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A few months ago I participated in a Skype interview. I was applying for a special class which would allow me to be part of a consulting project with a real life client. I wasn’t too worried about this interview, after all, how bad could it be if I was allowed to wear my PJ’s during it? After a few foreseen questions I was feeling confident about my answers, despite the little feedback I was getting from the interviewer. And then all of a sudden things made a turn for the worse. “What would you say your greatest accomplishment to date is?” I was mortified. What? I’m  20 years old!  What are they expecting from me!? I have been directed onto the conformed path of getting an education and then a good job. Nothing was coming to mind, at least nothing that would satisfy this all too serious interview.

I couldn’t think of anything business or academic related. To me, a true accomplishment is some sort of victory, something I would not expect to have accomplished. I usually set a goal and when it is achieved  it’s done; off my list and it turns into a fond memory or an entertaining story. I almost never think of those goals as accomplishments.

I lied. I was so enraged with my false answer and the question bothered me for weeks! I asked all my friends what their answers would be, but they were just as stunned as I was. After some reflection I realized I had a more honest answer. My greatest accomplishment to date is completing a 82 km hike in 3 days rather than the planned 4. Summarizing that adventure in one sentence makes it seem so casual, but it was the most physically and mentally demanding experience.

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The Heaphy track is one of the longer tramps in New Zealand and because it is not a loop, we had to separate into two groups of 4 and meet in the middle of the track to switch car keys. This was my first hike with this group of friends so I was not familiar with their paces, mindsets, and motivation methods. Our first day went according to plan aside from the rain at the end of our hike. We reached our hut in time and in good spirits. But things took a wetter turn as we woke up on day 2. The rain and wind were literally assaulting the walls of our hut and I begged the guys to just stay in the warm hut and sleep. But we pressed on. Within the first 30 min I was soaked through to my underwear. No joke. The trail was flooded and many times it was dangerous to cross. With each other’s guidance we maneuvered through the strong streams, fallen logs, and water up to our thighs; all the while keeping our spirits up with funny stories and games. The biggest question for day 2 was would we meet up with our second half of the group. They had to do a tricky river crossing and with all the rain and flooding and the recently fallen bridge we were worried it would be an impossible task. We got a positive report from the other group and as we headed out for our river fording we had high hopes of an easy crossing. With such a positive outlook we began to hatch our own plan for the completion of this hike. We began to play around with the idea of completing the hike a day earlier than planned.  But our experience was completely different. We arrived at a large river with a pretty strong current. After contemplating what steps to take, Dave finally found a cross-able spot. With careful communication we managed to balance our way across a log and onto the other bank to the river. We sat in amazement for a while realizing what we had just accomplished but with that nagging goal in mind we headed towards what would have been our final hut for the night. We were so close to the end on day three but still not sure how strongly we should voice our opinions, we danced around the pros and cons list for 30 min while picking at blood blisters and refueling with an entire roll of salami and some tim- tams. We couldn’t let the bragging rights get away and we headed off to what should have been the fourth leg of the hike. This is a night I will never forget. We trekked over boulders during high tide for what seemed like hours, and being the only girl I tried my best to suck it up and hold back tears of pain and frustration. My blisters were growing with every climbing motion I made and the darkness was crippling my confidence. Joey took a chance and strayed from the rocky beach to search for the original path because we missed the markers in the dark. Once we were back on the original path we grasped for clues to our location. I recognized a bridge and made the announcement we had all been waiting for: 4 miles until the end.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Joey Maloney and the GoPro.

From this experience I learned much more than during any group project at school. At Babson we are taught that entrepreneurship is more than a business idea, its a mindset that allows the formation of a certain lifestyle which is opportunity obsessed, holistic in approach, and leadership balanced . I believe that this experience showcased my entrepreneurial mindset by addressing all three components. Identifying our opportunity and taking that calculated risk lead to leadership roles at different points in time.   It is always a delicate situation when you are dealing with friends who have set goals and you don’t want to disappoint them. Communication was so important for us, whether it was to help one another get across a flooded trail, find footing while fighting a strong river current, or voicing our comfort levels. We were able to encourage each other and stay positive despite the most miserable conditions I have ever endured. No other experience will test my collaborative skills as well as my own will like the Heaphy track.

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