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Business Lessons from the AT (Appalachian Trail) Part 5

~Distinction, drive, learning, culture, and you

For the last 5 months, we’ve talked about business lessons learned in the unlikeliest of places, the wilderness of the Appalachian Trail. What do the outdoors and our workaday worlds of glass, chrome, concrete, asphalt, and machines have in common? Maybe nothing, but, just maybe, everything. When my son and I pledged to hike the Appalachian Trail, a 2200-mile walking path in the eastern part of the United States, stretching from the states of Georgia to Maine we had no expectations or agenda beyond enduring whatever came our way, and I certainly had no intention of writing a series of business articles about the experience, but here we are.

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Business Lessons from the AT (Appalachian Trail): Part 4

This month we talk about distinction, drive, learning, culture, and what all of it has to do with you and the world you hike through every day. My hope is that by the end of these articles you’ll have a new perspective on what you do, what you want to do, and how and why you do it. And maybe, a fresh motivation to do it with flair, joy, and serving others. Enjoy.

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Distinction, and gardening tools

Don’t be afraid to stand out from a crowd, in fact I encourage you to find some way to stand out. Leafblower certainly stood out to Anthony and me, he got his trail name because he was hiking from Georgia to Maine with a battery-operated Leaf blower attached to his belt.

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Not much was known about him or why he opted to carry the extra weight of lawncare equipment on his side, when asked, he would simply smile and say, “I’ve got to get to Maine.” Anthony and I first heard about him from other hikers and eventually shared the trail with him for a time, he was polite, shy, friendly, and a talented artist, we encountered him one day on the trail with a sketchbook drawing. It wasn’t long before Leafblowers story was known up and down the trail. When we ducked into a hostel called The Station at 19E in Roan Mountain TN to wait out bad weather we learned the owner of the Hostel had also heard about Leafblower and took it upon himself to purchase him an identical Leafblower with a fresh battery (we had heard the one he had was non-functional) and had it waiting at the hostel. We were there that afternoon when Leafblower came in and was presented with the new equipment. Thinking he would cannibalize one of the units to make a complete working one my son asked, “are you going to take one apart to make a working one?” to which he replied, “no. I’m hiking with both of these.” The next morning however we awoke to find Leafblower at the kitchen table with a screwdriver taking them apart.

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Dr. Eric Zabiegalski
Dr. Eric Zabiegalski
Dr. Eric Zabiegalski is a graduate of George Washington University in Human and Organizational Learning and has been researching and studying leadership, learning, and change for over 20 years. Eric has been on all sides of the leadership fence from leader and manager to employee and servant and has practiced leadership and served leaders in some of the most coveted and challenging places in the world. With an early professional history as a technical expert, Eric has gone from being a technical SME (subject matter expert) to being a people SME and considers the human mind, human behavior, and consciousness to be the next great frontier for discovery. It is in this realm where he combines his technical subject matter expertise with his human sociological and organizational expertise for the betterment of individuals, organizations, their processes, and humanity. With additional interests in emotional intelligence or "EQ", servant leadership and followership, neuroscience, complexity science, creativity and ambidextrous organizations, Eric has been driven to finding the right balance of qualities, efforts and behaviors in order to not only build better high performing and learning teams but also create a better world in which to live, love, and grow. Eric lives on the Western shore of the Chesapeake Bay close to Washington DC with his wife, daughter, and Chow dog Wamu. Eric is the author of The Rise of the Ambidextrous Organization and Leading Ambidextrous Organizations, Part 1,2,3 (E-Books).

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