I was 18 when I completed a 3-week Outward Bound course in the Three Sisters Wilderness Area, based out of Eugene.  Hated it and loved it.  That’s when I first learned how to “bushwhack”, stepping out of my comfort zone.   

One week out, our seasoned guide, not much older than us, handed us a compass and a map, and told us to leave the well-worn Pacific Crest Trail, and head north -- using the compass to find the parallel trail 2 miles away.  She showed us where we would reconnect on the map and said she would meet us there.  In other words, our job was to bushwhack uphill, through the undergrowth and forest, over boulders, using the compass to stay on course.

I didn’t like this “bushwacking” business, and I was scared.

A group of young women, on our own, traipsing through unfamiliar territory.  I was sure we would get lost. 

It was a lesson I’ve never forgotten.  We succeeded and I learned with confidence and the right navigational tools, you can step outside of your comfort zone and still reach your destination…. with pride.

This past 4th of July weekend, I had a chance to bushwhack again.  We pitched our tent at our favorite primitive site along the Nehalem river and decided to explore before it got dark.  We followed the logging roadthat ran parallel to the river to its end.  Simona, our sturdy Scottish terrier poodle mix, was up for the adventure and so we bushwhacked onward through the undergrowth, following what we thought was a faint deer tail.

Soon that petered out, and we were met by chest high boulders, but determined Simona found a way around and we continued to cut our own path around the stone barrier.  Our navigational tool was the ever constant sound of the river on the right.  We crossed a number of small steams, one deep enough we had to carry Simona, all of 20 pounds, but within 30 minutes we were stopped by a deep ravine, and we know we had reached our destination.

It was stunningly beautiful, peaceful and calm.  We sat for a while without words in this secret spot.  This was our destination and we were rewarded with unique beauty overlooking the river that few will ever see.

And the lesson for Nonprofit leaders…

Sometimes you have to bushwhack and navigate terrain where no one has gone before.

Sometimes you have to take a risk outside of your comfort zone.  

Have confidence and trust in yourself. Use both analytics and intuition to guide you.  With the right navigational tools -- a strong vision, manifesto, or even undaunted companions, YOU WILL HAVE THE COURAGE TO MOVE FORWARD.  Be brave and bushwhack and you will be rewarded.