Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

It may be one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, yet to me, it’s a grand gift that keeps on giving.

Like reading the same book at different times in your life, you get something different out of it depending on your place in the journey. With so many features to experience, your viewpoint literally changes with every step, only to reveal one more point to ponder, one more mystery to meander, and one more one-more to wander and wonder. Each snapshot along the way varies with nuance and character.

Each passing moment posits one more pause to paint the picture of perspective.

In 2008, my girlfriend and I got to visit the Grand Canyon for the first time. Flying into Phoenix, we drove 5 hours north to the South Rim. Needless to say, we did all the touristy things. We got to tour the Glen Canyon Dam in a bus; survive a bumpy jeep ride all the way down; float on the Colorado River in a slow-water, pontoon boat ride; learn from Park Rangers in scheduled sunset talks; go skywatching; dine at new restaurants; and hike the famous Bright Angel Trail.

Interestingly enough, our hotel concierge was persistent to point us in the direction of Sedona. Upon arrival, they told us to “go shopping. The Grand Canyon will always be there,” they said. That may be true… yet we wouldn’t always be there.

They invited us to board the train, join them for dinner, visit a few local shops, and…

Ride the Helicopter

I love flying. And I love nature. What could be more exciting and awe-inspiring than viewing the entire Grand Canyon in just a couple of hours? I mean, my first helicopter ride–and over the Grand Canyon? Wow. That unforgettable experience and vantagepoint would surely shape my perspective.

This perspective would allow me to see the whole canyon and how each gorge flows interdependently.

Yet for whatever reason, I pushed back on this opportunity. I guess I just wanted to save some of the surprise. I wanted it to last longer than two hours. I wanted to do the real thing on the ground. Maybe at that time, I didn’t prefer the balcony view over the dance floor? I wanted to absorb every detail, taking it all in like a…

Slow-Water Boat Ride

If it’s true that peace like a river can attend your way, then it was well with my soul–even in a deep canyon. To me, this was Heaven on earth. I have never felt a peace quite like the quiets of these slow waters.

Even with fellow pontoon boat passengers of all ages from Florida, Michigan, France, Canada, and The Netherlands, I could hear my heart beating. Upon reflection, it was a moment forever suspended in time. It was good for the soul.

Our guide would pause, pull over to random gorges, and pose questions, like: “How can these layers of stone be horizontal while these are vertical? Why are older layers on top of younger layers? How was the Grand Canyon formed? How much time has passed since it formed? What evidences conflict themselves against varying theories?”

A science teacher at heart, I should have instigated some deep dialogue and debate. Perhaps it should have been the best time to tell everyone my opinions–and how my opinions were right and theirs were wrong. Maybe I should have unloaded all of my expertise upon them. After all, this was the famous Horseshoe Bend. But I didn’t know that at the time. And I didn’t care. For these moments of meaningful meander were not about me.

This was not the right time to exude with expertise. This was not my time to talk.

This was my time to listen. This was my time to gain perspective.

This experience would allow me to craft my perspective with my whole heart, mind, body, and soul.

When you can take it slow, you have more opportunity to get it right. You can take it one step-at-a-time, like…

Hiking the Trail

If all we had done was hike the Bright Angel Trail, it would have been more than enough. Our first impression of the Grand Canyon did not disappoint. I remember telling my girlfriend: “Every five minutes is a new photo op!”

With a youthful sense of adventure, I doubted all the warnings. “The hike down will be harder than the hike back up, so be sure to conserve enough energy to get back up.” What? In all of my lifetime experiences, climbing out of a hole was way harder than slipping into one. Ultimately, the signs were right.

“Bring plenty of water to hydrate: It’s a dry heat and you won’t even know that you’re sweating.” Who wants to carry all that extra weight? If I’ve learned anything, it’s that you can’t truly move forward until you let go of the baggage that holds you back. Once again, the signs were right.

If I would have been less prideful about being right and more open to getting it right, the warnings would have spoken to me in a different way. Then, I had the freedom to be right. And I also had the freedom to suffer from the consequences of being right.

Hiking one step at a time allowed me to take it all in stride, from the inside out and back again. Living the real thing builds a unique skill set. Being in the canyon is much different than helicoptering over the canyon. Both perspectives are valuable, yet different. Both can shape you and your journey in a way.

Exactly 7 years later, we would return to the canyon. This time, we chose to hike a much more challenging trail, and we nearly lost our lives. Staying cutting-edge and living on the edge are not the same things. In a way, we left disappointed, not because we didn’t have a great time, but because we both knew that our first time was really over, and that we could never go back.

While we packed so much into our first visit, there were so many things that we did not get to do.

Perspective provides purpose. Perspective changes over time. Perspective positions people.

All the things that we didn’t get to do this time would have to wait. Even if we get to come back to the same places and do the same things with the same people again later, it wouldn’t be same. Because different chapters of our lives are meant to grow us at that time and in that place–exactly where we are.

Perhaps, it’s meant to be this way.

Maybe the journey is more about the joys of learning and less about the burdens of knowing.

It’s more about the process of painting than the product of the painted picture itself.

Perspective grows when we wander with wonder, learn without knowing, circle up and circle back, and embrace the gifts that keep on giving…

Bright Angel Trail: July 30, 2008
South Kaibab Trail: July 30, 2015
South Kaibab Trail: July 30, 2015

Blogger’s Note: This is Part II in: “Getting It Right,” a series based on one line from Brene Brown‘s Book: Dare to Lead. In The Armory on pages 75-76, Brown shifts Armored Leadership example 05: “Being a knower and being right” to the Daring Leadership response: “Being a learner and getting it right.” This one line has greatly impacted my work, life, and perspective in the last few years. End Blogger’s Note.

Previous Posts In This Series:

Getting It Right–Part I: Food for Thought

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