WINNING OUTLOOK Learning through Outdoor Expeditions

My journey as an entrepreneur while walking the path of “Just Be” comes with many bumps, bends, speed breakers and other times, some deal breakers. Sometimes, it is a dusty ride with no clear vision of what lies ahead and then at times – you ride a smooth scenic road.

Now that I have the liberty and flexibility, today, my style of working is an antithesis of the path I have walked earlier during my mainstream corporate innings. In a quest to explore myself and harness my creative capabilities, I have found love in adventure road drives, the foundation of which was laid during my childhood and long family road trips.

It all started with a dear friend exploring Mahindra Adventure in November 2016. The team at Mahindra Adventure is doing a brilliant job with helping people discover the vastness of the Indian sub-continent, thrilling drives and fascinating terrains that give you the perfect dose of the adrenaline rush. My friend and I decided to trade 10 days of our life for a road trip from Siliguri (Chalsa) to the Kingdom of Bhutan. That was the start of my romance meandering through the most breathtaking terrains at Bhutan, navigating my way with the Mahindra Scorpio 4×4. What I came back with is an experience so powerful that it pushed me to see the world around me in a very different, more adventurous, and far more curious way.

Completing the trip successfully, we came back with another promise to challenge ourselves — long days of driving through the toughest possible terrains in the world and coursing our way through some of the highest passes in India. Come June 2017, we both registered for the Mahindra Monastery Escape to Leh.

What started with a desire to live on the edge became a catalyst to gauge myriad possibilities to help myself — be it keeping up the discipline of a convoy-fleet of 30 Mahindra Scorpios, driving through the narrow edges of the lofty Himalayas or adapting to the weather conditions and mountain faces changing every few kilometres. We had to continuously challenge ourselves, not just scaling the terrain, but making do with the limited bio/food facilities and to top it all, managing the symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness while ensuring that the four-wheeled beast stays on track. Looking back, I experienced a seamless gush of ‘Just Be’ moments. These are those crucial moments which can:

• Enable organizations and individuals to identify and thrive in their authentic expression

• Foster a nurturing environment that honours vulnerability

• Accept your journey so far, where ‘Now’ is a starting point

The trip to Leh helped me do just that for myself while unveiling some insights of how interconnected these experiences are to our workplace and life environments. What I realized is that by encouraging business cultures to be more adventurous, open, collaborative and creative, organizations can not only help inspire employees but also make them have a lot more fun along the way. Through most of our trip to Leh, we ventured with the Mahindra Scorpio 4X4 and had a short date with the Mahindra Thar, which left me even more inquisitive about this rugged four-wheeler.

What next?

This is the most progressive question we need to keep posing to ourselves to constantly keep our vigil on new experiences in life.

So, coming back to my hometown — Pune, I registered for the “Trail Survivor” course at the Mahindra Off-Roading Academy at Igatpuri. This was the best way I could explore the Mahindra Thar.

Penning down some nuggets based on my personal “Off-Roading” experience and the technical brief we got from the academy instructor, I could pick up some useful and worthy lessons, which are strikingly relevant for my clients in the corporate workspace as well.

We underwent 9 obstacles (2 night obstacles and 7 day obstacles over the one-and-a-half day certification). ‘Living Out’ each obstacle tuned me to ‘Listen In’ to the diverse ways in which one can make the workplace more effective via seemingly unrelated, yet connected experiences such as ‘Off-Roading’.

The narrative of my experiences here got me connected to the six pillars of my organizational philosophy: Self Inquiry, Simplicity, Authenticity, Empathy, Sustainability and Ecology.

1. We learnt that Off-Roading is not about throttle always. It is critical to move ahead inch by inch, breaking and accelerating slowly.

Insights: A precious lesson to take back for the workplace is to make conscious efforts to take deliberate ‘pauses’ and then inch towards finding solutions and achieving the goal. In other words, just slow down before you begin to accelerate.

2. The best way to successfully overcome an obstacle is to first trust the instructor and then trust the vehicle as well. The vehicle understands if you are nervous.

Insights: It’s similar to having complete faith and trust on the ‘Leader’ & the ‘Organization’. We need to keep calm and perform the task at hand mindfully.

3. We are on a slushy, slippery and steep turn and think or fear that the vehicle will topple over. This is just a feeling and we actually do not fall.

Insights: Just as in life/work when changes take place, we don’t want to ‘try enough’ we think it’s all “over” and finally give up. All this is because of our fear but in actual it’s an illusion, it’s a turn, just a bend and not an end as we may perceive it to be.

4. Whenever the vehicle gets stuck, we typically put the reverse gear, gain some momentum and then move forward.

Insights: The legendary and royal lion of the jungle takes ‘Two steps’ back not because it is scared but to create the momentum to attack each time it eyes its prey. So is it in life and in a tough business scenario, we need to pause, pull back, create that momentum and then attack with full potential.

5. Sometimes,we need to let the vehicle take charge, as it follows the terrain, the curves and the slopes. If we try to control the vehicle, it may lose its balance. If you don’t take control, it will move and turn on its own.

Insights: Like at times it’s in the best interest to surrender to the system in the organization and not question everything.

6. A spotter (off-roading buddy/co-driver) is another pair of eyes to help the driver navigate the tricky spots on the selected route. The most important occasions are when the driver cannot see the trail or when minute adjustments in the placement of the wheels fill in for the difference between go and no go.

Insights: Just as the ‘spotter’ effectively guides the person at the wheel through non-verbal communication, a leader, manager or even a peer plays a similar role for his or her team in a performance-driven organizational set up.

7. During an obstacle, it is typically advised to assess the risk rather than explore the track blindfold. If you don’t know how to overcome the terrain, then it’s okay to ask for help.

Insights: It’s not always important to take risks at the workplace, sometimes it is beneficial to make informed decisions. If you don’t know something or have fears, it is “okay” to be vulnerable and express. This is better than trying to ‘Be’ what we are not, that can mislead us into making wrong decisions.

8. Don’t get conscious because others are watching you struggle through the obstacle.

Insights: Be authentic and comfortable in your skin.

9. While the obstacles seem complex, they become ‘simple’, if the instructions are followed well. The most basic, humble and unassuming old jeeps sometimes gave the best results at the obstacles.

Insights: In most problems at workplace/life, it is better to seek simple solutions that hold the potential to give maximum results. It’s not always about complicating solutions.

10. Each off-roader has their own strategy to overcome the obstacle. There is no ‘One Right Way’ that can be followed.

Insights: There is no ‘One Right Way’ to solve a problem/challenge at the workplace. Everyone is unique. All team members have their own creative skill to find a solution to a problem. It is this integrated approach to diverse thinking that brings out the most optimum business solutions.

11. We walked through each obstacle and read the terrain before driving through it.

Insights: This brings me to the importance of planning/strategy/brainstorming at the workplace.

12. This course puts patience to test. Each participant takes their own time to go through each obstacle and goes through and overcomes their fears in that process.

Insights: At our workplace, there are all sorts of people. Everyone takes their time to finish tasks. It is therefore important to adopt a patient and balanced outlook.

13. When we are going through the entire process mindfully, we engage all our senses to navigate across- the howl of tyres, leaking soft tops, the bumps, uncertainty of what lies ahead, also ‘relying on your sixth sense’ while manoeuvring through the obstacles.

Insights: Mindfulness can help people to live superlative lives. In the workplace, by being an observer to the way we think, it helps us to realize that between the stimulus and the response, there is always the opportunity to choose.

Driving these vehicles was to me nothing short of the penultimate yardstick of freedom and capability. It’s about peak performance in rugged conditions. I am taking back all of these experiences and lessons to my ‘Just Be’ desk, “In an infinite pursuit to live life without limits”.

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