Tag Archives: relationships

Moments of Clairity


Several years ago Melissa and I attended an intensive Wilderness First Responder course through NOLS. At the time I was leading a search and rescue team in South Texas and in addition to these duties, I felt that with all the outdoor travel we did we should both be highly proficient in wilderness medicine. In addition, we both had background and training in combat medical care and I had been through a previous workshop on short term care in third-world travel, lessons that would pay off years later when sick while on business travel.

One of the first things you learn about is patient assessment. When responding to a patient one of the first things you try to learn about is their mental state. This is measured in the parameters of “Alert and Conscious”. If a person is awake, alert, and orientated to the point they know who they are, where they are and what just happened to them they are AAOX4. Moving down the scale, AAO3, the patient knows who they are, the place and time, but not event. A bit more of a knock on the head and AAOX2 they know who they are, where they are, but not time and event. Skipping all the way down to AAOX0, The person is awake and alert, but is disoriented. They probably don’t know who they are, where they are, time, place, or event that has just happened. I spend most of my life At AAOX0.

Leading adventure is the one place I have clarity. AAOX4. Here I live beyond the boundaries of corporate life. Here there are more important things than running from meeting to meeting with a note book and pen, pre-scripting an email to not offend, or pulling off the impossible to meet a deadline an impatient narcissistic soul.

I am by no means an anti-corporate guy. I have worked for a big machine, including my military career for over 30 years. Even when I was a kid and contracted to clear fields for a housing development I contracted to a corporation. (Who in their right mind would sign a contract with a 14-year old?)

Working for a large machine has enabled me to have some great experiences around the globe, provide my family with a nice home and good health benefits, and meet some fantastic people. Large organizations have helped to pave the way for my education and many of the certifications I hold today.

What I have to realize is that at the end of the day, actually at the beginning of the day, as a person, whatever corporation I work for really does not care about me. They don’t care that I nearly lost my wife a few years ago to depression, that my Jeep was on blocks until 4am for repairs, that my kiddo has a recital, or that the project I am doing to further their growth kept me awake all night. This isn’t an indictment, its simple fact. For all my hard work, creative ideas, and long hours, at the end of the day I am a number. If I need to be cut so the company financials look good to investors, I’ m out. If I get moved to another division because of a restructure, I pack boxes and move three desk down. If I get turned down for a position because of budget, I stay put. Its part of the grind. In spite of skills and talent, I am a commodity.

When on expedition, my moments are much more clear. My motives are purer. I have a destination, a goal, a pursuit. Making sure my vehicle is running well and that we packed the right adventure gear, and then selecting our home for the evening has much more clarity.

Even in the planning stages. I get much more satisfaction in setting up maps, the project plan, and prep work that hoes into a long expedition. Upon returning, putting together the presentation of the trip is much more satisfying.
Here I have opportunities to experiment. Here I can risk. Here I learn. I realize I have to have one to support the other. My day job supports my adventure profession. I just wish there was a way to merge the two closer….if that is even possible.

For now I will take my moments of clarity in weekends and two-week vacations. I will continue to roam the region I live in. I will take advantages of the trips around the globe when my company offers the opportunity. I will find it in the time with my wife and daughter on the trail, roaming the desert with my dog, teaching others about outdoor adventure, and the moments God grants me a path through the fog….

Cutting Ties

Imagine going to Fiji. Great diving. Awesome food. Beautiful scenery. Your adventure partner complains, borrows you stuff, ask you to pay for dinner, wants to stay in the room and watch TV. They complain about crowds, weather, the locals. They borrow your sunscreen, embarrass you with personal habits, tell you every problem and ailment in their life.

Over the years we have had our fair share of people that we adventured with, were clients of our coaching and self-development initiatives, friends, and sad cases we took on to help-out or get them back on their feet. I’m a sucker to go in and fight the battle on someone’s behalf. Widows, children, cast-offs, down-and-outs, etc. all became my responsibility and I felt an obligation to rescue them.

Great adventure partners a hard to find. This was one of the greatest adventure teams I have ever been a part of. Each member brought a strength and a skill to the team. Here we are at Big Bend over Thanksgiving 2004.

When I look back at my dating life when I was younger there were certainly a few cases of being the knight in shining armor. I will be the first to say that you should never turn your back on someone in need. But we all have a limit. We have to be careful that these people are not a drain on our energy. I know I have friends that can be an Eore, but there are days I am the sad donkey, The difference is the guy who was draining me a week earlier is the one standing in my corner when I’m down. He is my Tigger (my ever happy pup-ready to cheer me up) when life absolutely sucks for me. Yin and Yang, peanut-butter and chocolate, milk and cookies. There has to be a give and take in a relationship and when one is down one has to be up.

What does this have to do with adventure intelligence? Everything. The things we love doing has way of recharging us. When we add a negative aspect to it, it all becomes too much like work. A hassle. The new negative adventure artner becomes bothersome and extracts our own energy. Soon there is not enough for us— or those we love and wish to inspire. For those we can truly fight for.

One example that comes to mind, a few years ago my AIQ/ TC team met weekly on Thursday nights for our weekly “squad” time. It was an estrogen free zone where guys could be guys. We watched movies, tinkered on adventure gear, planned road trips, ate good food, and built bon-fires in the backyard against all county ordinances. At some point we picked up a “sixth”. A guy whose job was washing car windows. He lived in a rented room on a pay-by- week basis. We would serve food for six and he would eat for five. He would hitch-hike to our meeting place and at 1030 or 11 pm as we were breaking up and he would expect a ride home—15 miles away. This is beyond being empathetic. This is not about “have” vs “have not”. This is not eliteism.

Before you think I’m a heartless hard @$$, keep in mind that our team did lots of outreach. We systematically looked for opportunities to get guys away from a solo life in front of a TV and into the outdoors. We took newbies camping, kayaking, off-roading, etc. In almost everyone of those cases, the guys we reached out to gave back, carried their load, or had something to offer in return. In this case we were being used. It was a hard decision. I think the nature of the culture we built was to nurture and help a guy “cowboy-up” and be part of something greater than himself. To see his potential. To take a trip through his own history and find healing and move on. We were constantly barraged with attempts at guilting or minimizing our own lives. Eventually he had to go.

Another case was another young kid who I would have loved to be a model for. Unfortunately his history with drugs and theft prevented me from even beginning to take on all his issues. I see where there would be great opportunities for me to be a leader for him. We share many of the same hobbies, but there is no way I would ever allow him to be around my family or my home. Each month I get updates on how he has turned a new leaf, only to find he was recently busted for drug possession or burglary. The last theft occurred when he stole from a local store who had been helping him out with a job.

Finally my wife was the victim of someone taking advantage of her kindness and was a drain to the point it was causing conflict between the two people who should be the most united, her as the wife and me as the husband. This person would find reasons to interfere in our marriage, have my wife work on projects on her behalf, show up late at night and stay at our house until it was “too late” to go home. I would love to help, get the heck out of my house.

Your adventure life should include reaching out to those who need help, but you can easily get sucked into those who just drain you. Too often I hear stories about people traveling to a fantastic location, to do amazing things and they are stuck with the worst adventure partner that not only saps their energy but ruins the entire trip. Don’t let this happen to you and of course- don’t be this person.

Good adventure partners are good to find. Invest in the relationship. Bad adventure partners are a dime a dozen. Cut the ties and move on. If someone you plan to adventure with was discharged from the Navy in 1973 and their mom still pays for their cell phone, you may need to re-evaluate the borders you place around your heart.