Business lessons learned from 21 days @ Outward Bound NZ

Daniel Watson , SMB Cybersecurity Expert

Daniel Watson , SMB Cybersecurity Expert

Author, Adventurer, Athlete & Volunteer - dedicated to protecting business owners' assets with guaranteed security.

Just back from 3 weeks of intense physical, mental & emotional activity designed to taken way out of your comfort zone, see what else is possible for you and what is really important to you as a person.

All distractions are removed, no electronics, books, mp3 players, alcohol and even coffee isn't present however good people, deep conversations, great food and tons of fresh air are in plentiful supply to give you abundant stimulation.

Ostensibly I chose to go on outward bound for Leadership Training but realistically I needed to have a reset & reboot and time to consider what's next. Group Leadership training happens at OB but it's not the general focus which is more about building resilience, confidence, initiative, discipline and compassion in the students. There were others in the group who gained massively from being given opportunities to leader and to maximise their experience I played the role of the best kind of team member they could want, helpful, attentive & enthusiastic for whatever they wanted to do - an excellent concept from my army days called Coursemanship.

Whilst I was there I took to journaling for the first time ever and made copious notes about what we did and my observations along the way. The organisation has been running for 60 years, nearly 3 generations and over 68,000 people have passed through the campus which is a tremendous amount of accumulated learning moments. The organisation treasures tradition but is not stultified by it, a certain amount of risk is tolerated but not to the point where someones kids don't get to come home. Where there has been mistakes, they've been recognised, taken to heart and controls & measures are it place to mitigate future incidents.

Here are some of my key lessons from my time at Anakiwa:

Without tight systems & processes scaling will be mayhem!

One of the first things I noted is at Anakiwa, every watch is allocated a set of equipment for going on adventures, every Item is labelled and numbered, every item has a labelled place for it to live, the mission room has it's checklist and many component items have sub checklists of what they should contain, every watch is colour coded and inspections are done so that the instructors can know very quickly whether we are ready to get cracking on the next scheme without any mucking about. Rations for the day (usually lunch ingredients if on campus or could be 3 days of meals if heading out) are allocated by the kitchen staff and placed into individual lockers for each watch complete with suggested recipes and alternative options for the vego's & gluten free crowd.

note that the oars are lashed in and under the thwarts (seats) the sea bag containing our sleepingbags are kept off the wet deck, an auto inflating anti capsize unit is raised to the top of the mast...

During our time there were up to 140 students, 20-30 instructors rushing all over the place from one activity to the next with very little time for mucking about. Without the well thought out systems for equipment storage, rations, logistics and scheduling they simply would not be able to maintain the high pace of the course for as many people. Simply put they have figured out how to maximise the amount of good they deliver into peoples lives by simplifying what can be and making it an embedded part of their culture - "She'll be right" as a concept doesn't live in the Outward Bound organisational culture!

It's an odd takeway but everything I put my shoulder to know will have their example in mind on paying attention to every detail and ensuring those lessons are carried through.

I do actually like people!

From time to time one may have heard me say "hell is other people" or I may have described myself as a misanthrope but my solo 3 nights experience taught me that I actually do like the company of others. Whilst not having a large circle of close friends there are many people that I really do admire and seek to be around more as they inspire me or a great fun to be around or have wisdom & knowledge to share. Being forced to sit with your own thoughts without the mindless distractions of youtube, netflix or even a fire made me realise that what a really missed were those people some of which I had only met a couple of weeks prior.

The solo experience in a picture - watching the sun move across the forest floor

Many small business owners that our company serves are absolutely top people and many of my team get a real kick out of helping people out. Rather than emailing people and keeping them at a distance we should get out and see them in person or pick up the phone and build those relationships which nourish you!

Service is one of my Core Values

This may not be a big surprise given my time in the Army Reserve, Sea Scouts and volunteering for the Spirit of Adventure but it was a suprise that this came up during the Outward Bound experience. Kurt Hahn, the founder of the Outward Bound philosphy noted that the main way in which his principles of fitness, discipline, resilience, initiative differed from the offerings of totalitarian youth movement organisations was that in his schools compassion and service towards others played an important role. Helping others and giving back to you community generates a great deal of satisfaction and joy in people.

we cut more than the gorse to open up this gorgeous view!

On our course we bloody and scratched our hands cutting gorse at the top of a mountain in the sounds, it was cold and wet but we were thoroughly happy with what we had done and were proud of what we had achieved in that time.

Its ok to give yourself permission to fail

There were times on this course where the task was quite challenging or once you acheived it the instructors found little ways to ramp up the difficulty to push you out of your comfort zone, it was never forced but we agreed at the start to give everything a go and give it 100%

At certain points like the one in this photo on the high ropes course where I had successfully jumped from one platform in the trees to another and a fellow Student shouted up to try it again but with my eyes closed to which I took a deep breath and just forced myself to do it knowing that it a flubbed it I would just dangle a bit. Another time when blind folded rock climbing there was a point where I was on the tips of my toes with no hand holds within reach and my partner called up and said "there's a ledge 3 inches above you, just go for it!" it was in that moment that I just allowed myself to do an all or nothing leap into the unknown and was overwhelmed with inner pride mixed with relief when my fingers fell on a deep solid ledge i could muscle up onto!

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How many times have I held myself back senselessly fearing to start something because I might muck it up? What if we just gave it a go more often? Sure we'll fall sometimes but when we fail we can plan things so we fail forward and learn useful lessons to make the next attempt easy!

I am good enough

a beautiful day sailing at speed in the Queen Charlotte Sound

One of the negative thoughts that have permeated my thinking over the years is the fear that I'm not good enough even though objectively I could point to many instanced where I had achieved or succeeded but sometimes you just need to hear it from someone else. Thank you Tesh. I'll pay it forward.

Plus est en vous

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There is more in you is a translation of the Outward Bound motto.

I knew it physically from endurance events and OB certainly brings that out in people but now I see it from other aspects as well. There is much more I could be doing to improve the lives of the people around me, employees, clients, friends & family. Each of us has so much to offer, who do we serve by leading small lives and keeping ourselves to ourselves?

Accept Help When Offered!

In that top title photo for this article you can see that I got quite high up climbing whilst blind folded and I am totally proud of that effort but I would not have even got off the ground if it wasn't for the directions being given to me from the ground by Mel (the beautiful blonde Air Traffic Controller) and the firm arse push by Grant (the hefty grandad brick layer from Te Kuiti).

Too often we turn down help freely offered by people who would enjoy the opportunity to give you a hand with something they are good at or when they see you struggling but I know I've been attached to the idea that I "should" be smart enough to figure out something myself or that I don't want to bother them and cause a hassle! But now I see those offers as wonderful openings to build a deeper connection with a friend, to save time and enjoy the fruits of shared adversity!

A big thank you to all the staff, managers, admin, instructors, kitchen, logistics people of Outward Bound. It's a marvellous place, immensely rich in so many ways and a true asset to New Zealand. And another huge thank you to the other superb members of Huri Watch 678 who walked beside me on this journey, helped me in my growth and allowed me to share a little of their life and stories.

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Daniel Watson , SMB Cybersecurity Expert

Status is online
Author, Adventurer, Athlete & Volunteer - dedicated to protecting business owners' assets with guaranteed security.
It looks like I was 🙏🏼praying in this photo but mainly I'm feeling around in vain for a decent hand hold 🤞🏻 because my instructor decided that I might enjoy ⚔️the extra challenge of 🏔rockclimbing blindfolded! 🗿