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The Top 3 Leadership Lessons You Won’t Learn in an Office or Classroom

By Liz Townsend on 7/10/18 8:51 AM


My rope team heading back to base camp. Photo by Liz Townsend.

You might think that seven years of working in the business world would have taught me about leadership. Yet the best lessons I’ve learned have come while climbing rocks and mountains and hiking miles into the wilderness, where traveling with companions over steep snowy passes and through thick forested valleys has forced me to face leadership challenges in ways that I rarely encounter inside.

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Topics: tolerance for adversity and uncertainty, Backpacking, MBAs, Live the Dream, leadership, NOLS Custom Education

Pay It Forward: How My NOLS Semester Helped Me Lead My Own Backcountry Trips

By Carolyn Highland on 6/27/18 10:00 AM


Photo by Carolyn Highland

November 21, 2012 was one of my favorite days on this planet. Up until this point, the idea of identifying a favorite day had seemed impossible, like choosing your favorite drop of water in a rushing river. But this was a day that made you realize if you couldn’t identify days that made the shortlist, you hadn’t yet experienced the type of day worthy of it.

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Topics: Semester, skiing, NOLS New Zealand, Live the Dream, leadership

Snow in May: Leadership in the Face of Uncertainty

By Sarah Delany on 6/18/18 10:01 AM


Photo from Pixabay.

Postholing is a gamble at best; the unstable snow holds a person carrying a pack one step and collapses the next, leaving you up to your knees in snow when you least expect it.

When my Leadership Development class from Bates College rolled into the NOLS Northeast campus in Gabriels, New York this spring, the last thing I could have imagined was that I would find myself hip deep in rotten snow, moving slower than imaginable, and pondering whether or not I would have to set up my tent in the dark.

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Topics: Backpacking, Live the Dream, NOLS Northeast, NOLS Custom Education, Bates College

What I Learned About Resilience from Swimming an Icy Canyon Pond

By Maddy Eschholz on 5/30/18 8:29 AM


Photo by Lindsay Nohl.

Limb-numbing cold water drips down my shirt and pants. Uncontrollable, body wracking shivers. Shallow, quick breaths don't quite fill my lungs. Tears that I couldn't hold in any longer rolling down my cheeks. I hate this. I want to go home. Why do people think this is fun? Why am I so emotional? Why won't these tears stop?

These thoughts and feelings all came rushing into my head after swimming through a deep pond in a slot canyon on the sixth day of my NOLS course. It was November, and the water was the coldest thing I’ve ever felt—it was the kind of cold that made it hurt to take a deep breath. This was the hardest moment of my trip, but also the time when I learned the most about myself and who I wanted to be.

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Topics: Semester in the Rockies, Live the Dream, Utah, canyoneering

Opinion | Breaking the Habits of Technology

By Kathryn Wheeler on 5/22/18 2:36 PM


Photo by Oscar Manguy

Since moving to Lander, I’ve developed a bit of routine around technology. My weeks are comprised of long days in front of a computer, with constant access to the web, and all of the baggage that brings. My weekends tend to look the opposite, as I attend to my need for uninterrupted experiences outside with others. This weekly routine casts me into two different worlds: one where I am totally absorbed by screens, and the other where I try to forget the existence of technology for a clarifying breath of fresh air.

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Topics: technology, Live the Dream, opinion

Lessons from the Alpine Pass: Columbia Business School Student Goes to Chile

By Sho Fujiwara on 5/10/18 8:29 AM


Classmate Oly looks his feet and looks back on the alpine pass. Photo by Sho Fujiwara.

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Topics: NOLS Patagonia, Columbia Business School, Backpacking, Live the Dream

5 Ways Expedition Behavior Helps You Raise Kids

By Alyssa Walker on 5/3/18 8:27 AM


Photo by Alyssa Walker

The most miserable and telling moment on my monthlong NOLS Alaska Outdoor Educator Course 13 years ago—descending a steep talus slope—taught me the value and beauty of expedition behavior, or EB. It also prepared me for an even bigger life adventure: parenthood.

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Topics: Family, Live the Dream, expedition behavior, Alaska

The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful: Why I Went Back to NOLS

By Elena Cabot Rodriguez on 4/3/18 9:11 AM

Photo courtesy of NOLS archives.
 

All my life my dad had preached the power of NOLS. The first summer he moved to the United States from Venezuela, he completed the four-week backpacking course in the Wind River Range.

Speaking little English, he cruised with his team through snowy mountain tops, only to be caught in a snowstorm at 8,000 feet with an instructor who had a leg injury. He still loves to talk about carrying the instructor up to a clearing and snuggling with him at night to prevent hypothermia.

“I’ve never done anything like it,” my dad told me.

“Cool, Papa,” I said for the thousandth time, tired of hearing about Wind River epics that seemed so foreign to me.

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Topics: Semester in the Rockies, Live the Dream, leadership, Alaska backpacking

How to Convince Your Boss to Let You Take a NOLS Course

By Erica Nelson on 3/15/18 10:37 AM


Photo by Craig Muderlak

When I heard from NOLS’ staffing office that I’d been accepted on the River Instructor Course, I was beyond stoked. I ran to tell my boss the great news. Expecting her to be happy, instead she said, “We can’t afford to lose you this time of year.”

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Topics: Expedition Prep, Live the Dream, leadership

4 Strategies Leaders Use to Make Better Decisions

By Molly Herber on 3/7/18 10:06 AM


Photo by Betsy Winston.

Imagine this: You’re trying to figure out the best way to cross a river with your group of four friends. Even though you’ve crossed rivers on your own before, you’ve never led a group while doing it.

You’re wracking your brain trying to remember any acronyms that might help you, scrambling around the riverbank trying to guess the river’s speed, and weighing the equally strong temptations of “just going for it” and staying put, making camp, and coming back to the decision in the morning.

When you’re on the verge of total frustration, your friend shouts, “Hey, I found a log! Let’s use it to cross the river!”

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Topics: decision making, Live the Dream, leadership

Lessons from Escalante's Desert Canyons

By Erin Phillips on 2/13/18 8:33 AM

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

—David Wagoner

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Topics: Semester, Semester in the Rockies, Live the Dream

Sea Kayaking the Great Bear Rainforest

By Jonathan Brooks on 2/6/18 12:31 PM


Jonathan with bonsai island. Photo by Julie Bremner.

“This place is full of life on life on life!”

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Topics: Sea Kayaking, British Columbia, Live the Dream

Learning the Meaning of Teamwork in the Wilderness

By Wolf Johnson on 1/22/18 7:44 AM

I crested the top of the small mountain, ahead of the rest, for a brief moment of celebration on the top, all by myself. The view took my breath away, literally, but also emotionally. I could feel a tenderness and had a few tears in my eyes. These were happy tears. As the others, my coursemates, arrived on the mountain’s top, the sun was at an angle and beginning to set. We all celebrated, and we were also exhausted and laughing. In this moment I felt immense joy and pride, and, realizing we were now about one-fourth of the way through our 30 days in the wilderness, I thought to myself, I think I’m going to make it, and I think this is going to be amazing.

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Topics: Wind River Wilderness, Wyoming, Backpacking, Live the Dream

Your Favorite Stories from 2017

By Molly Herber on 12/20/17 2:31 PM

The stories we tell reveal a piece of ourselves. This year, the stories you loved told of people changed by the mountains and steps to achieve goals; that busted myths and shared ways to care for each other in the wilderness, both in mind and body.

Looking at the stories you loved reading, you can see where this community’s values are: in people and the environment. We hope you enjoy taking a look back at the seven most-read stories from 2017.

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Topics: leadership, tolerance for adversity and uncertainty, first aid, Live the Dream

From the Office to the Wild: How I Became a Naturalist

By Day Scott on 12/18/17 8:39 AM

On a recent camping trip, I saw a group of young boys using sticks as swords, throwing rocks, and flinging algae from the tiny creek that ran adjacent to the campground—not ideal Leave No Trace behavior. I went over to their trip leaders and introduced myself as a naturalist and expressed my discomfort with what the boys were doing. I wasn't sure how the leaders would react—would they ignore me, a black woman, and let “boys be boys”? Instead, one of the leaders called the boys over and told them to have a seat because they were about to learn a lesson on stewardship.

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Topics: Alumni, Wilderness First Responder, wilderness medicine, Live the Dream