DNA of Adventure Series:
Self-Supported Ethos

(This is the second blog post of the series.)

By Todd Poquette, Director of Adventure

You are on your own. You accept responsibility for your preparation, choices, and the outcome. – The Crusher, Enhanced Gravel Wilderness Adventure

Our introduction to the DNA of Adventure Series began with a review of two distinct mindsets: I have a fixed amount of intelligence and natural ability that cannot be changed (fixed mindset) and I can get better at anything provided the right strategy and enough effort (growth mindset)While managing and coaching people over the past 25 years, I have found people with fixed mindsets are quick to blame the rules and others for their shortcomings while people with a growth mindset thrive by finding ways to improvise, adapt, and overcome. Blog #2 in the DNA of Adventure Series builds on the discussion of mindset and introduces the self-supported ethos.

Setting the tone

The self-supported ethos can be summed up quite simply: You are on your own. You are responsible for yourself. You are accountable for your actions and behavior. Simple. Direct. Honest. The bar is set high – for everyone. No excuses, no finger-pointing. For the uninitiated, this might all seem a bit heavy handed. Modern society panders to the unprepared, perpetually offended, and entitled. One thing will never change: If you want it, you gotta earn it. There are no shortcuts, and by constantly trying to create them we undermine the foundation of strong communities. Stability rises from a clear and equal distribution of responsibility among the people, mutual respect, and character. No one gets a pass.

Life is not fair

People love playing games. What makes a good game? Is it the action? The rules? Winning? While we certainly don’t line up to lose, what happens when we do? Do we blame someone, or do we look in the mirror? What happens when a rule is changed or misused?

So many people are quick to yell “That’s not fair!” from the stands. It’s also common to hear a dad tell his kid, “You got robbed.” With these messages, we’re grooming kids to expect predictability and fairness. They automatically blame someone else when things don’t go as planned. Instead of mentoring resilience and durability, we seem to be giving preference to comfort and safety. The result? Kids who are scared and insecure – lashing out at the world around them.

Adventure is inherently unpredictable, uncomfortable, and unsafe. You control your preparation and adaptability. A lack of rules and predictability is a lesson in and of itself: to prepare for the unexpected. Adventure empowers individuals, not rules. Adventure ignores fairness, viewing complications as experience enhancements and an opportunity for personal development. While many sports (including competitive cycling) give priority to natural skill and athletic ability, adventure-centric programs level the playing field for kids who may not have been born the fastest or most coordinated but are equally capable and worthy of our time.

Collaborators instead of competitors

Interesting things happen when we remove head-to-head competition and focus on personal conduct, character, and responsibility. Behaviors change. We become collaborators. We focus on the journey, what we hope to accomplish, and what must be done to see it through – forging relationships more likely to endure adversity.

Kids are getting a lot of pressure from adults to succeed now and become a leader now, as though they need to prove their worth now. Whatever happened to being a kid? Becoming a good follower today is an important prerequisite to future leadership. Yet it seems few people want to take orders or respect the learning than comes from a chain of command.

An unsafe world

The self-supported ethos is predicated on a belief that the world is not safe. We are not at the mercy of the world. We are at the mercy of our own willingness to face the world. We possess the ability to adapt and better ourselves. Success is a choice. Preparation, work ethic, and commitment will pay dividends long after natural ability. That’s why the self-supported ethos is such a defining part of the adventure team. Instead of paving the path to make everything easy for kids, we give them the tools to forge their own path. Why? Because we believe sending kids off unprepared would be the real tragedy.


Empower Youth

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