Business Lessons from the AT (Appalachian Trail)

Some walked portions of roads adjacent to the trail and called it “yellow-blazing,” some hiked from hostel to hostel or town to town, never pitching a tent or sleeping in a trail shelter and others hiked portions backwards with lighter daypacks (called slack packing) and getting rides from hostel shuttles, having their heavier packs shipped ahead. This was a technique that could save considerable misery for a hiker especially if it were downhill with a lighter pack.  To me, every consideration, behavior, and action taken by a hiker was potentially “fair-game,” in the achievement of their goals, boiling down to questions like your attitude, intent, and results as deciding factors on the matter. If you practiced such creative things, hiking the trail in your own way but criticized or judged others for comparable creativity, innovation, or technique, I would hold you suspect, there’s hypocrisy in pretense. Whether I was going to the bathroom in a hole (a skill I excelled at even in ice storms) or enjoying a steak dinner in a mountain town it was all part of the experience, I didn’t judge, dwell or fret about my actions, I just did them.

The way in which you complete a journey is your business, within the auspices of what it is that needs to be done and what you want to accomplish, in other words, do it your way. And the combined response you’d be likely to encounter from Anthony and me if we met you on the trail in the course of your efforts, “how can we help”? Kudos to you Titanium. What’s the takeaway for business?

A couple of things. First, there’s another saying that “sometimes it’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask permission.” Don’t ask for too many opinions about how to do things you are responsible for. Do the trail your way and debate your position later if people want to argue about the method or question you, if you’re not skirting any emergency checklist procedures don’t worry about it. Next, focus on being results-oriented and don’t get caught up in how it’s done, or give too much heed to outdated “butts-in-seats” accounting practices.

If we’ve learned anything from the recent pandemic and the nature of work over the last three years, it’s that things (like traditional rules) are changing (some radically) for companies and their workers. Humanity is correcting imbalances in fundamental areas which preoccupy much of life like power, control, empathy, awareness, and the very meaning of our existence. Catch me next month as we continue to talk about life, work, and walking the trail.

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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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  1. Thanks, young man.
    I greatly appreciate your moving from the technical to the human.
    “The real problem of humanity is the following: We have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions and godlike technology. And it is terrifically dangerous, and it is now approaching a point of crisis overall.”says E.O.Wilson.
    We are such works in progress, as most of our story on earth – maybe 99% – has been developing a program to survive in a hostile world rather than enliven a loving one. It takes but a moment’s fear to fall back into looking around for a weapon.
    Would love a chance to talk, and I would like to invite you to record an episode on the back2ifferent podcast. It’ll be a hoot-and-a-half.
    Be well.