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Better To Be Prepared

This past week my roommate and I hiked out to Goldstrike Hot Springs just southeast of Las Vegas. The hike is about six miles round trip through a slot canyon, ending at a series of hot spring pools along the Colorado River. 

We spent the early hours of the morning preparing for the trip. As avid explorers, we each have supplies that are a “must” when we hit the trail. My bag is always packed with a first aid kit, headlamp, pocket knife, whistle, and sunscreen. We also prepared lunch, snacks, extra water, swimsuits, and dry sets of clothing. We texted a friend where we were headed and an approximate time that we expected to be home, had a little stretch, and we were off! 

One of the first things I noticed about fellow hikers along the trail was their footwear. Many were not in proper hiking shoes – their Vans or Converse lacking traction and ankle support. I also noticed that many people hadn’t brought water or snacks for the trek. Someone even had a small dog with them.  

All of this was surprising to me for a number of reasons. While heavily trafficked, the trip is rated as “difficult” on most online hiking guides, including AllTrails and Hiking Project. This rating was given mostly because the trail consists of several miles of rock scrambling and six places where you must use ropes to repel further into the canyon. It’s 4-5 hours of a full-body workout. To top it all off, there’s a brain-eating amoeba, called Naegleria Fowleri, in the hot spring water. Obviously, most people will not get a brain-eating amoeba in their lifetime. The majority of wilderness injuries are minor, things like bruises and blisters. That being said, lack of preparation can still result in serious illness, injury, and accidents while outside.

Oftentimes, I think we get preparation and planning confused. Plans help give us guidelines and rules to follow. Preparation, in many ways, actually acknowledges the ways that plans can change. As a hiker, I know that I can’t plan for every possible scenario. For example, I often get asked if I’m worried about encountering mountain lions or bears while I’m out on my own. Realistically, I can’t plan my way out of a wild animal encounter. However, I can still prepare for one. I can familiarize myself with animal behavior, take safety precautions like watching for animal tracks, learn how to respond appropriately in an attack scenario, and arm myself with helpful tools, like bear spray. 

As much as I love to go with the flow in the wild wilderness, I really struggle to deviate from the plan in other aspects of my life. I love a good plan. Plans provide direction, structure, and details — sort of. I remember I had a ten-year plan when I was 15 years old. Ten years later, though, I can assure you that my life looks very different from those original imaginings. With as much as things change in the course of our lives, it might make sense to prepare more and plan less.

Good preparation requires us to think critically and have a flexible attitude. Those two things don’t always seem to go hand in hand because we tend to rely on what we think we know, which can be limiting. We don’t have to know everything to be prepared. More often than not, we just need to think divergently about the knowledge we already have. 

In my hiking story, that meant acknowledging that even though I hike all the time, that doesn’t guarantee that this particular hike was within my abilities. By doing a little research ahead of time, I was able to be more informed and thus better prepared. As I’m planning my next vacation, I’m trying to prepare by spending less time on itineraries and more time understanding the country and culture. As I’m planning to vote in the upcoming election, I’m preparing by thoroughly researching all of the candidates, regardless of party affiliation. As I plan even further ahead for things like retirement, I’m preparing for all of the ways my life could change between now and then.

A plan is a great and often necessary start, but when plans change, it’s preparation that helps us to pivot and adapt to succeed. We can prepare for the best, the worst, and everything in between. My point is: it’s better to be prepared…or you could get a brain-eating amoeba.

*Leadership Lesson*

Think of your next ‘big’ plan. Whether it is taking your next road trip, interviewing for a new job, or exploring a new town, what would help you to be more informed? Check-out a variety of trusted and reliable resources and consider what you will help you to feel knowledgeable and prepared. Ask yourself some of the questions below:

  • What am I hoping to learn from this experience? What will success look like for me?
  • What are the potential obstacles? How will I handle such obstacles?
  • What resources are available to me? Who is someone you could ask for advice?
  • What steps can I take to move forward?

*Meet the Author*

Caelan Cooney has worked with Leadership Inspirations since 2015. She got her start in leadership as a high school DECA student and went on to graduate from Chapman University with degrees in Business Management and Integrated Educational Studies. As a regular contributor to From the Balcony, her favorite topics to explore are personality theory, group development, and conflict management. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and listening to podcasts. 

Favorite Quote: “I am still learning” – Michelangelo

Fun Facts: 1) I once bought a goat on Craigslist 2) I am afraid of escalators 3) My life goal is to give a TedTalk