The Lessons Learned from Being Lost in the Forest

Sitting there in the middle of the forest, I couldn't believe what I have gotten myself into. I've snowboarded for twenty-five years and was an expert in making the right decisions when entering the backcountry, yet I found myself lost in the Vermont wilderness.

Hearing my friend yell "Stop!" didn’t discourage me from traversing through the trees. I figured the trail would reconnect. I continued for forty-five minutes, which didn't alert me to call 911, in fact, it had me more determined to find the trail (Help? I can save myself, thank you). Finally, I came across a river surrounded by bear tracks and a cave above it. The thought of facing bears, especially hungry ones that are just waking up from hibernation, forced me to call 911 ASAP. The emergency worker rescued me by connecting me with ski patrol, which gave me the directions to walk myself out of harm's way.

Why am I telling you this story? No matter how much of an expert we consider ourselves to be, we still make mistakes and sometimes they're major. I was baffled on how I ended up four miles away from the ski area, but without the right tools (GPS anyone?) and support system, you’ll deviate from the ultimate goal and could end up failing or in my case, bear lunch.

James Altucher likes to say that the worst thing that could happen to an entrepreneur is “smoking their own crack”. He uses it in the sense of having a bias “that your business is better than it really is.” I’ll borrow his phrase and define it as a cognitive bias in our decision making. Success will blind us into believing we are right all the time, allowing us to discard teammates’ insights and become stubborn when our means to success are unpromising. It’s fine to be persistent towards accomplishing goals, but when no progress is being made on your decisions, change is needed due to valuable money, time, and people’s nerves being exhausted. There’s a reason why we surround ourselves with experienced, specialized people, it’s a mechanism to prevent us from making decisions that could cripple our company. If I listened to my companion, who knew the trouble I was heading towards, it would have saved me from my predicament.

When mistakes are made, you should own them and learn from them. Include your team on the decision making procedures; you’ll be trusted more by colleagues and clients to decide what’s best for business because you’re selflessly willing to admit your mistakes and you’re including their input during the process, which boosts morale and shared success in the experience.