After topping several huge sand dunes with Adam and then losing track of him for a moment, I heard his motor racing just over the next dune. I made my way over to where the noise was coming from and it was apparent in an instant that Adam was planning to jump from the top of one sand dune to the top of another. I was yelling, “NO!” across a canyon of sand, and it felt like a movie-style slow motion sequence kicked in as Adam raced through the gears and hit the peak of the dune doing more than 60 miles per hour. Almost immediately, Adam and his machine separated. It was quite a sight, really. He had the look of both Superman and a gut-shot pheasant at the same time. Adam landed 120 feet later surrounded by the scrap metal remains of what he was riding. His first words when I rushed over to him were “That was awesome.”
Bob Goff, Love Does: Chapter 20, Ten-Year Old Adventures
I love that story. I’ve used it several times this year when I talk about risk-taking in leadership. It’s from the wonderful Bob Goff book Love Does, and in this chapter he shares stories about the adventures he took with each of his children, of their choosing, when they turned ten. We become so scared of “crashing” that we’ve stopped ourselves from embarking on the adventure. Adam reminds us, even with a big crash, it’s still worth it!
I love adventuring. I’ve been an adventurer, and maybe even a bit of a wanderlust at heart, for quite some time now. I set off to Moscow State University in college. I moved to a law school I had never seen in a city I had never visited. From there, I studied in Oxford and traveled around Europe on the weekends.
As a single career woman, I vacationed alone to places I wanted to visit. I drove around southern Alaska by myself for a week and had an interesting hot tub encounter with a moose one evening. I flew to the Cape one birthday month and explored the coastline, quickly developing a deep chagrin for the Massachusetts roundabout. My buddy and I tooled all around Italy via train for two weeks one Thanksgiving season, thoroughly enjoying the pasta marinara and gelato over turkey that year.
In normal life, I’m a scaredy-cat, worry-wort. But put me on a plane, and I’m ready to go.
Building your adventuring muscles builds your leadership muscles too.
Stepping into an environment or experience wholly unknown to you reframes your perspective and requires you to learn new things.
It’s brave to try something brand new or go somewhere you’ve never been. Leaders have to be willing to move in a different direction, explore (and conquer) new territory, and appreciate the differences of their clients/ customers.
What better way to cultivate a leadership sensibility than travel?
I also want to encourage a thirst for adventure in my kids. We have maps hung next to our dinner table and a globe that talks to us, playing local music and describing culture and currency. I have one child in particular that begs to go on adventures from Russia to Africa. He asks, where is the furthest place we can fly mommy? When I respond, Australia, he excitedly proclaims, Let’s go there!
I am committed to taking a one-on-one trip with a different child each year. While we can’t afford to jet off to Australia (yet, I’m coming Stella, just give me a couple years!), we do explore new places and seek out new experiences. This weekend I fly with the baby to a spot in the deep South neither of us have been. We have a list of the Top 15 Things To Do in hand. Maybe we’ll do all 15, or maybe we’ll just do one and swim the rest of the time, but it’s certain to be an adventure in a new place with new scenery and new people.
Maybe our adult brains, with all their schedules and routines, would benefit from an emphatic declaration to go to the furthest places we can imagine and try a fresh adventure on for size.
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