The Gap…not the brand

A few years ago I was invited to participate in an adventure weekend in the Banff/Canmore area with a dozen other middle-aged guys from our community. It was promoted as a time of camaraderie and challenge, which was to be accomplished through white-water rafting, rappelling, rock-climbing, and hiking in the breathtaking setting of the Rocky Mountains.

I had never really considered myself an adventure seeker, but I did find the thought of riding with a bunch of body-odor laden men in a van for seven hours each way to be somewhat “breath-taking”! I was further developing visions of being cornered in awkward exchanges of small talk with no route of escape for days, so if it were not for the less-than-gentle nudging of my wife to go, I would not be writing about this experience today.

The journey to the mountains was not as bad as I had imagined, most of the guys had showered that week, and had not yet matured into full unshaven rebellion. The conversations were enthusiastically charged with anticipation of the days ahead. It was good to get away from the normal routine, and I began to feel myself relax a little.

Each activity stretched us in different ways. While some eagerly threw themselves from rock ledges, plunging into the icy white water rapids, others pensively held back. However, roles would curiously reverse when those who held back from free falling found it easy to rappel or rock climb, where trust had to be placed in the integrity of fellow man and simple rope.

The most memorable experience for me on this trip was an afternoon excursion promoted as a “day hike”. This day hike turned out to be a steep hike/scramble to the top of Ha Ling, a mountain peak near Canmore, at an altitude of 7,898 ft. Ha Ling is a six-kilometer climb, and Hike Alberta suggests that it will take between one and three hours to reach the peak, rating it as moderate. Six kilometers…in one hour…over a 2,687 ft elevation…over rock and tree limbs…with an extra steep final scramble from the summit bowl to the peak…over broken rock/gravel…yikes! Who does that? (Note: In the fine print they suggest that you should “not take on a trail beyond your abilities”)

Within the first one hundred feet of elevation, we were already in trouble. It was quickly apparent that some of us middle-agers were also out-of-shapers. However, our guide assured us that we had the ability to do this, and that the trail “leveled out just a little further ahead”. This became the catch phrase for motivation on the trail, and I am convinced to this day that our intrepid leader has no idea what the term “leveled out” means.

If not for the whole group pushing and pulling (emotionally and physically) each other along on the trail (and possibly the additional fear of embarrassment), we could have settled for any one of several views along the way. At each of these points, our leader would patiently wait for us to catch our wind and then begin to encourage us to continue with detailed descriptions of the view from the peak. Each time, with many deep sighs and rolling eyes, we would re-engage the trail in pursuit of the goal. Merriam-Webster defines a “goal” as, “The end toward which effort is directed”. They define “reality” as: “Occurring or existing in actuality”, and they define “gap” as: “An incomplete or deficient area…a wide difference in character or attitude”.
The goal was for us to reach the peak of Ha Ling. Reality was the place that we stood each time we could have settled for less than the goal. The gap between the goal and our reality was challenged by the fact that we were middle-ager guys, in less than prime physical condition, who would need to work at overcoming fatigue to reach the goal.

We all saw the view from the top of Ha Ling that day, and it was as breathtaking as it was promised to be. Our leader’s picture painting helped us to envision the goal and to aspire to it. His words of affirmation lifted us from our reality and helped us to press through the gap. We could have settled, but we didn’t. We pressed on, and made the peak of Ha Ling our new reality.
In life and business, we either press on with a clearly defined vision of our goal, rallying with those who travel with us in the adventure, or conversely surrender the vision and settle for where we are.

In your life space or corporate effort, is the goal lifting reality…or is reality compromising the goal? Have you settled? Has fatigue set in? Who can rally around you to encourage your will to re-engage?