I recently returned from a 5 day canoe trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Northern Minnesota, accompanied by my 21 year old son, Josh, and two good friends closer to my age, Bill Caplan and Marc Rosenthal. We had a wonderful trip, with great weather, outstanding natural beauty, and the joy of being on the water and off the grid.
It had been over 10 years since I had gone camping with my son, and during that time, not only has Josh grown into a young adult, but he had many summers of camping experience courtesy of attending Camp Nebagamon, which features a lot of camping and trains the campers in all the skills they need to survive in the wilderness. While I have a lot of camping experience, I never received the type of camping skills training that Josh received, so many of my skills are self-taught and not always executed with the highest degree of efficiency.
During any wilderness camping trip, there are many tasks that need to be accomplished, including map reading, setting up tents, cooking camp meals, and in the Boundary Waters, if you want to keep your food, you need to hang it on a high tree overnight, or you risk black bears stealing your food.
Hanging your food pack is usually a two person job, and involves filling a bag with small rocks which is connected to the rope that you will later use to lift the pack up in the air. Bill had a system that also included a couple of carabiners that function as a block and tackle to make raising the pack easier.
Since Josh and I have strong personalities, we often disagree about the best approach to particular problems, but we usually figure out a way to work together if we need to do so to accomplish a task. On the last night of our trip, while Bill was cooking dinner, Josh and I worked on getting the ropes over the tree limb so we could raise the food pack after dinner. It often takes a few throws to get the rope over the desired limb, but in this particular instance, Josh had incredibly bad luck as the carabiner caught on a small stick protruding from the top of the limb so the rope would not fall over the other side. That rope was now stuck on a limb about 20 feet high.
After Josh found it impossible to simply pull that rope down, he realized that he could tie another rope to the rope that was stuck, attach a rock to the other end, and then throw the second rope over the limb and pull the stuck rope over the side. After a few failed attempts to get that second rope over the limb, Josh finally got it over an even higher limb, but the momentum of the throw forced the end with the rock to wind around the limb 3 or 4 times. So, now there were 2 stuck ropes and we faced the possibility of being unable to hang our food pack.
Josh and I are both problem solvers, so we kept looking at the tree and the limbs, trying to devise solutions to the problem we had. Josh thought he could use another rope to create a ladder so he could climb the tree, but that did not work.
I told Josh that I thought I could give him a boost to a lower limb and then he could climb close enough to the stuck ropes and use a long stick to free them. Josh was skeptical that I was strong enough to boost him that high and that he would be able to climb high enough to free the ropes. He and I went back and forth and perhaps because we are father and son, we remained stuck in limbo.
Of course, Marc and Bill were watching with a combined sense of amusement and frustration. Finally Marc suggested to Josh that I was strong enough to boost him up to the lower limb and that my suggested method to solve the problem would work. Thankfully, at Marc’s suggestion, Josh decided to allow me to give him a boost. As you can see, I was strong enough to boost him, and he was able to climb high enough to free the ropes with a long stick.
We live in a world where we regularly debate whether it is helpful to give people a boost or whether it is better to force people to succeed or fail on their own. While it is perfectly fine for people to succeed on their own when they can, the truth is that we live in a world which presents us with challenges on a daily basis. None of us can manage every one of those challenges on our own. When I can give someone else a boost, I am glad to help them succeed. When I need a boost, I do my best to graciously accept the offer of help. When we work together, we can accomplish far more than when we are forced to act alone.
For more information on how I can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his website: Systems Change Consulting.