What a Five Hour Hike Can Teach You About Business

Posted by on Jun 02 2006

It was intended to just be a short hike, as the afternoon temperatures were predicted to be in the mid-90s.

This past weekend, my husband suggested we maintain the stamina we achieved by hiking in Yosemite, and go on a short hike through our local State Park. Because the afternoon was supposed to turn hot and humid, we set out at 9:00 AM and figured we’d be back home by 11:00. We had hiked in this park before, so we pulled out the trail map and chose a new trail that we hadn’t discovered yet. Here’s where it went wrong:

  • The plan was to walk for only 90 minutes, so we didn’t bring water.
  • We had a map from the Park Office, so we thought we knew the route.
  • We figured we’d be hungry in a few hours and our stomachs would tell us when it was time to turn back, so we didn’t wear watches.
  • We had walked in this park before and had a sense of how long the route was, so even though there was a distance meter on the map, we ignored it.

We started off at 9:30, and found the trail easily. It was a beautiful, sunny morning and the trail was level and easy through the forest. Occasionally, we’d catch glimpses of the lake and the sailboats merrily skipping across the surface. A few times, horses and riders came past us on the trail. When we got tired, we rested on a log or rock. Overall, it was a lovely walk.

What felt like an hour later, we started to get a little thirsty, but nothing to worry about. The map showed that the trail looped back to its starting point, so if we just kept moving forward, we’d eventually make it back to the car where we had bottles of water. A little while later, we came to a fork in the path that was not on the map, and we became unsure which way to go. Should we go forward? Or back?

Forward seemed like a good idea.

It wasn’t.

Now we were starting to get worried. We’d only seen one other hiker on the trail who wittingly called out to us, “Stay under the trees, it’s cooler!” We began to worry. So we sat down to figure it out. Forward? Back? Forward? Back?


Again, bad choice. Forward was a bog that no human could get through. Back became the obvious choice.

By this time, the temperature had risen, along with the humidity, and we were both sweating like little piglets. Once in a while, we’d come across a stream where we could rise our faces, but not drink the water because it probably had pesticide and herbicide run-off in it.

Eventually, we made it back to the car. It was 2:30 in the afternoon and the temperature was 94 degrees. We’d been walking for five hours, without water, without watches, without cell phones. The whole time, we never felt hungry, so our “internal timepiece” never was able to tell us that it really was time to turn back.

I’m pretty sure we won the “Idiot of the Day” award that day.

So what did I learn that I could apply to my business?

  • First, when you’re enjoying what you’re doing, time flies. That part was good.
  • Second, even if you have a plan and a map, you must have a way to measure it, and you must take regular stock of your progress.
  • Third, going forward isn’t always the best choice.
  • Fourth, being prepared for emergencies and contingencies, even if you don’t expect to have them, is helpful.
  • Fifth, don’t rely only on your internal timepiece, or your gut instinct, to tell you what to do. Study your options and carefully plan for your future.

And when the sun gets hot, stay in the trees where it’s cooler!


3 comments for now

3 Responses to “What a Five Hour Hike Can Teach You About Business”

  1. Paula G

    OK I LOVE this post Karyn. While curiosity makes me wonder which park (only bcause I’m local) — I can definitely relate to this.

    For instance, we hike a lot on vacations. We have polypro, a million ways to carry water & food, and we could layer ourselves to handle frigid cold to desert heat in one day. BUT, we win the DUH awards when on vacation a lot. Why? Because we do exactly what you just described. For instance, hiking from about 6000-9000 ft elevation on Mt Rainier. Did we take a long sleeve shirt for when it cold up high? HECK no…we were just out “for a while”, why would we care that we hit snow flurries at the turnaround point. When we take a “short hike” in a national park that is labeled easy … do we take food & water? Sometimes, no.. why? because we figure it’ll be quick but fail to take into account that I lug my massive photography equipment everywhere and sometimes get sidetracked with photos and other trails.

    So, it is great advice to be prepared well, but not to obsess in a worrysome way. That way you can enjoy that blissful feeling of time flying away as you get totally present in the “now” out in nature….without any concerns.

    02 Jun 2006 at 2:19 pm

  2. Anonymous

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    03 Jun 2006 at 6:07 pm

  3. Karyn Greenstreet

    Hey, Paula, you bring up a good point. There has to be a balance between good planning and obsessing to the point of non-action. But where is that balance point? Hmmmm…wish I knew! 🙂


    08 Jun 2006 at 4:54 am

Category: Business Strategy & Planning