What's in an adventure...

I will be using the definition of adventure rather liberally; using it figuratively and will definitely be using it as a verb! It’s far more action oriented that way.


ad·ven·ture [adˈven(t)SHər, ədˈven(t)SHər]

NOUN: an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.

VERB: engage in hazardous and exciting activity, especially the exploration of unknown territory.

It seems that being an experiential learner, having a fundamental belief invaluable skills are learned on adventures, and knowing that with a new year there will be great opportunity, has me thinking of adventures lately — and if you have gotten this far, it has you reading.

It’s easy to think of adventure as travelling to a new country, climbing a cliff face or trekking the highlands of Scotland — and although adventurous, it is limiting when you consider the full scope of what an adventure can be. This is why I like thinking of adventure as a verb; especially when you think of it as exploration of unknown territory.

Now you have something to work with —

Only know one language and it’s holding you back — learn a second language. It’s an adventure!

Not very good with your hands — break out the tools and build that bunkie* you need. It’s an adventure!

Someone is looking for a volunteer to solve a problem — raise your hand and say you will solve it. It’s an adventure!

Instead of saying you can’t drive standard — ask someone to teach you. It’s an adventure.

And although the big adventures are great to share with friends, I’ve found the real opportunity to grow and explore is with those small potential adventures that come your way on a daily basis. I’m a big believer in taking on these small adventures as a way to broaden your abilities, increase your view on the world, and simply become more interesting.

Here’s to adventures both big and small !!

And if you are wondering about any adventures I have on the list this year, my daughter and I are going to build a small off-grid bunkie with all the modern conveniences we can muster — talk about exploring unknown territory.


* a hut holding a bunk or bunks, a free-standing bedroom separate from the main house, which may or may not have other facilities (a fully outfitted outer house would be a guest house and not a bunkie)

Learn to be "comfortable with being uncomfortable".

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

Inevitably two or three months into their new job, after the raw enthusiasm had worn off, I would often hear something along these lines, "Now that I am getting into the new job, I'm starting to realize everything I don't know; it makes me feel a little uncomfortable." *

With a "big knowing smile", I would always respond the same way, "Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable." And then I would proceed to explain what I meant.

The first part of the conversation would focus on the technical process that comes with people development, and I would use "Situational Leadership" as the model for understanding. Situational Leadership was developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard, and is a wonderful leadership model (and framework) that articulates the leadership style most appropriate for the various stages of an individual's (or team's) development. See Ken's website.

Development Stage 1: Low Competence, High Commitment. (S1 Leadership: Directing)

Development Stage 2: Low/Some Competence, Low Commitment. (S2 Leadership: Coaching)

Development Stage 3: Moderate/High Competence, Variable Commitment. (S3 Leadership: Supporting)

Development Stage 4: High Competence/High Commitment. (S4 Leadership: Delegating)

I found this part of the conversation very effective, particularly with the Y Generation as it re-enforced there was "in fact" a development plan in place, what it was, how it worked, allowed for discussion and outlined the milestones for progress. I re-enforced that "being uncomfortable" was natural and in fact a good thing - The process of learning new things invariably makes you feel uncomfortable.

The conversation would continue with long term goals, aspirations and success; we would then get to the heart of what I meant by saying, "Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable." Learning and development, both professionally and personally, are constant endeavours and needed for continued success - You need to get comfortable with this. The comfort with being uncomfortable is the indicator you are pointed in the right direction.

I have refined this conversation over the years, and in one form or another, have had it with every person I've had the privilege to manage and lead; no doubt some discussions better than others, and not all came with that "big knowing smile". 

This "big knowing smile" I refer to was saved for those who have the self-awareness to broach being uncomfortable in the first place... not because it makes it easier to start the development discussion, but because self awareness is another indicator of long term success.

As I look back on the people I had the "big knowing smile conversation" with, this does seem to be the case.


* A compilation of the "being uncomfortable" comments I have heard over the years.



Execution... some more thoughts.

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

Believe it or not I am actually going to start with telling the story of my garage door opener (GDO) and meander my way through some thoughts on execution - And maybe something else, that at first blush may seem counter intuitive, but is worthy of consideration. Let's see how I do; with great appreciation for your patience in advance.

A typical garage door opener... the gear in question is on the top

A typical garage door opener... the gear in question is on the top

For those of you who are not familiar with a garage door opener, it is fair to say it's probably up there as one of the greatest inventions ever. Well, mostly for anyone who owns a car and has a garage to put it in. It works something like this... as you approach your garage, you push a button that magically sends a signal to a box hanging in your garage and upon receiving the signal, turns a chain that pulls the garage door up. Once you are in the garage, you push the button again and the box reverses the direction of the chain and the garage door closes. Nice and easy. You can see why people with cars love them, particularly in the northern climates. With this said, one day I pushed the button and the GDO sounds like it is doing it's job, but the door is not moving! After a quick assessment of the situation, I could see the gear that moves the chain had sheared off.

Now I have a problem and it's winter, so this is particularly inconvenient... I mean, now I actually have to lift the door manually. It quickly becomes apparent that I have three obvious options: A) don't fix the GDO and open it manually (like a million other people do), B) just buy a new GDO, and C) replace the gear that had been sheared off. Plan A became my current default and was workable for the short-term, but since the GDO also acted as a lock it wasn't a long-term fix. Plan B was easy but probably the most expensive, and Plan C, which most likely was cheaper but I was not sure if repairing it was possible. I would investigate Plan B and C in parallel. (First Execution thought - Investigate the situation and identify the problem(s), as well as develop a series of prioritized possible solutions. This is where you have to start.) 

Off to my local hardware store I went to understand how much a new garage door opener would be and also investigate if they had the part to repair my current one. What I found out was a new GDO would cost about $200 and that I could get the part I needed, but directly from the manufacturer which usually was expensive. As I was speaking to the clerk, he suddenly said, "follow me" and I did. Soon he was showing me a non functioning demonstration unit exactly like my GDO, which was destined to be scrapped - $20 later I was the proud owner of the demonstration unit with the coveted replacement gear inside. I had decided to go with Plan C, repair the GDO. (Second Execution thought - Develop an understanding and feasibility of your plan (s), as well as acquire the resources needed. Once you have decided your direction, focus all your resources on it).

So now, in my mind, it's just a matter of taking the gear out of the $20 demonstration unit and replacing the broken one with it. Out come my tools - I quickly dismantle the demonstration unit, retrieve the replacement gear, and then dismantle the GDO and remove the broken gear. To my surprise, there was a big cog on the broken part but not on the replacement part... no worries, I will just switch the cog over to the replacement part and then I am set. It didn't take me long to realize that I couldn't get the cog off and I needed the right tools to do it, which of course I did not have. It did cross my mind that maybe I should just go buy a new GDO. (Third Execution thought - Problems have agendas of their own, and more often than not they are not in alignment with yours. Don't assume that solving problems will be easy. Also, stay focused on your plan and don't let the other possible solutions distract you. Shame on me for even thinking about buying a new GDO)

I needed a machine shop; a quick Google search and a short drive later, I was telling a machinist my troubles. Ten minutes after that, he had moved the cog over to the replacement part and I now had my replacement gear all ready to be installed. He didn't even charge me saying it was a favour. The reassembly was straight forward and soon enough I had my functioning GDO back up and running. (Forth Execution thought - more often then not, you need a team to solve your problem and execute on it. Look to those people and resources you need to solve the issue; resource management is key to your success. As I have mentioned, problems have their own agendas and usually aren't straight forward or easy; sometimes the universe sends a favour your way... so don't forget to repay it in kind somewhere else.) 

So there you have it - Ultimately I was able to repair my garage door for $20 plus the time it took to do it, as opposed to just buying a new one for $200. As I look back on my little "handy man" adventure, I am struck by something else, something counter intuitive. Maybe we shouldn't necessarily look to that which is easy, as we learn and grow from challenge and adversity.

We naturally look to that which is easy, comfortable and known, while conversely we shy away from that which is difficult, unknown and perceived to cause pain and discomfort - But maybe we should look to that which is difficult. Looking at my GDO situation, I could have just bought a new GDO and installed it easily, and although it was $200, it would not have broke me. However with deciding to repair the GDO, which in comparison was not as easy, I expanded my knowledge base, made new connections, developed some new skills, challenged my thinking process, and ultimately saved $180. I gained so much more by not buying a new garage door opener. 

Easy... while being "easy", does not really allow you the opportunity to learn, develop, master adversity and grow; also as we look back at my story, the easiest solution was not the best economic route to take. As much as we may want it all to come easy, it is actually in our best interest to embrace the adversity and the challenges that comes our way. 

So when you are looking at your possible solutions to execute on, don't instinctively default to what is easiest; it may not be good for business, and most definitely will not help you grow. And one last point, and I think it's an important one, doing what's easy tends to be the result of familiarity and having done it before - So doing what's easy runs in the face of doing things differently - And we know how important different is.