three day ski mountaineering expedition begins at the 8,000ft summit of Blackcomb downhill ski resort and ends in Whistler village, conveniently, at the Dublin Pub. In between lies 45 kms of humility. Involving between 12 to 15,000 feet of elevation gain, crossing a dozen glaciers, teetering over knife edge ridges, dodging lurking cornices, camping at 20 below, all while lugging a 50lb pack with tents and other winter bivouac and avalanche rescue essentials; this trip has it all for the right kind of backcountry adventurer. So, when a last minute opportunity to join a guided group opened up, I (ski) jumped at it.  But not without some hesitation, I might add.

I knew that this famously beautiful, and thoroughly arduous, expedition would see me operating at the edge of what I like to call my ‘possibility envelope’. This became doubly apparent part way through the first day when, wrapped in whiteout conditions, we ascended and descended precipitous slopes in a foot of fresh powder; virtually blind. At one point I seriously considered turning back but, fortunately for my bucket list and self-esteem, the thought of returning was more daunting than continuing into the unknown. One of the mantras that kept me going was our Berlineaton motto: Be Bold. Challenging myself to live up to that ideal undoubtedly helped.
Now, sitting at home with a hot cup of coffee beside me and the numbness in my toes gradually fading, it struck me that many of our clients, who we refer to as visionary leaders, go through similar experiences as they lead challenging transformative projects for their businesses. Like my expedition, their efforts frequently feature uncertainty, hardship, discomfort and, ideally, a strong sense of accomplishment. So what, I wondered, did I learn about Being Bold in the backcountry that I could share with visionary leaders in the front country? Here are four criteria for being BOLD that I’ve noticed could be applied to just about any situation, ice covered or not – Brave, Ordinary, Learning, Delegators:

1.   Brave

Launching any kind of improvement initiative, in most businesses these days, is kind of like making the decision to launch yourself over a knife edge ridge crest, in a whiteout, onto a 3,000 ft run out glacier capped by potentially deadly cornices. It takes a certain level of bravery.  I know that the word ‘brave’ is much overused these days and has been applied to just about every form of human effort related to breaking away from various norms and striking out on your own. The type of bravery that I’m talking about here, however, is the good old fashioned kind. You know, the one that gets your bottom lip quivering and usually involves the risking of life, limb and, equally stressful for many, reputation and career. Great leaders confront reality and make the decision to go in a certain direction because they know what has to be done. In many cases these decisions can clash with both common culture and common sense which, of course, seldom deter the best leaders from doing what they know is right.

2.   Ordinary

You will tend to get the best results when everyone seems kind of ordinary. Mark Twain famously noticed ‘If you get to thinking that you’re special, just try ordering someone else’s dog around.’ Visionary leaders attract support for their improvement efforts not because how they dress or what kind of car they drive, but because of who they are. With our group, I noticed that everyone had the same understated, modest approach to this potentially daunting challenge. The prevailing attitude was ‘we’ll stay together, give it a try and make decisions on next steps, together, as we go’. Regardless of how experienced you are, or what you think you might know, on trips like this Mother Nature always holds the trump card, so it’s always wise to keep egos in check and play the hand that you’re dealt with in an ordinary kind of way. And it worked.

3.   Learning

During our expedition, I noticed that everyone brought some kind of unique skill to our collective effort that helped everyone be more successful. This knowledge and experience was never conveyed through a formal presentation, or an extensive explanation of our individual backgrounds and qualifications. There was no time for that. We came forward to show each other what to do, when it was needed, for as long as we needed to, then faded into the background and moved on to the next task.  For example, I was fine powering uphill but, when it came to the steep downhills, struggled through the unfamiliar (to me) deep powder. I kept falling which, as you can imagine, with a 50lb pack on your back, is hugely frustrating. As I plunged past one of the better skiers in the group he merely suggested ‘hands forward’, a body position that provides better balance in all conditions. I knew this, of course, but with that simple reminder of a key success factor consciously focused on improving my technique to the point that I never fell again. OK, maybe once. The key here is that the learning opportunity is obvious to the learner, and the advice is offered at the right time, in the right way, to promote rapid assimilation leading to clearly improved performance. If he had handed me a book on ‘How to ski powder with a 50lb pack on your back’ at that point, even if it was the right information, I might have bashed him over the head with it.

4.   Delegators

We were a guided expedition with a lead guide and a junior, or tail, guide. On trips like this, with so much at stake, it would be easy to assume that the guide would maintain absolute control to mitigate any risks. However, within the constraints of a few non-negotiable safety considerations, it was clear that the guides were more than happy to delegate their power to each and every one of us, helping build a more effective, team based, problem solving approach. In sharing the decision making this way I could see the levels of overall awareness and ownership sky rocket in the group. Can this work as well in the front country? How about you tell me…..

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/being-bold-richard-eaton
"The most important qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only second; hardship, poverty and want are the best school for a soldier." Napoleon

Offline recceguy

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Re: On Being Bold
« Reply #1 on: April 28, 2017, 01:31:03 »
What an amazing story d&b.
Sounds like you might have the makings of a mini documentary  or book in the works.
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Offline dapaterson

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Re: On Being Bold
« Reply #2 on: April 28, 2017, 07:03:10 »
At first glance, I thought the O was an A.

That said, an interesting, well written piece.
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Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: On Being Bold
« Reply #3 on: April 28, 2017, 09:47:16 »
At first glance, I thought the O was an A.

That said, an interesting, well written piece.

Thanks.

In my case, those vowels may be used interchangeably :)
"The most important qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only second; hardship, poverty and want are the best school for a soldier." Napoleon

Offline Blackadder1916

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Re: On Being Bold
« Reply #4 on: April 28, 2017, 11:17:19 »

In my case, those vowels may be used interchangeably :)

Seems only obvious to include reference to the poster boy of the interchangeable O and A

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Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: On Being Bold
« Reply #5 on: April 28, 2017, 11:27:05 »
What an amazing story d&b.
Sounds like you might have the makings of a mini documentary  or book in the works.

Amazing... in that I completed it at all and without injury? Yes!

Thanks! The best part is not having to do it again :)
"The most important qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only second; hardship, poverty and want are the best school for a soldier." Napoleon

Offline Blackadder1916

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Re: On Being Bold
« Reply #6 on: April 28, 2017, 11:48:01 »
D&B,

A interesting trek.  Not being familiar with that small part of the world, I googled and found some info that made me wonder if there was significant difference in the difficulty level depending on season.  While I would probably not attempt it (passing years has diminished both my desire to do such things as well as my hair) it did make me wonder if it would be feasible as a "mini-adventure training" scenario - perhaps something that could be accomplished by a reasonably fit group of reservists.
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Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: On Being Bold
« Reply #7 on: April 28, 2017, 11:55:26 »
D&B,

A interesting trek.  Not being familiar with that small part of the world, I googled and found some info that made me wonder if there was significant difference in the difficulty level depending on season.  While I would probably not attempt it (passing years has diminished both my desire to do such things as well as my hair) it did make me wonder if it would be feasible as a "mini-adventure training" scenario - perhaps something that could be accomplished by a reasonably fit group of reservists.

These guys did it as a half day trip, in May when conditions are more favourable: https://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjFsZylvcfTAhUP9mMKHe-mAtQQFgg4MAM&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.piquenewsmagazine.com%2Fwhistler%2Ftraslin-uses-skins-to-win%2FContent%3Foid%3D2153412&usg=AFQjCNGrWAVmanMqDl9ZBTqLvsjl5KWj3Q

Regardless, I would not recommend this trip to anyone who can not ski black diamond runs all day with a 50lb pack on. In heavy powder or ice. Or anyone who has problems with heights, glacier travel, or freezing to death. There is no 'tourist' route, and you are continually required to judge ever changing conditions and make route changes based on the safest options. I am fairly experienced but still chose to go with a very experienced guide, and am glad I did.

It's definitely not a 'first back country ski trip' kind of thing.

For novices, I would recommend something out of the Bow Hut, or the Wapta traverse. Much more manageable with better options for everyone, even if the weather is awful.

https://yamnuska.com/ski-mountaineering/wapta-traverse/
"The most important qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only second; hardship, poverty and want are the best school for a soldier." Napoleon

Offline Blackadder1916

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Re: On Being Bold
« Reply #8 on: April 28, 2017, 13:41:52 »
For novices, I would recommend something out of the Bow Hut, or the Wapta traverse. Much more manageable with better options for everyone, even if the weather is awful.

https://yamnuska.com/ski-mountaineering/wapta-traverse/

Ahh, Yamnuska . . . memories . . .

While that particular company was probably not in existence back in the 1970s, the neighbourhood would probably be familiar for some who did Basic Mtn Ops (and MOI) in 1 CMBG back in the day.

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