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The Grand Canyon Series is a collection of how executive coaching helped Mark Daly adequately prepare, train for, and create a peaceful mind during his tremendous (and sometimes treacherous!) experiences in one of America’s greatest destinations.

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Bieber, Austrian Philosopher

Section 1: Applying Coaching Techniques to Difficult Tasks & Challenges

IT’S AN UNDERSTATEMENT to say hiking the Grand Canyon poses certain risks. Once you commit to entering the canyon, it’s a good idea to evaluate the risks and potential rewards. The same can be said for coaching. We often have thoughts, ideas, and behaviors that hold us back, and we’re completely unaware we’re doing them! A good coach can guide you through a process of self-discovery that provides benefits far beyond the risk.

“Nearly all known fatalities within the Grand Canyon have resulted from decisions made by the victim. Traumatic death in the Canyon is rarely accidental, but rather a “rare outcome” given specific conditions and decisions.” Over The Edge: Death in Grand Canyon by M. Ghiglieri & M. Myers (DIGC)

Professional coaching has parallels in our business and personal lives. Skills like critical thinking, applying logic, and sharpening emotional intelligence can be very helpful in preventing unwanted outcomes at work or home. Working with a coach allows you to preview and test ideas, thoughts, and actions before trying them in the real world. Preparation leads to better outcomes and eventual success. Preparation means practice, role play, and rehearsal in a safe controlled setting.

“The more you prepare for the rigors of 4000 -5000′ initial descents and eventual ascents, the fewer problems you are likely to have.” Hiking Grand Canyon N.P Ben Adkison

Much the same can be said about coaching – showing up (on time), preparation, conditioning, positive attitude, emotional intelligence, a calm demeanor, and taking small but deliberate steps toward your goals – all these attributes can be coached. Coaching can relax your mind, provide focus, and reduce anxiety (a national epidemic according to the Wall Street Journal). All of that can lead to better decisions and better outcomes. Each small step forward becomes a personal victory for the coaching client. This brings us neatly along to today’s topic – the Inverted Mountain.

Section 2: The Inverted Mountain – A Metaphor for Grand Canyon and Everyday Life

The Inverted Mountain refers to approximately 100 cubic miles of Earth that have been removed from northwest Arizona due to erosion, weather, water, and pressure. The giant hole that remains creates a desirable place to hike and explore – there is nothing quite like it on Earth.

“The ease and coolness of the descent are seductive. It’s a breeze for the unfit and unprepared – until the time comes to hike back up.” – DIGC

Unlike mountaineering, which eliminates uphill travelers early in the process, canyoneering saves the worst for last – high temperatures, lack of water, and extreme uphill terrain conspire to create physical and psychological challenges – often insurmountable, sometimes fatal.

How many “inverted mountains” do we have in our lives today? We’re so influenced by powerful marketing messages and digital access we fail to think things through and make necessary preparations! Like the unprepared hiker traveling downhill, it’s easy to forget the tougher path lies ahead. A good coach is helpful for planning ahead – asking thoughtful questions and providing a second opinion before stepping off the edge.

Section 3: Final Thoughts

This was never more relevant than during a recent extended hike in Grand Canyon. My hiking partner wondered aloud if “we had bitten off more than we could chew”. I responded by saying we were capable of the task ahead, but it would require lots of small bites and gallons of water to swallow! Back to basics of survival – lighten packs, extend rest periods, rehydrate completely, increase calories, and seek shade.

Coaching engagements also require lots of small steps and gallons of dedication! They begin with an evaluation of the current situation and where the client wants to go next. Goal setting, identifying obstacles and opportunities, and creating an action plan that leads to success. A questionnaire can be useful in getting to real issues quickly – coaching often accelerates personal and professional growth after only several coaching sessions.

Solo hikers are by far the most vulnerable to trauma and accidents in Grand Canyon. 64% of fatalities were alone at the time of death. A hiking partner, like a coach, can offer the right questions and perspective – “that section looks sketchy” or “are you sure we can get back out?” Small groups and social hikers rarely suffer the same consequences as those going it alone. Hiring an executive coach provides a valuable second opinion to safely and confidently discuss critical decisions – before you step off the rim.

Know where you’re going, and how to get back, before stepping off the rim.