I often equate marketing consultants with mountain guides. I’ve been both, and the roles are wildly similar.
One time I actually almost died while guiding a trip in the mountains.
Guiding is always a challenge, particularly when there are 60 middle schoolers involved and real world danger. We were in the middle of the Arkansas wilderness. It was 15 years or so back, and I was tasked to lead a large group of middle schoolers through a 6 mile hike along a dry creek bed in what looked like something out of Jurassic Park.
The Intended Outcome
Our goal was to reach a place called Needle Point, a 150 ft. free fall rappel from the top of a cliff. We all have intended outcomes right? How many times does the intended outcome look exactly like the realized result?
Lunch and it’s unintended free fall
We’ve all guided something in our careers and without fail something will go wrong, likely when you’re least expecting it. For this specific endeavor, it was during lunch.
The final push to Needles Point was an unroped scramble from the creek floor 200 ft. up a ravine to a naturally carved out amphitheater which was a perfect spot for a lunch break. In the middle of this amphitheater was a large rock slab, like the one out of Lion King. It overlooked the valley below and the cliff that we had just scrambled up. I chose this vista for the perfect perch for lunch.
In a moment of internal pride and contentment perched in front of the group I had just successfully led to safety, little did I know my own safety was in jeopardy. I stood up on the tip of this rock the size of a Yeti cooler and… it broke loose.
Within a split second I was falling on a rock headed towards the edge of a 200 ft cliff
By God’s grace, I stopped inches from the edge, head bleeding from the fall and a 1 ton rock quickly chasing after me to ensure my demise. The rock settled inches from my body and there was silence.
The adrenaline of a life threatening moment followed by salvation should always be followed by laughter or tears – or both. Business doesn’t work this way. There is rarely a realization or recognition of the fall you sidestepped. The challenge is that it’s unseen.
Take a moment after a problem is solved, a solution is provided, a deadline is hit, and recognize it. I assure you, your team will feel it and understand the gravity and impact of their efforts.
The Real Guide
One note should be mentioned. There was an older leader on the trip, the guide of the guides if you will. His job was to oversee dudes like me and make sure that we were learning and leading correctly. Wherever you’re at, find this guy or gal, know who they are for your team and know the right time to call them.
This was the right time for him to step in. Head bleeding, delirious and slap happy from coming that close to death, I was in no shape to lead. It was time to realize I needed a level of expertise that I didn’t possess – a way out that I couldn’t provide – and leadership that the group was void of.
There was no pride to be had at this point.
There was no need to position myself as the guide. From that moment I was not.
There was only contentment – contentment in the fact that I was alive, that it was going to be okay and that I was going to get down from the cliff the right way.
The Real Outcome
Intentions don’t always match up with realized outcomes. Typically they are not as good as you idealized and not as bad as they could have been. This is because people are involved and people are the largest variable in any journey – second to breaking rocks in this case.
We went on to rappel off the of the 150 ft. Needle Point feature. Fun was had, fears were overcome and we all returned.
That night though, one of the middle schoolers approached me and asked me why I didn’t cry, why I was content and why I had peace after nearly dying.
The answer was simple – what needed to happen had happened but there was something deeper to be understood. My lesson of not being invincible, needing a guide myself and not taking the unpredictability of my environment for granted had been learned. There were other missions, other trips to guide and depth to be had in my own life from these realizations.
Not to get too philosophical, but for those of use leading projects, leading teams and navigating intended goals and realized outcomes – this is your time.
There will be moments of uncertainty, moments to celebrate, moments to look to a guide with expertise that you don’t have and a real outcome that has deeper implications than you ever intended. Pursue that. The noise of the day to day, the frustrations of problems will be lost, the beauty of your team’s creativity to solve problems will be overlooked, and the implications of where you journeyed together will be compressed to just another project, another task, or in my case another cliff dodged.
This is why Clymb Marketing exists. We’re here to not only be your guides, your marketing consultants, but to help you avoid the pitfalls that we’ve seen – not out of pride or selfish ambition – but rather because we’ve fallen before.