The value of being prepared: A personal leadership experience

B002 - Be prepared for a first hand experience

Mar 20, 2024

Being prepared is a leadership attribute

It's December 2004 in Puerto Williams, Chile, where my crew and I are stationed for the Summer Antarctic Season aboard our expedition yacht, Pelagic Australis.

The scene is like something out of a dream - crystal-clear blue skies, snow-capped mountains, and not a breath of wind. The temperature is a warm 12°C, and a family of steamer ducks glide gracefully across the water.

It truly feels like paradise.

B002_The value of being prepared - Chief Mate Image
Chief Mate Duties
B002_the value of being prepared - Pelagic Australis Image
Pelagic Australis, Puerto Williams, Chile

With a sense of adventure coursing through my veins, I decided to hike to the summit of Cerro Bandera, or Hill Flag, accompanied only by Mia, the friendly dog from the local yacht club.

The Cerro Bandera, a hill located on Navarino Island, is visible from Puerto Williams. Its summit proudly bears the flag of Chile. It takes about 3 hours to travel back and forth to. It also marks the first stop on the circuit known as Dientes de Navarino. Wikipedia

As I wander through the picturesque landscape, soaking in the country's beauty, I encounter a fork in the road.

It's a choice familiar from countless fairy tales:

  • the blue path, less travelled and more scenic, or
  • the red path, well-trodden and familiar.

Without hesitation, I opt for the blue path, enticed by the promise of adventure.

For the next three hours, I traverse through trees, rivers, and bush, encountering beaver dams and muddy terrain along the way. Despite my adventurous spirit, I am no experienced walker or climber.

In fact, I am ill-prepared, with no food or equipment to speak of.

My idea of rock climbing is limited to indoor walls with plastic knobs - I am far from being a seasoned mountaineer.

B002_The value of being prepared - 2 Hour Image
2 Hours
B002_the value of being prepared - 4 Hours Image
4 Hours
B002_the value of being prepared - 7 Hours Image
7 Hours

As I ascend, the terrain becomes increasingly challenging.

I find myself grappling with vertical scree and rock faces, desperately trying to follow the faint blue markers that guide the way.

Seven hours pass in a blur of exertion and determination until a thick sub-Antarctic fog descends, enveloping me in a shroud of uncertainty.

Lost and disoriented, I seek refuge under a low-lying bush, shielding myself from the rain with a plastic bag over my head.

B002_The value of being prepared - Mia the Dog Image
Mia the Dog

Calling out in the fog, I cling to hope while Mia remains faithfully by my side, her silent presence a source of comfort and reassurance.

In that moment of solitude and vulnerability, I realised just how easy it is to find oneself in serious trouble amidst the unforgiving terrain of the mountains.

But fortune favours the brave, and as the fog lifts, I find my way back to safety.

Guided by a renewed sense of purpose, I descend to the tree line, where I discover another marker that leads me to the FLAG.

B002_The value of being prepared - The Flag Image

Relieved and exhilarated, I paused for a photo amidst the life-threatening situation [as you do]
before making my way back down to the boat.

Steve and Dave, my friends and crew, had started looking for me, and fortunately, I had reached the bottom when they saw me.

A happier moment is rare...
Well, except for the nice, long, hot shower that followed!

And even after this experience, the moral of my story is not what you are thinking... don't choose the path less travelled. I still, and often, say yes to situations where I know I will have to figure it out along the way.

What I really learned is the value of BEING PREPARED and seeking advice BEFORE you choose to walk the path less travelled.

This lesson resonates not just in my personal adventures but also in my professional journey as a leader.

~ A personal story by Karin Ovari ~

Karin's Note:

Time and again, I have witnessed leaders take courageous steps without seeking guidance or preparation, only to find themselves grappling with unforeseen challenges.

It's a reminder of the value of drawing from personal experience and the wisdom of others, of listening to the instincts of one's team - be it a faithful dog or trusted colleagues.

As I reflect on this journey of self-discovery, I am filled with gratitude for the lessons learned and the resilience gained. And though the path less travelled may be fraught with uncertainty, it is also rich with opportunity and growth.

So, here's to saying yes to adventure, embracing challenges with courage and preparedness, and navigating the road ahead with confidence and clarity.

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