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Life's journey has been varied. As a 30 year career soldier its been geographically, emotionally and intellectually nomadic, at times exciting, sometimes frustrating, its had highs and lows and it has challenged me, sometimes beyond what I thought possible. On the whole I have been lucky. I've developed a reputation for being unconventional, even unorthodox. I've made mistakes, plenty of them. Success and failure have left their marks. I've been able to develop my passions and interests. From the office to the trench, from ocean sailing to Antarctic exploration, from the philosophies of Kurt Hahn to the lyrics of Tom Lewis, and much more besides and between. Now I want to share them.

I am trying to bring meaning and sense to these experiences, learning from the past so as to signpost the future, not just mine but anyone else who might benefit vicariously. This blog, set in Shetland sailing aboard "Swan", a 100 year old ex herring drifter delivering youth development and sail training opportunities for young people, is a living reflection on that journey.

To share it read on . . . .

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

There is more in you than you yet know (Part 2)


Of course this was a rapid and highly selective discourse of some key events only and a deliberate omission was my family and in particular parents who gave me my initial introduction to sailing and hill walking from which so much as flowed.  I was also lucky to have benefitted from some highly inspirational school teachers including Richard Armstrong who was the master in charge of rowing.  So far so good but what of it?  And why share a brief and highly selective sample of my biography?

Well I want to try and give a background to how I have arrived at some key ideas that influence the way I approach the next phase of skippering Swan.  Thus far I have in the main focused on the boat but that emphasis must now switch and broaden.  The switch is to the people and the broadening is because the boat will continue to demand attention.

A key element of the sort of leadership that I espouse is the development of subordinates and to do so there needs to be an underpinning philosophy.   Mine is derived primarily from the life experiences I described in the last post.  So my approach is a mongrel mix of Hahn, Army core values and ethos, South Georgia, Antarctica and LTTA experience, NLP and CBT, Pete Allison’s Virtues and Values, ILM coaching and mentoring programmes at a variety of levels.  There is I think a balance drawn from both my own experiences and also from my reading and research into other people’s ideas.  These ideas and influences have been stirred and discussed with peers, tutors and students.  I don’t claim originality nor admit to plagiarism but rather a mix of influences and reflections.  I thought I’d share just two, Hahn’s and then my own observations fron LTTA.

Hahn’s approach lies at the very heart of my approach.  In the latter stages of the First World War he was working for Prince Max of Baden, Germany's last imperial chancellor.  The two men became convinced a lack of character in the German people was a significant contribution to Germany’s defeat.  In the aftermath of the war they founded the Salem schools with the philosophy "to effect what they have recognized to be right, despite hardships, despite dangers, despite inner skepticism, despite boredom, despite mockery from the world, despite emotion of the moment"   Such a philosophy put Hahn on an inevitable collision course with the rise of the Nazi party and in 1933 he went into exile in Britain where he founded Gourdonston school and the Moray badge scheme which was a forerunner of both the Outward Bound movement and the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme. 

Time and space precludes a detailed analysis of Hahn but the following gives a brief overview of his ideas.  Firstly he articulated what he called the 6 declines of modern youth.  These are the declines :in

·         Fitness

·         Initiative and Enterprise

·         Memory and Imagination

·         Skill and Care

·         Self-discipline

·         Compassion

He considered The decline in compassion as the most significant and although his language is perhaps dated ( I choose to talk about challenges rather than decline) I consider they remain relevant today.  Hahn went on to propose 4 antidotes

  • Fitness Training
  • Expeditions
  • Projects
  • Rescue Service

Hahn recognised that People discover their abilities, values, passions, and responsibilities in situations that offer adventure and the unexpected.  A teacher’s or skipper’s primary task is to help students overcome their fears and discover they can do more than they think they can.  learning happens best with emotion, challenge and the requisite support. These ideas developed further by Hahn and others into Ten Expeditionary Learning Principles which seek to describe a caring, adventurous school culture and approach to learning are summarised below,

·         The primacy of self-discovery

·         Ideas and curiosity

·         Assume responsibility for your own learning

·         Empathy and caring within the group

·         Experiencing success and failure

·         A balance of collaboration and competition

·          Diversity and inclusion

·         Respect for the natural world

·         Creating opportunity for solitude and reflection

·         Service and compassion to each other

During LTTA, I tried to represent my own ideas which served both as a guide to the training but also as an articulation of ideas.  I hope that in introducing them now no one will think that I believe they stand alongside Hahn’s ideas as in any way equal, rather they represent another strand to my own approach.

·         Take responsibility for your actions

·         Do it now not later

·         Always have contingency

·         Take calculated risk but never sleepwalk into danger

·         Check and double check

·         Know your limits

·         Follow your gut but there is no place for bravado

·         Listen to your doubts

·         Never pass up an opportunity, it might not represent

·         Discomfort is more rewarding than a missed opportunity

·         Humour and determination will move most mountains

·         Don’t confuse success, experience and wisdom

I hope I have already brought some of this approach to bear in the way I conduct staff training and that it will also benefit the 16-18 year olds on the forthcoming trip to Norway which I look forward to sharing with you. 

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