Lessons Learned Night Caving

The other day I was looking for something and found a slip of paper with 30 things I wanted to do before I die.  Can’t remember when I decided to craft this list. Most likely on a plane. I tend to get reflective on planes, don’t you?

Number 28 made me laugh.

No. 28:  Go night cave climbing with my friend Jonathan one more time.

For some reason, of all the crazy adventures I’ve had in my lifetime, that one sticks out in my mind more than any other. Jonathan happened to call me about two days after finding my list of 30 things and I was telling him all about it. He laughed and said, “You did seem to really enjoy that.”

I did. But I got to thinking, it was more than that. There are just so many incredible lessons you learn making your way through caves and cracks in the dead of night with while everyone else is sleeping.

So, I decided to make a list of the things I learned night cave climbing with Jonathan.

1. It’s all math. When I would get stuck Jonathan would say, “Do the math, you’re a two-thirds scale model of me.” Jonathan took the time to show me (again) how to make a move so I could “do the math” and figure out how to get past what seemed like an impassable situation. Then I took the time to do just that. “Do the math.” And breathe and logically figure out, minus the fear, how I might be able to do the same. It works.

2. Never do something for someone else that they can do for themselves. A number of times I would get so stuck I would ask (okay beg) Jonathan to help me and he’d say, “I can’t. If I help you. We’ll never get out here.” And he was right. If I came to believe that he’d bail me out, I would eventually give up. Everyone laughs at me at Brains on Fire when I say, “My role as President is to never DO anything.” This “never doing anything” is important work.  I’ve seen so many leaders of companies bail out or rescue really smart people instead of letting them figure things out for themselves. I love this lesson when I am reminded of it.

3. Say yes whenever you can. It’s so easy to stay on the sidelines of life. Never taking risks. Staying on the couch. Taking the easy route. All those clichés are clichés for a reason. We do them a lot. We stay in our comfort spaces watching TV, never taking chances. Doing things the way they have always been done. And we miss things. Like climbing inside of mountains at 2am in the morning with a friend. SAY YES. There are so many articles written about learning to say NO, I believe we need to learn to say YES.

4. Pick your partners wisely. Anyone who knows Jonathan knows he is a world class athlete and a world class person. I knew that if I fell in that cave, he would carry me to safety. Period. That is the essence of business relationships and well, heck — all relationships really. Ask yourself, if you’re hurt will your partner carry you on their back to safety or will they leave you put and save themselves? So many heartbreaking business relationships gone bad could have been prevented with this one simple question, in my humble opinion.

5. Confidence is not something you’re born with. But you can find it. On the sides of mountains. Speaking in front of 500 people. In long talks with a friend. Find ways to find yours. Push yourself until you feel it bubble up and surround you like magic. It will be so worth the effort.

Life is a nothing but a great BIG adventure.

So, this year is just getting started, what will you do next? Maybe you should take a little time and “Do the math.”

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