35-year-old James is a Risk Manager in the construction industry. He embarked on an Outward Bound Professional Course to not only find out more about himself, but the way he connected with others and the world around him.
From the moment we were asked to abandon ship on the outskirts of Davies Bay (having only known each other for 10 minutes), I knew I was in for a different sort of learning experience.
The theory behind the physical
It is difficult to describe the incredible depth of the Outward Bound experience. The professional development course I was on is aimed at business leaders, involving a mixture of experiential and theoretical learning.
Added to this were sessions on leadership, establishing values and working more flexibly with others. The watch you are placed in operates as a live experiment, establishing theory, then testing it under the pressure of physical, intellectual and emotional exhaustion…and sometimes a little conflict!
Learning to step back
As someone who's spent a fair amount of time in the outdoors, the activities themselves weren’t particularly challenging for me, but trying to manage the group dynamic was. Just as our group started to make way on one of our bush challenges, I was be told that I was now suffering from a very sudden fictitious attack of laryngitis and couldn’t talk. Another member of the group was expected to stand up and take the lead. It is frustrating to have to sit back and watch mistakes unfold and not be able to intervene!
Finding a moment of calm
Perhaps the crowning experience, and one for which Outward Bound is renowned, is the solo. For us it was two nights and two days alone in the bush with only a groundsheet, a fly, a sleeping bag and some food for company.
It is incredible what you notice in a place of that sort of solitude and calm. The sounds, smells and self-realisation that are revealed when you actually take the time to listen to your own breath are quite something when set against the congested and overstimulated world we now live in.
A better understanding of others
The course is inspiring in ways you can’t even imagine. I came away feeling very calm with the world, reconnected to my values and with a heightened level of self-awareness, ready to understand what it really means to fully give your reports the responsibility to own work and to allow them to make mistakes.
I now understand the way the people around me operate, to feel stronger as a parent and partner and to have the confidence to act on instincts and logic without fear of failure. It offers a chance to live for a week in a world that offers a completely different interpretation of the world.