This is the fourth installment in a series of essays about some life lessons I learned on a recent enduro motorcycle adventure designed to help rejuvenate leaders. In total, we covered more than 275 miles from Sequoia National Forest to Yosemite National Park. During the day we rode hard, and at night we sat around the campfire having honest, vulnerable, and courageous conversations.
I’m pretty sure they had a plan, but if they did, they weren’t telling any of us.
At first, I thought Martin, one of our guides, was being aloof. Then I thought he was just being nonchalant. It even occurred to me that he might just be a jerk. Every time one of us asked him a question about the schedule or logistics, his answer was a very vague “I don’t know.” Sometimes he would answer with “Maybe.” And on a few occasions, we got the combo “I don’t know. Maybe.”
It went kinda like this.
One of us would ask, “Hey, Martin. We going to have lunch soon?”
“I don’t know,” he would respond.
“Martin, you think we are going to get some rain today?”
“Will there be a swimming hole at the campsite tonight, Martin?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
It got kinda comical at some points. It wasn’t until around lunch on the second day that it dawned on me that the guys from Wilderness were doing us a favor.
You see when you take a bunch of achievers/leaders/decision makers out of their element and out of their roles, take away their smartphones and agendas, put them in the woods on dirt bikes, have them sleep in tents, and not give them any maps or details — you have the ingredients for something uncomfortably adventurous and magical.
It was actually a very freeing gift to not be in control (or to even have the perception of control). By not knowing what was coming next, I was more able to stay in the moment. By not being in charge, I was invited to trust. By being stripped of my familiar and tired roles of leader, visionary, and creator, I was free to see things with new eyes.
It was invigorating and rejuvenating.
One evening soon after returning from the trip, I burned some cedar, oak, and hackberry in the firepit in our backyard. I sat staring at the flames trying to understand what was so good about the adventure. As I watched the orange, red, and blue flames dance at my feet, questions rose from my heart like embers sparking from the fire and drifting up in the smoke.
What if not knowing what happens next is life’s way of letting the good and beautiful moments become magical gifts and surprises?
How terrible would my life be if I knew the exact moment of some awful heartbreaking event that was coming just around the corner?
What if, despite what my normal anxiety tells me, God is actually very kind to not to reveal the plan for tomorrow?
Will I be able to find the clarity and sense of freedom I experienced on this adventure in my ordinary daily life?
And as the cedar popped and crackled and the embers rose and died into the dark, I heard Martin’s wisdom, invitation, and permission: “I don’t know. Maybe.”
Sage Hill and Wilderness Collective have partnered to create two Leadership Rejuvenation Adventures for 2019. To register or find out more, click here.
The complete list:
10 things that Wilderness. taught me in 4 days.
1) Ounces = Pounds & Pounds = Pain (You need much less than you think.)
2) Ride your own ride.
3) When you get in a rut, ride it out.
4) “I don’t know. Maybe” is a great answer to many questions.
5) Worry about the essentials and !@#$ the rest.
6) Stay on the path and when you get lost, stay put and wait.
7) Disconnect from email, phone, and everything else.
8) The very best things can never be posted on social media.
9) Absence does make the heart grow fonder.
10) Wilderness Makes You Better.
Stephen James, MA, LPC-MHSP, NCC, is the Executive Director of Sage Hill Counseling in Nashville, TN. He is also a best-selling author of five books, including Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys. He is active in training other mental health professionals as well as to speaking to audiences around the country on the topics of living fully, servant leadership, family relationships, and spiritual authenticity.