It’s funny where we find the answers to life’s problems. I was in the middle of another puzzling situation at work, when an opportunity to go on a trek popped up.
I haven’t gone trekking in over two years and was feeling a bit nervous: What if I couldn't reach the peak of Mt. Binutasan in Rizal? What if I injure myself? What if I slowed the entire group? That would be such an embarrassment! What if, what if, what if?
But I needed to get away, and mountains at least to me, have always proven to be bearers of wisdom.
Mountains make you work for it so much so that by the end of it, you will have tired and emptied yourself thoroughly that you're pretty much cleansed of everything; your strength, your muscles, energy, water, anxiety, the noisy thoughts in your mind, as well as your ego.
By the end of the trek, you will be gifted with a fresh sense of clarity.
Below, are a dozen lessons that came to me last Friday when I joined the trek in Rizal, which now that I think about it, aren't particularly just about career. Perhaps they're lessons in and about life; I just related it to careers because that's where I needed help the most.
1. TAKE SMALL BUT SURE STEPS. Before we embarked on our trek, our guides from Trail Aventours emphasized: take small but sure steps. It’s always small but sure steps.
And as we worked toward the summit, I realized it’s because small and sure steps are safer and smarter than big leaps. Those may look more impressive, but big leaps are not always necessary.
The jump might cause you to lose your balance, point B might turn out to be a crumbly point after all, and it will tire you out faster.
The same could be said about careers: From project assistant, would you immediately apply for a managerial role?
Small and sure steps might not be as remarkable as big leaps, but it will get you to your goal safer.
2. COME EQUIPPED. When trekking, you’ll obviously need a few things: water, towel, a really good pair of shoes. Some might waive this off and leave things to chance, but really. How smart is that?
It’s the same when starting a job or a big project on the job: You’re expected to come equipped, be it with knowledge, the skills necessary to the job, tools of the trade, sometimes even the contacts in the industry.
We mean: Would you apply for a photographer position without a camera?
3. GOOD GEAR WILL MAKE THINGS EASIER AND MORE ENJOYABLE. I was pretty nervous about Friday’s climb: What if I fall and injure myself? What if I don’t make it to the summit?
But sporting the new Merrell Moab FST 2 pair erased my worries. It had a good grip, making what would’ve been a messy and muddy trail into a safe affair. It also gave me the much-needed stability going into the scrambling ascent. Its heels had air cushions that provided necessary shock absorption, and my favorite: it was water proof, which removed the possibility of finishing the trek with icky, wet socks.
4. FIND SOLID GROUND TO STEP ON. Because it rained on Thursday night, the trail was peppered with muddy areas. I heard our guides say more than once to follow in the footsteps because that’s proof of how solid the spot is.
It immediately got me thinking about what solid ground might mean in the career setting: It's joining a good organization, having a strong and hardworking team, holding the right position — solid footing that will usher you into your goal.
Sometimes as in treks, you'll find yourself in a muddy stretch. It's easy to turn to despair, hate where you are, or panic and start rushing through it. But all that is counterproductive. Find that solid ground. Look for the footsteps before you. They will lead you to your goal.
5. EXCREMENT SOMETIMES LOOK LIKE SOLID GROUND. Don’t mistake it for the real thing. As we were approaching the summit, we noticed a lot of cow and horse dung — they’re round and flat like a stone begging to be stepped on. I actually did, stepping right smack in the middle, and as soon as my right foot hit the surface, I realized what it was. “Buti hindi fresh,” a fellow trekker quipped.
Perhaps, this is another way of saying: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Don’t get tempted with shiny promises of seemingly perfect job descriptions and benefits. Look around, ask your mentors, approach your peers.
6. DON'T HURRY. It’s not a race — trekking, careers, success, and life in general. It’s great to be first but it’s better to be comfortable. Go by your own pace. Take time to rest. In fact, take a lot of rests. The mountain isn’t going anywhere.
7. DON'T GET DISTRACTED. Much like finding many beautiful and unfamiliar things on the roadside during a trek, you’ll find many beautiful and unfamiliar things on the job: a goodlooking colleague, all the pretty perks, the fabulous bonuses and benefits. Stop to appreciate them but don’t get distracted.
That clear view of the top is amazing, but you’re not here to just look at it. You're here to climb it.
8. YOU COULD GET HURT AND YOU WILL GET TIRED. Muddy patches might cause you to skid as they did a few of our team members. Several members of our team found leeches already latched onto their ankles. Thorny plants that could puncture and make you bleed where everywhere.
They’re obviously metaphors to the work life — having a pasaload team member, a Russian boss (get it? Someone who is likes giving people rush jobs), a busy month’s end balancing the sheets, or the end of a fiscal year audit.
You can hate on all them but the hard truth is: they’re all part of the journey, and the job.
Enjoy it anyway.
9. HAVE A PARTNER WHO WILL CHECK UP ON YOU. After removing a leech off a team member’s leg with alcohol, the guides from Travel Aventours mentioned how it is good to have a buddy you can turn to, in case a leech happens to be near your eyes or your ears and you’re not aware of it.
It’s the buddy system, one that a lot of outdoorsy folk abide by. It’s not a new thing, but it’s one that people who find themselves in a ruthless workplace could make use of. Find someone you can trust, especially when the work gets tough — which sometimes it will.
10. BE THAT PARTNER AS WELL. Look after your teammates; make sure they are safe and still able to do the job. This ensures success, and if not, then a healthy workplace environment at least, which might even be better.
11. PROGRESS ISN'T ALWAYS PRETTY. It’s sweaty and dirty with a side order of scrambling ascent. It can hurt, but we all need it.
12. AT THE PEAK, NOTICE THE GRACE. The sun is going to sting, you’re going to be tired, but don’t let these diminish your accomplishment. Take pictures, enjoy your success, notice the grace.
— LA, GMA News