The great (and instructive) outdoors

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Today I spent about five hours hiking the Flatiron, a challenging, five-ish mile trail that can get very vertical. Here’s evidence.

The hike was grueling, slippery and totally satisfying.
The hike was grueling, slippery and totally satisfying.

It seemed appropriate after this hike to talk about leadership lessons we learn in nature.

Today we found ourselves struggling to determine which trail was correct. Wanting to get a move on, we chose a path and forced our way through bushes and up a steep slope. After accidentally sliding down, we went back and within a couple of minutes found the correct path.

Here’s what I took from that: when you’re trying to go somewhere, everything can look like a path.

It’s important to take time to absorb your surroundings, because motion is not always forward motion. I think this applies to journalism in a lot of ways. Right now, a lot of media companies will cut staff as a solution to budget issues. Unfortunately, the bleeding is hard to stop. Had newsrooms focused on crowdfunding, events, metered paywalls and distribution cuts, maybe the State of the Media report would be less dire.

Here’s another lesson (and a photo): Seeing something up close isn’t always the best way to see it.

Looking up from the trail and down on the Valley
Looking up from the trail and down on the Valley

While we were hiking, it was important to focus on the rocks in front of us. It started raining and things got slippery. It was borderline not fun. At a certain point, I looked around to check my footing and saw that view.

We often get so immersed in our work that we forgot to take in the bigger picture or consider other approaches. While stressful in its own right, over-focus might prevent us from doing our best work. We also miss out on the fruits of our labor, which are there to keep us inspired.

Here’s a final lesson: hard work can be fun.

The Fellows at Monument Valley

That’s a photo of our wonderful Humphrey Fellows after hiking in Monument Valley, and it looks like everyone is having a great time. That’s what we do in the Humphrey Seminar too. We’ve been discussing controversial subjects, digging into leadership lessons and working through projects using our cultural differences as an advantage.

My hope is that we’ll take the lessons we’ve learned inside the classroom outside into the world.

Here are some lessons from an Everest climber