Posts Tagged ‘walking’

Learning from failure

Friday, July 8th, 2016


I set out last week to walk the Ridgeway, it starts in Avebury and I was walking to Whipsnade, about 100 miles.  It wasn’t my first long distance path, but it was the first time I was doing it camping and carrying a big pack.  Despite some careful thought and planning I still ended up with a bag that weighed 35 lbs or more, and I have to say that it turned the whole thing into more of an endurance challenge than an exploration of the English countryside.  West Ilsley

After 3 days, 40 miles and little sleep thanks to a rather noisy road and very strong winds, I decided to bail.  After all, it had been an experiment to see if this version of long distance walking worked for me and I had concluded that it absolutely did not!  Once you know that something isn’t working that’s a good time to stop, reassess options and strategies and find out what might work.  It is common in these times of macho leadership, to assert one is right and cling to one’s decisions as a sign of strength. However, a much better example of courageous leadership is Eddie Jones, England’s rugby coach, who twice on the last successful tour of England in Australia pulled off players after only 30 minutes (which was pretty much unprecedented) and radically altered the outcomes of the games. 

It would have been nice to have achieved my goal of getting there, but actually that was a subordinate one to finding a new way to enjoy something I’d found hugely rewarding in the past.  Edison, apparently tried thousands of different things as filaments in his new electric light bulb, and each time he encountered one more that failed, he felt he was narrowing in on the one the that would work by eliminating another thing that didn’t. 

So perhaps in this success obsessed culture, we need to find ways to learn from failures.  Maybe, despite the fact that most experts and world leaders seem to feel that Brexit was a horrendous mistake, we can find a way to make it work for us… I pray we can!

Walking in the footsteps of others

Monday, June 6th, 2016


footpathI recently spent an amazing week in the Lake District.  I wanted to explore some of the higher hills that I hadn’t visited before.  Technically they qualify as mountains, (and certainly felt that way!) but that term feels odd to apply to our English landscape.  I walk regularly, and certainly take sensible precautions, but these hills can be dangerous, especially to the inexperienced.  The thing about challenging yourself is that you can’t do it by doing things that you know you can do.  That makes this kind of venture intrinsically scary.  There are a number of challenges such as could I physically cope with it and could I find my way.  These routes mean you are slogging uphill for two to three hours and then, faced with an equally challenging descent.  A 7 mile walk can easily take 5 hours. 

One thing you can’t help noticing in the Lakes is how the landscape is scarred by people’s passage.  However, there are are also places which are totally unmarked and they make you very aware that you can very easily get lost.  These days people seem obsessed by doing their own thing and being original but actually there is an awful lot to be said for following in the footsteps of others.  When I saw these paths I knew that they worked; I didn’t know if they were easy, but I knew if I followed them I would get down.  Isaac Newton referred to “Standing on the shoulders of giants” as a positive that comes from following what others have done.  I have spent my life challenging the status quo and just repeating what others have done, but there are times, and fell walking is one of them, where you can appreciate why this can be a very smart option.

South Downs Way

Friday, October 18th, 2013

Yesterday, a friend and I finally finished our walk along the South Downs Way, through 4 counties and two national parks.  It is 100 miles long and you climb (and descend) 13,600 ft.  You can see from the profile above it is all up and down… subjectively much more up than down, but in truth the descents are almost as tough.

We weren’t able to do the journey in a single hit due to work commitments, but we it took us longer than we ever thought to find the six days it took us.  It takes you through some fabulous countryside with some breath-taking views.  However, by-and-large, it is very undeveloped with only two pubs on the whole length of the walk. 

It is a very do ‘able challenge, with some people cycling it in a single day!  However, it is reasonably demanding and takes some planning.  There is a fair amount of logistics involved it getting to and back from the end of each stretch.  You clearly need to plot your route and stay on it.  If you put all this together it isn’t so different from any business project – planning, support, execution.  There were times when you feel good about it and other times when it would be easy to just stop.  Sometimes you feel inspired by the challenge and other times it seems more daunting.  In the end, all you can do is take the next step and worry about the rest later, and in the end, that does get you there.

My favourite stretch was the bit from Devil’s Dyke to Rodmell where you walk on the ridge of the hills and have views to the south out to sea and and across the Weald to the north and the next bit to Alfriston and our second pub was good too!  I have always loved the metaphor of the journey when talking about Change and taking one with someone else is a great opportunity to get to know them and bond.  Companies often spend huge amounts on team building days but something like this can be a great way to get to know your colleagues and build a real and lingering sense of teamwork.

Why walk?

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

I was out today tramping through mud, rain and leaf mulch.  It was the was the wettest day of the year for us so far.  You might ask why bother?  What is the point in getting soaked and marching through the mire just to end up (hopefully!) back where you start from?  There are, of course, a series of reasons.  It is good, healthy exercise.  We have committed to do it and if you only do so when you feel like it, then it quickly becomes a sporadic activity rather than a regular one.  There  the challenge of navigating the route and the physical demands of the walk too.  There’s unquestionably a sense of gratification in succeeding in doing all of this, as well as the pleasure of all that you see along the way.  And yet, it is odd to to spend all day working at something to end up back where you begun.

I’m a great believer in ‘The Journey’, the journey of Life, and find the metaphor of a walk very appealing and resonant with this bigger journey.  Perhaps when we are feeling stuck on our bigger journey, a walk is a way creating a sense of freedom, progress and movement, and can ‘unstick’ us.  It enables us to see things from many perspectives and angles.

Are there other activities that you find have a metaphorical value for you? 

I”f you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking.  Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.”  Raymond Inmon

“Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”  Henry David Thoreau


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Busy doing NOthing

Saturday, April 12th, 2008

Yesterday I was writing about the importance of sometimes allowing yourself to do nothing, and I really did take my own advice. One reader thought that I was advocating never moving into action, which is certainly not the case. It is more like night and day, where you swing from one natural phase to the next and then back again.

So, back to yesterday…. Having finished writing, and having dealt with a very welcome business call that delayed me still further, I looked out of the window and my sunny day had vanished… only to be replaced with grey and wet! None-the-less, I was off to the woods to test out my new satnav1 system and see if I could navigate round some places I really didn’t know. I have mentioned before that I love ‘exploring,’ which for me, is going places I don’t know, even (and sometimes, especially) if they are close to places I do know.

So I took myself off to some woods & heath not too far from here and surrendered myself to the unknown. I was on my own so there were no distractions. During the course of my walk which last about 2.5 hours we had every kind of weather from sun to hail. I was moving at a fair clip so by the end I was pretty tired.

However, and here is the point of my ramble about rambling, all this time I was very active, but on another level, fitting into my ‘nothingness’ mode. I had no work to do, no purpose other than to open myself up to my surroundings and experiences. I won’t be so arrogant as to claim it was a ‘zenlike state’ but it was a very English version of that.

By letting go of the focus control and just allowing ourselves to notice what we notice, by going somewhere new and surrendering control, by being open to getting lost we can find so much. So if you are not sure what to do about something, perhaps you should put Nothing on your menu…

“Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing” Aristotle

“Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing” Lao Tzu

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself” Zen Proverb


  1. Bing Crosby is busy doing nothing

An unexpected gift

Friday, March 28th, 2008

One of my great loves is walking, and I am lucky enough to share this with a good friend, who makes time every week to be lead off into the wilds of South England. I try to keep finding new places to visit, but obviously we revisit old favourites to enjoy them again, in all their different seasons and aspects. Sometimes we are pushed for time and just have to stay close to home, which in reality, is no hardship as we have some of the most beautiful countryside in the world right here.

Yesterday was such a day and I was taking us back to an old and special favourite of mine up on Puttenham CommonÂŒ. Now, despite this being a place that I love, a little bit of me was disappointed not to be going ‘somewhere new’. There is a strong vestige of the little boy still in me that loves to go off and explore.

We set off with a new GPS I had been given for Xmas because I needed to check it out as it had been faulty. I’d programmed in a route, solely from a map and wasn’t sure how much of this route I would actually be familiar with. I knew the area well enough that I’d be able to get back if I or the less-than-reliable GPS got us lost!

So off went the intrepid pair, following the little line of electronic dots on the virtual map. We quite quickly diverged from my favourite route and initially it was a little dull, we were on a ‘green road’ rather than just off in the wild. However, we tramped on enjoying the views and each others conversation. Little by little, we got to areas I had never seen before, and they just got prettier and prettier. We had a wonderful time, in a beautiful place, under blue, blue skies.

The lesson for me was that we can find wonderful surprises in places (and people) that we think we know. When we surrender a little of our usually tight control we open the door to all sorts of wonderful gifts. So today, my gift you is the chance for you to enjoy a similar wonderful surprise in something or someone familiar.

“Be ready to be surprised” Loeje (a dutch fictional character)
“Man is always more than he can know of himself; consequently, his accomplishments, time and again, will come as a surprise to him.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow




  1. Puttenham on Google