By Larry Wilson & Hersch Wilson, Authors of Play to Win
A few years ago, I went on a four-day adventure in the High Country wilderness of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains north of Santa Fe. We were divided into essentially two types of people. There were the “outdoor” enthusiasts who exulted in being in the mountains, and then there were the rest of us—grumpy city dwellers. As soon as we hit the trail and began moving up into forest, the city dwellers were hit by the realization that it was going to be uncomfortable—cold, rainy, and wild. In front of us were the Truchas peaks, which we intended to climb. It had sounded like a great idea a month ago, but now they were shrouded in clouds and the rumble of thunder. They looked foreboding and unapproachable. We asked ourselves, “Why are we doing this? It’s going to be uncomfortable and even dangerous—why don’t we just turn back now and admit defeat?”
But encouraged and kept in good spirits by the outdoor folks, up we marched, farther and farther from the comforts of home. We arrived at our camp—a meadow under the sheer pitches of the Truchas Mountains. It was stunning…but our “home” was four makeshift tarps.
We soon discovered that in the mountains the weather rules and it is completely unpredictable. In our four days, it rained, snowed, hailed, we had winds that blew out the tarps . . . and we had a couple hours of sun.
Beyond the unpredictability of the weather—now it was sunny, boom, then it was hailing—were the reactions of the people. The city folks, myself included, got mad and complained loudly and bitterly about the event of the weather—the damp, the cold, and the “Oh, my God, it’s snowing!” We had expected sunny weather, darn it! And we were mad that it wasn’t happening! We eventually found a bottle of tequila and retired to the driest tarp to commiserate.
The outdoors folks were quite different. When it rained, they put on ponchos; when it got cold and snowed, they put on more layers. When the sun came out, they stripped down to T-shirts and shorts and enjoyed the warmth on their bodies. The difference was that they were prepared, by training and experience, for anything.
What hit me was this: There is no such thing as bad weather, just unprepared people. The weather just happens; it is neither bad nor good, cruel nor pleasant; it just is. We interpret it as bad or good because of how it affects us, but in reality, weather is just weather. All we can really do is be prepared.
On our little wilderness adventure, the prepared people handled the weather with much more calm and creativity than the rest of us did. They were ready for almost anything. They didn’t remain upset when all of a sudden the tarps blew over; they solved the problem and got on with it. It was all an adventure to them. What would they learn this time? How far would their limits be pushed? What would they see? What would they experience?
And that is the clue. In the adventure of our lives, good things happen, bad things happen, and—boom—terrible things happen. In our lives we will each face choices that will determine who we will become. We will all face the crises of living: pain, loss, death. The individuals with the best probability of responding with courage and creativity are those who are best prepared emotionally and spiritually. Prepared people can handle all kinds of weather; deeply prepared people see the weather as a challenge and as an opportunity to grow.
With work and thinking, we too can become deeply prepared for the rest of our lives. We can become so thoroughly prepared that we begin to positively influence what happens to us; we begin to create our own weather.
Think about it. Once we understand that we are here for a reason—that we are spiritual beings on a human path—then we can start making choices that lead us deeper and deeper into our true selves. We strike out on our own, we make those courageous choices that lead us in directions that we would never before have taken had we settled for just playing not to lose all our lives. As a result, we create our own weather.
When we understand that there is much less to avoid, much less to fear, when we see life as an opportunity to grow, we attempt more, we face more challenges, and we grow. As a result, we get emotionally and spiritually stronger and more like those experienced outdoors folks: prepared for almost anything, exulting in our lives, and creating our own weather.
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Larry Wilson was an internationally recognized pioneer in change management, leadership development and strategic thinking, and is the co-author of The One-Minute Sales Person and Play to Win. He founded two companies, Wilson Learning Corp. and Pecos River Learning. Larry worked with companies to help them “create the organization that, if it existed, would put them out of business.” Larry passed on in 2009 and will be greatly missed, yet cherished through his books and articles for years to come. One of the things that Larry used to say was “Love your customers so much that they want to refer business to you since who can resist love?”
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