29 September 2017

Why Outward Bound is relevant for Old Bastards too

I was asked recently why I would have participated at CQ’s recent Outward-Bound excursion – what could someone of my mature years (ahhhh) get out of it? Did I still have things of significance to learn after all these years? Ha!

So, for me the best way to answer this is to describe what I learnt from this four-day adventure, which ultimately is the most important outcome.

When it was first put to me by Sarah Tocker that I should participate due to a late withdrawal and so a space was available, my first reaction was maybe I’m not up for this, maybe I’m too old, can I be bothered to get fit enough, what if I make a dick of myself in front of a bunch of CQ members. So, my response was give me a couple of hours to consider, which I did. I had never had the chance to attend Outward Bound before and had always heard great things, so why didn’t I jump at it now. And ultimately it was my age. I realised I was not being very kind to myself and needed to take the plunge. What was really confronting was the fact I was giving in to aging and I am so not cool with that.

To take two hours to consider is not my usual style – I generally just say yes to stuff, sometimes to my detriment and more importantly the detriment of my team I work with, and my wife Kate. But after consideration I did say yes and then thought righto make the most of this opportunity.

I’m not going to describe what we did blow by blow as we are going to run this program again in 2018 and it’s best to have a bit a mystery when you go.

So, here’s a quick summary of what I personally learnt:

  • It takes practice to learn a new skill regardless of the calibre of people involved – always more than expected and hands on is still best to learn – and repeat and learn.
  • Team work just doesn’t happen by chance – you need to be deliberate and little basic things make a big difference. An amazing individual is nowhere as valuable as a coordinated team.
  • I am committed to learn Te Reo as I love the language and it frustrates me when I can’t participate with this beautiful language.
  • When I discuss ideas with my team as though they are going to happen and then I don’t follow through it harms my integrity. An old habit of thinking out loud which I had never thought about its effect.
  • Be brave in pursuing purpose – this blog is a direct result of Outward Bound. There are others that I will describe in the following months.
  • Language is incredibly effective in determining outcomes, whether they be individually focussed or team focussed. This was demonstrated by Sarah and Ali Tocker with a very simply constructed game, that should have been so easy to complete technically. As a team we had everything we needed to complete the task in 30 seconds – but we just couldn’t quite get there first time, or the second and then the frustration kicked in. Then the blaming (I did not bask in glory here).
    We changed the techniques but with little improvement. In summary we sucked, until Ali through us a life line and suggested changing our communication style – and after a quick deliberation we nailed it. Just like that. Technical change was never going to get the job done. We had to Adapt a new style of communication and it became possible.
  • On the second morning, we were engaged in some exercise and then heading off for a swim, so I did not have my hearing aids in. This means I was just following others as it was dark and I couldn’t follow the instructors very well, and feeling a little pissy.
    Out of the gloom comes Sarah’s voice, ‘what stories are you telling your self Harv’? Hoof off and leave me alone was the first thing that came to my head, but on reflection there was actually a story peculating in my head, which I hadn’t acknowledged. And that was, this was like being back at school (when I didn’t have hearing aids – I was born with hearing loss), and school sucked so this sucked.
    I had travelled back 45 years in time at the blink of an eye, without even realising it, and limiting my experience of Outward Bound. Unbelievable.
    So, the learning was to be aware of my inner voice – what stories am I telling myself at any given moment. The quality of stories being told by my inner voice determine many of my outcomes in life. This was a brilliant place to test those out over the next few days.

  • You are often tested in different and unexpected ways at Outward Bound, and for me the high ropes were out there. But with some expert help I got around even if it was a little inelegant.
    The learning was that when I’m pushing into challenging areas make sure I commit to utilising the team around me when I get wobbly. This is not a natural or comfortable thing for me to do and by not asking for help I am actually not taking on some tasks that I could.
  • On the last day Sarah introduced a model ‘Immunity to change’ – where we all got a chance to select a personally challenging area to work on. I chose my anti-establishment behaviour which can be a bit counterproductive at times. Now this is something I am quite attached to and didn’t really want to give up as it has been a badge of honour.
    What I learnt was that the root of this behaviour came from my not belonging, and not good enough syndrome I developed as a teenager – this is a biggy for me as I’m actually making progress. Super excited about this.
  • I am more effective when I am physically fit.
  • I also learnt Outward Bound is as awesome as it’s reputation and I want to have the opportunity to send more CQ members there in 2018.

So my challenge to all people as you age gracefully – get out there and have a go, whatever the activity. Be scary.
For example, Peter Kerr is looking to achieve his maiden 100 in cricket at the tender age of (older than me anyway) and needs to undertake rigorous training to achieve this. But he needs funding to get the training – most would give up at this stage, right? Not Peter, and so is asking for help on his pledgeme page https://www.pledgeme.co.nz/projects/5358-last-chance-100. Good luck!

Ian Harvey (Harv)


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