It’s December 2004 Puerto Williams, Chile
Where we [me and my crew] are based for the Summer Antarctic Season. I find myself with some freedom from my Chief Mate duties aboard our expedition yacht Pelagic Australis. A story on being prepared.
Being prepared is a leadership attribute
Picture crystal-clear blue skies, snow-capped mountains, not a breath of wind, a warm 12C and a family of steamer ducks breast-stroking their way across the top of the water. In other words, heaven.
With my adventurous spirit soaring, I decided to take a hike – just me and Mia (the local yacht club dog) – to the summit of Cerro Bandera, Hill Flag.
The Cerro Bandera is a hill located on Navarino Island, is visible from Puerto Williams and its top is a flag of Chile, takes about 3 hours to travel back and forth. It is also the first stop to continue the circuit Dientes de Navarino. Wikipedia
And, after strolling along taking in this wonderful country, I come to a fork in the road. Yes, just like some of the world’s best fairy tales. Blue, more off the beaten track, or red, the path obviously more travelled.
Which path would you choose on such a day?
You guessed it, I went for blue. The idea of stepping out alone along a more scenic route to perhaps join the easier red track on the way down appealed to my senses that day. And off I went.
Across and Upwards for three hours – Trees, rivers, bush, lagoons, lakes, beaver dams and six-inch mud.
I’d like to point out at this stage that despite my adventurous spirit, I am no experienced walker or climber. So much so, in fact, that, I had no food or equipment with me whatsoever. And, just for the record, my idea of rock-climbing was an indoor wall with plastic knobs on it. I ain’t no billy goat.
And here was I, already exhausted.
Then came the vertical scree and rock-face combination which led to the mountain range that needed crossing before reaching the summit of Cerro Bandera. I am desperately trying to follow the little blue markers which are becoming increasingly sparse.
After seven hours of clambering over loose rocks and scree, the thick sub-Antarctic fog set in and I was truly lost.
So, after a bit of reflection on my situation, I crawled under a low-lying bush (of which there were few at this point) with a plastic bag over my head to shield me from the rain, calling cooooo-eee just in case someone was passing. Unlikely.
My thoughts were to stay not too far from my last known marker and either hope-like-hell the fog lifted or that someone would find me more easily.
Mia never left my side the whole time; on reflection, she did look at me with ‘no’ in her eyes and turn her back on me a few times to say ‘go back, this is dangerous’ I soldiered on!. After all, I am in the intelligent human!
That was a lesson in listening to your team [Mia], right there.
At this point, I was in shock at just how easy it is to get yourself into serious trouble up the mountains.
Lady luck was with me. The thick, impenetrable fog lifted, and there was just enough twilight left to head down to the tree line and discover another marker which led me to the BLOODY FLAG. I stopped for a photo, as you do, in the middle of a life-threatening situation, and continued my way down, down, down to the boat. Steve and Dave, my friends and crew, had started looking for me and fortunately, I had reached the bottom when they saw me.
A happier moment is rare…
… well except for the nice long hot shower that followed.
And, even after this experience, the moral of my story is not what you’re thinking… don’t choose the path less travelled. I still, and often, say yes to situations where I know I will have to figure it out along the way.
What I really learned, is the value of being prepared and seeking advice before you chose to walk the path less travelled.
I have met countless leaders in my time who have taken hugely courageous (admirable) steps in their lives and careers without seeking advice and being prepared for critical situations. In some cases, their answer has been to take on the role, struggle on with it and try to ignore, or worse, bury the inevitable difficulties. This is when our leaders of today start to suffer, unnecessarily.
Working with me, Karin Ovari means drawing from years of first-hand leadership experience, the good the bad and the ugly (Meet Karin), benefitting from my practical coaching style and enjoying that ever-present twist of humour; essential for getting through the challenges in life.
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