Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Being Adventurous - requires GRIT

It’s pretty cool when my passion for Adventure Racing can be linked to what we do and who we are at HPSS.  This year when Sally suggested I could talk to our kids about being ADVENTUROUS, I jumped at the chance not just to tell my story, but to bring in a neat young woman, Mackenzie Blucher (19 years old and not long out of High School) who I believe epitomises the Adventurous disposition.  

Hobsonville Habit:  Adventurous - “I am willing to take risks and look for opportunities which may not yet exist.  I give everything a go.”

Last year I talked about being Adventurous and we explored how being Adventurous was more than just pursuing passions, but finding out what made you passionate and then taking it to the next level.  About finding ways to take what you love doing and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and finding ways to keep challenging yourself.  And I told my 2015 GODZone story A seven day race based in the Wanaka area.  My team and I completed the race in 127 hours: 6 days with minimal sleep, surviving on energy bars, freeze dried food and the odd pie when we could find one.  It was one of the toughest things I had ever done and it pushed me to my limits both mentally and physically, with challenging weather and conditions delivering highs, lows, hours of suffering and being stripped bare to our rawest form.   Even after all of this,  I  signed up with my team for GODzone 2016.

Before I delved into my 2016 story of setting out into the wilderness for seven days with little sleep and no chance of clean clothes or a hot shower I reminded  my audience that being Adventurous doesn’t just apply to sport or the outdoors - it’s a state of being and a disposition you develop when you challenge yourself to go beyond established limits in anything you choose to do.

GODZone 2016:  This year I was physically ready because my experiences the year before had given me a lot more insight into how to best train for such an event.  This took time and commitment.   Five months out I was training anywhere between 20 - 30 hours a week.  Early mornings, late nights and long weekends focusing on endurance - all fitted around a busy job and family.  At times it felt exhausting and monotonous but the sense of achievement was awesome.

In April I headed to Nelson for GODZone 2016 feeling confident in our goal of a top 10 result.  But this year I was faced with new challenges.  One of our teammates hadn’t been able to commit so a guy from Texas was joining us and on paper he sounded perfect, but in practice we didn’t know so had the challenge of the unknown.  Polly, Steve and I had been racing together and were feeling strong as a team.  Unfortunately our Texan wasn’t quite the teammate we were expecting and clearly, once the race started, didn’t have the same vision for the team as we did.  I had the physical challenge under control, but was faced with the mental challenge of coping with a teammate who was clearly unprepared and out of his depth.   I was also faced with  the challenge of coping when things don’t go to plan.
We towed him, we carried his gear, we rested him, I got mad and even cried when I realised it could cost us finishing the race.  Because, dammit - I’d worked hard to get there!  But, this is the nature of Adventure Racing - you are a team, and have to stay together as a team.  This kind of racing isn’t just about you as an individual therefore poor team dynamics can have a massive impact.  Just when I didn’t think things could get much worse, we got horrifically lost after not making it up onto a peak before the weather set in and spent a massive amount of time in a white out, going around in circles.  When we finally came off that peak the Texan pulled out.   This is when I realised that being Adventurous wasn’t just about nailing these races, it’s about having GRIT - the determination, the resilience and the perseverance to go on no matter what.  But while I questioned  the Texan’s lack of GRIT a lot of personal reflection occurred also - what could have we done better as a team?   Because when you put your body under so much physical pressure, your mental toughness is tested, your compassion and ability to work with others is tested.  I didn’t deal well with a teammate who didn’t meet our expectations. Fortunately our captain did and it was his leadership that kept the team’s integrity in tact. My learning from this was that when taking on challenges having the right people around you is key.  But also, it’s okay to be disappointed and frustrated, but it’s not okay to give up.
So as a team of three we re-evaluated our plan then just got on with it.  We got back on the full course and even though we’d lost a teammate and would end up unranked, we were determined to make the most of it and do our very best.   This was one of my proudest moments - being with a couple of teammates who had the courage and determination to suck it up and move forward.  We tackled the white water rafting stage with gusto, and lots of scary moments and I found myself facing a few more physical challenges, such as FEAR! After rafting it was a mountain bike ride to the start of the Mount Owen trek where we redeemed ourselves with our navigation on the 30 hour trek up and over the mountain.  This was my favourite stage in the race.  Gruelling, but spectacular as we climbed steeply for almost 2000metres, and made our way across the limestone formations to get to the summit.  We were up there in darkness, but it was a spectacular clear night and I didn’t mind not being able to see the sheer drop offs that were on either side.  As the sun came up we made our way down a ridge line with Kea’s flying around us and wind so extreme it was hard to stand straight.   Then it was onto the Mountain Bikes again and into the night.  We dug deep when a route choice on the mountain bike didn’t pay off and we ended up carrying our bikes through dense bush. As the sun was coming up we were back on track and spent all of day six mountain biking in the Able Tasman national park, heading towards our final stage.  At our last transition our Texan joined us for the final kayak leg and it looked like we might make it to the finish before the end of the day.  However, the sea got pretty gnarly, resulting in a capsize and we ended up camped up on a beach for the night before paddling to the finish line the next day.

I was bitterly disappointed in our result, but I was incredibly proud of the GRIT we showed to overcome the challenges we faced. In reflection, sometimes the most learning can come  from losing, from things not going to plan, from a disappointing result.   Ultimately, regardless of the result, I had an Adventure like no other and was grateful to share many indescribable moments with some incredible teammates.    
However, the whole experience got me thinking about this concept of GRIT - of resilience (key elements of being Adventurous) and how it develops in people.  When faced with challenges, what dispositions do people have and how have they developed, for them to continue on, not give up, no matter what?  For me I think part of my GRIT (or pure bloody mindedness as some might call it) is not only the experiences I’ve had, but also the opportunities that I haven’t let pass me by.  I am lucky to have a family that installed the confidence in me and supported me to try new things.  But I also took risks and put myself out there to get involved in things that were completely unknown to me.  I challenged my teachers (in a good way), I was curious and asked question, I got involved - in anything that was on offer. Some of these things were out of my comfort zone, but I gave things a go and developed the skills and the confidence to be able to tackle challenges head on.

(It was at this point in my presentation to the students that I had to admit it’s been a while since I was at school and a teenager.)  Therefore, I’m not sure what kind impact I was making -  me telling them that the Hobsonville Habits that we place so much importance on are their pathway to being Adventurous - to being GRITTY.

Cue Mackenzie Blucher:  

I met this Adventurous young woman last year when we were both presenting at a Rotary Club function - both about our adventures, but for Mackenzie more about the opportunities she doesn't let slip past her.  And it was  Mackenzie’s story (teenager speaking to teenagers) about her journey so far, about making the most of every moment, about taking risks, putting yourself out there, standing up for what you believe in and never giving up on pursuing your passions that reinforced our Hobsonville Habit, Adventurous.

More than just a food show!

Watching 'Chef's Table: France' Episode 1: Alain Passard, is so much more than watching another food show.

The blurb read: The pilot begins with Passard, who is most famous for his drastic turn from a meat to vegetable-only menu in his Michelin three-starred restaurant, and whose language of food is so deeply spiritual and personal that one can’t help but feel emotional while listening to him talk. (It worked on me)

To be honest, anything that gets me to fire up a blog post has to be pretty damn inspiring. Passard's story got to me and even re-ignited my passion for my job. Don't get me wrong - I love my job, but in the busy-ness of life it's easy to do what you do, without always thinking about why you do it. Passard's story of wanting to be a chef at the age of 14 and never losing sight of that, despite the challenges is remarkable. His passion for cooking is undeniable, but his story is about the journey and the pitfalls, the highs and the lows, of always evolving, of keeping the passion alive, of being a risk taker, responsive, creative, innovative .... Lets just say it's our Hobsonville Habits and Values rolled into one.

"At Arpege, we work instinctively.
Dishes may change every day, even at each service.
Nothing is written in the recipes.
Everything is made using only what arrives from the gardens. (Passard's gardens, where he refers to his gardeners as 'Artists,' 'companions' and 'life partners').
This is the magic of Arpege. ...
We don't record anything. We don't write anything down.
That forces us to keep looking.
Next year I don't want to make the same recipes that I did this year.
I want things to continue to evolve because, without that, there's nothing.
It's complicated. It's not easy.
But what delicious food we feast on!
What pleasure!
I have chills every day because sometimes I'm afraid.
Am I going to find that recipe?
In the space of a few seconds? ...
When you close your eyes at night, what's important?
You've spent the day taking risks.
You've made some people very happy.
Each day, that is my challenge."

Chef's Table: France - Episode 1 - Alain Passard (Netflix required)

As my teenager would say - "what a cool guy."

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Be Adventurous: Pursue your Passions

Sally told me a while back that she had me booked in to talk to our communities about my Godzone experience - my story of adventure and resilience.  I put it, and blogging about it on the back burner – to tell my story of a 7 day Epic, but brutal adventure, shared with my team mates, seemed overwhelming.  But the date crept closer and Sally, despite my protests, didn’t let me escape!  The catalyst for getting my story out there, was that Sal also had me signed up to run some pursuing passion workshops with our kids.  Here was the perfect opportunity to not just ramble on (quite passionately I might add) about what it means to pursue your passions, but attach my passionate ramblings to a context – my context. 

My message to our students was:

We often ask you what your passion is, tell you to follow your passions, but what does this mean?  Exploring passions is more than finding out what you are interested in, but more about the Why?  

When faced with the question, what are you passionate about? It’s okay to not have an answer.  We don’t know what we don’t know.  It’s through experiences, opportunities and the building of our aptitude to try new things and to venture into the unknown that we discover what we enjoy.  

It’s okay not to have an answer, but don’t be afraid to explore.

My favorite explanation of passion is by Simon Sinek  - he says that Passion is not an actionable word. Passion is a result, an energy, the feeling you have when you’re engaged in something you love. Passion is making sacrifices, experiencing hurt and loss, being part of something that makes you feel extraordinary.  

Passion is who you are.  

The goal is to make everything you do, at home and at school something that you are excited to do by asking yourself:   What do you love and why?  What would you do for free and how can you recreate that or those feelings.

 So, what am I passionate about, and what might that mean for me?

 I love Adventure Racing.  I didn’t discover a love for this sport until later on in life and through pursuing triathlons and multi sports.    I wasn’t the most athletic kid …. My dad used to pay me to bike to school!  But I had a love for adventure, the outdoors, heading out on treks with my family.  You don’t have to be an expert at what you enjoy - that’s part of the adventure.

 Up until this year I had competed in 6 hour, 12 hour and 24 hour races.  Adventure Racing involves teams navigating their way to checkpoints, trekking, kayaking, mountain biking, running, etc ... in a set time frame.  Last year I joined my team mates: Steve, Hedley and Dean, with the goal of doing GODzone - a multi-day adventure race like no other - headlined as:

"The Most Intense, Nearly Impossible Adventure Race on the Planet"

Because, another thing about pursuing your passions, is that you never want to settle for doing the same old same old.  If you have something you love doing, explore why and keep finding ways to push yourself further.  For me, this was GODzone.  

This year, the setting was Wanaka / Queenstown. Just the enormity of preparing for a 7 day race was challenging enough.  Before race day we are told what each stage is and have to pack our race boxes - 5 boxes per team and bike boxes - with a 25kg weight limit.    Everything we need for each stage of the race needs to be in the right box!

Then came race day: Saturday morning.

I was up at 3am to get a hot shower - there weren’t going to be any luxuries for the next 6 days (I have still to decide whether the pie from BP in Queenstown as we passed through on mountain bikes was a luxury or a necessity).

4am we piled onto the bus and started heading off to our mystery location. At the Hawea Hall we received the maps for the first section of the course. We had a couple of hours to mark up our maps before heading to the race start.  Leg 1 was the Haast Pass and up the Brewster Glacier. The start of the race was crazy with a single track straight up and a 2000m climb to the glacier.  The high winds and freezing rain kept us moving and we made it down to the transition in 7 and a half hours. 

Then it was getting the rafts pumped up and onto the Makarora River.  In the wet and the cold we were pleased to make it into transition in 3 hours. We were in pretty high spirits when we headed off in warm, dry clothes - knowing we had a tough 56km trek ahead of us. 

Our goal was to make it to the Albert Burn Hut for a couple of hours sleep.  The comfort of warm, dry clothes was short lived, as we quickly had to tackle some full on river crossings. The climb was steep and tough in the wet and the dark, but navigated well by the guys.  We’d been going for 25 hours when we got to the hut and I was struggling to keep my eyes open - thinking I could close them for a bit as I walked - but that never really works for me!  I was taking painkillers for an injury that I’d done before the race and they caused me to be sick and pass out (not ideal on a remote mountain range!)  This also meant a rough couple of hours for me and a worry for the team.   This is when the benefits of racing with team mates who know each other well kicks in and with plenty of moral support from the guys we were able to keep the pace going. I had to find a way to manage my injury, but the reality was that everything starts hurting after a while and you just suck it up and get on with it.   The trek in total took us 31 hours.  The heights we climbed to and the scenery we trekked through were magnificent and despite the pain and fatigue it was hard not to be blown away by what was around us.

42 hours into the race we made it into Transition. Up until this point Mum and Dad had been at all our transitions to cheer us on.  Their presence for the entire race was motivating and kept us smiling.  They had waited around until midnight before heading back to their campsite, but just knowing they’d been there was good enough.  We grabbed a couple of hours sleep before getting on the river at 5am in the canoes.  Feeling energized we had a great paddle down the Matukituki River, lots of laughs and enjoying a freeze dried meal (thanks Back Country Cuisine).   I was pleased to be in my wetsuit as the second part of this leg was swimming across lake Wanaka with all our gear.  

I was looking forward to getting on my Mountain Bike and we had a quick ride into Wanaka to race HQ to pick up and mark up our maps for the second half of the race.  Trying to plan our maps after 50 plus hours of racing and very little sleep was demanding.  

We got onto our bikes, spending the rest of the night climbing over two thousand metres up onto the Pisa Range. This stage over the Criffel Range was tough - actually it nearly broke me, as we were met with gale force winds, heavy rain and plenty of bike pushing.  A decision to drop and sleep for 20 minutes didn’t pay off as the southerly came through and Hedley became incoherent with hypothermia.  Dean was also shivering uncontrollably and as much as we would have liked to make it off the mountain we were left with no choice to hunker down in survival bags and ‘tiny tent’.  A couple of hours sleep the guys warmed up and we got to enjoy some amazing downhill in the daylight.  But from then it was back country riding towards
Queenstown.  I thought the hills would never end and if I had to name a low point, this was it. I was struggling to eat, I was dehydrated.  My ankles were a pussy mess from an infection caused by Spear grass.  I even declared that “this is worse than child birth" (and I had big babies!).  Every inch of my body hurt.  And all I could think of was our Hobsonville Habits - Resilience - keeping going when you think you have nothing left.  

After 37 hours on the Mountain Bike we made it to transition and decided to hold off sleeping until after the kayak leg.  It was dark, stormy and rough (good fun), but not so great when you can’t stay awake.  Luckily I was sleepy the first half and Hedley for the second.  At Kingston we were met with a pie and a hot chocolate. If there is one thing that adventure racing gives you, it is the appreciation for the simple comforts. After hallucinating our way through the night, a few of hours sleep was well received.

Then it was back on the Mountain Bike for another 25 hours.  After the last MTB leg and severe chaffing (like you wouldn’t believe), I was dreading this leg, but it was an incredible climb up into the 'Old Person Ranges'.  I was struggling on the hills and once again the power of the team kicked in:  Steve put me on the tow (life-line) and dragged me up the hills / mountains.  All the climbing paid off and we rode the downhill into Cromwell like demons on a mission.  Once again it was into the night and staying awake on a MTB is a challenge.  After a few close calls, Steve, decided on an hours sleep in a hay barn before the last stretch to transition.

The kayak leg to the Finish line ended with a tail wind  - what a great way to end.  It never ceases to amaze me what the body is capable of when the finish line is near!

We did it:  127 hours / 6 days / a little bit of sleep / surviving on energy bars and freeze dried food.  It was a tough course with equally challenging weather and conditions delivering highs, lows, hours of suffering, and being stripped bare to our rawest form.  

But I do it because I love it - love what exactly?  Because there is not much love to be found when your are pushing your body both physically and mentally to it’s limits.  Or when your body is hurting so much you want to lie down and not get up, or when your are being towed or your  gear is being carried because you can’t keep up - why do I consider this my passion?

I love the teamwork and the relationships that build and develop.
I love the challenge of the unknown and of problem solving under pressure.
I love the sense of achievement.
I love the humbling experiences of having weaknesses and strengths exposed side by side.
I love being a role model to my kids.
I love being part of something extraordinary.  
What it means: Passion for me is to have a career / a life where teamwork, relationships, venturing into the unknown, discovering, achieving, being challenged, solving problems, being part of extraordinary things are part of who I am and what I do.
Being passionate isn’t just the action of doing something, but finding out the Why we love to do it?

So, my challenge to you is to not just identify what you love to do, but explore why and build your capacity to apply these characteristics to everything you do so it become part of who you are.  

And, once you’ve explored your passions, your interests, what you love and the WHY – BE ADVENTUROUS.  
I don’t mean to go off and do an Adventure race (unless that's your thing), but to take what you love doing and find ways to keep challenging yourself - don’t settle for the same.  

I’m signing up with my team for GODzone 2016 and my new challenge is to not just survive this time, but to help navigate and be stronger and fitter, so I can look after my teammates as much as they look after me.

Steve said to me starting out on this Adventure, "you won't know how to truly prepare for a race like this until you've done one" - I get it!

Also a recent quote by Adventure Racing legend, Nathan Fa avae, sums up racing with the right people: "I'm very careful about the people I race with, most of them have huge thresholds of suffering and discomfort, as well as incredible levels of perseverance and commitment."  

Watch this space.  

Your passion isn’t just what you do, it’s who you are.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

What does it mean to be Adventurous?

As I delve into what it means to be Adventurous, I need to start with the idea of 'Growth Mindset'. Because being Adventurous, like our other Hobsonville Habits, promotes 'Growth Mindset'.

Growth Mindset?

- Best summed up by two of our students, based on the work of Carol Dweck:

"People with a growth mindset tend to learn from criticism, have a great sense of free will and embrace challenges. They are resilient, adventurous, curious, contributive, creative, responsive, reflective and purposeful. They have a passion for learning, not a hunger for approval. They know that their traits could be developed and enhanced through dedication and effort."

In this 5 minute clip, Carol Dweck explains Growth vs Fixed Mindset:

Growth mindset: the belief that talents and abilities can be cultivated. A view that promotes the taking on of challenges in the face of obstacles. That effort is what makes you smarter and better.

Fixed mindset: challenges and obstacles are threatening to ones sense of ability. Even effort is a threat, because there is the belief that things come naturally, therefore if effort is required, you must not be good at it. A "You've either got it our you don't" attitude!

It's also important to note, that you can have different mindsets for different things / contexts / modes. To be honest, there's not a day that doesn't go by where my mindset isn't tested. The challenge is to be able to call yourself on your fixed mindset and identify how growth might occur.

For me, our Hobsonville Habit Adventurous = 'Growth Mindset'.

While our Habits are set in concrete - literally (posted on our stairwell!), the unpacking and development of them will always be ongoing and evolving as we explore what they mean for us as learners.

Currently, our definition of Adventurous is: I am willing to take risks and look for opportunities which may not yet exist. I give everything a go.

Other language / characteristics associated with 'Adventurous are:  

enterprising, dream big, innovative, risk taking, pro-active, always a learner, leader, team-builder, catalyst, resourceful, social and economical awareness, creative, motivated, high expectations, mastery, rigour, challenging , authentic, quality, leadership, agency, mana motuhake, competitive...

Being Adventurous is, as Carol Dweck says, taking on challenges in the face of obstacles. Obstacles might be personal, physical, mental or emotional. In my previous blog I wrote about being adventurous in pursuing passions and this being more than just doing what you love, but continually finding new challenges and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone in the process. This certainly happened for me in my pursuit of Adventure Racing and taking part in a 7 day race - GODZone (story still to be told!).

During the school holidays I got to spend time with family and was reminded that being Adventurous, has the same characteristics (challenge, obstacles, risk taking, etc...), but looks different for each of us. You don't have to go out and do a multi-day adventure race, to be adventurous

My mum epitomises the habit Adventurous. I was lucky enough to be with her at the NZ Creative Fibre awards in Rotorua where she had 4 pieces in the exhibition and a garment in the Fashion Show (which took out two of the major awards). No surprises really - Mum has always been passionate about design and is an amazing knitter, sewer, designer, creator ... What was inspiring was that all her pieces were Harakeke (flax weaving). The table that we sat with asked if I took after my mum. I replied, "no - definitely not, I'm not creative" (very fixed mindset of me). One of the replies I got was, "anyone can learn if they set their mind to it." And she was right, because 8 years ago when my Mum and Dad moved to Opotiki, Mum probably didn't know what Harakeke was, let alone be able to pronounce it. But her passion for the arts and her passion for learning saw her push all her comfort zone boundaries and immerse her self in a 3 year course, learning the art of Harakeke. The course is over, but Mum is always learning, not just weaving, but about Tikanga, Te Reo. The beauty of being Adventurous is that the characteristics you develop transfer into all areas of your life and become who you are rather than just what you do. 

Bev Vellenoweth creations

 Be Adventurous: Explore what you are interested in / what you love / what you are passionate about. Continually ask yourself how you can take it to a level where you feel uncomfortable and uncertain - take risks! Don't stop learning.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Sharing Stories - Being Visible - WALKING THE TALK

There is hardly a day that doesn't go by where I am not reading a blog post by one of my colleagues.  And each time I'm inspired by their level of reflection and insight into education and their journey here at HPSS.  And each time I exclaim - "that's inspired me to blog!"

Well, confession time - "forgive me, for I have not blogged since June 3 2014!"  

While my "that's inspired me to blog" exclamations and then not actually doing it has created a great deal of humour around the place, I am actually embarrassed that it's been almost a year.  So what gave me the kick start I needed? It wasn't actually all the cajoling, but thank you anyway Claire, Steve, Bryce, Ros and Maurie.  It was partly due to a  life-changing experience I had about 4 weeks ago, but more so this image I ran into this afternoon:

Today, there's been blokes buzzing around painting walls different colours and putting signs up, but I wasn't expecting this - our Hobsonville Habits - very visible.  I felt such a huge sense of pride when I saw our stairway, because these Habits are the heart and soul of HPSS.  It has been an amazing journey with our learners, our parents, our community and our staff to refine the dispositions we want to continue to build and develop in our HPSS learners. And by 'learners' I don't just mean our students.  It was the visibility of our Habits this afternoon that struck a real chord with me.

What I admire most about my fellow bloggers is their self critique and their story telling of their learning - warts and all, so that what we are doing here is transparent and shared with everyone - not just within our walls.  The dispositional curriculum is part of my leadership role and I encourage our learners everyday to share their stories and set their goals, around their successes and failures around these habits, because, as Linda Darling-Hammond (Most Likely to Succeed)  says, this is how we build 'Grit'.  

However, I think, for a moment, that I lost sight of the fact that when it comes to building dispositions / habits that I am just as much of a learner as any of our students.  My initial embarrassment when I saw the habits on display stems not just from my acute lack of blogging (sharing), but from being some one who preaches the necessity of growing our dispositions in our young people, but not actually making my own stories, successes,failures and learning visible.  So, it's about time I shared some of my learning - WALK THE TALK!

Back to that life changing experience.  In the first week of March I was in Wanaka competing in a week long Adventure Race, GODZone - "an adventure race like no other."  I am incredibly passionate about Adventure Racing, but also realised going into GODZone, that I have generally stayed in my comfort zone.  The challenge about pursuing your passions, as I've more recently discovered, is to be able to push yourself further so that it doesn't just become something you are good at, but something that takes you to places (both mentally and physically) that you never thought you could go.  GODZone pushed me to that place, over and over again.  By day three, about 70 hours in with maybe 4 hours sleep I hit rock bottom.  We had hiked 22km up Brewster Glacier, canoed 22km down the Makarora River, spent 32 hours out on the 56km Albert Burn Alpine Trek, Canoed and Coasteered another 41km and were in the middle of the most brutal and soul destroying MountainBike I had ever done.  We had also climbed to heights I had not experienced before.  What went through my head?  Corny as it may sound, our Hobsonville Habits and the realisation that when you are completely stripped of everything, what you do have left are those core values / dispositions / habits to draw on to get you through.  

So, just as the habits have been put out there, I'm going to share my learning around each of the Hobsonville Habits and at the same time tell my GODZone story - warts and all!  One habit a week, starting with ADVENTUROUS - watch this space!  

Team Kori Kita: Steve, Lea, Hedley and Dean