The late John Peel once confessed that he’d always hated to be taught anything. He simply didn’t have the wherewithal to want to absorb information that was being espoused in a classroom environment. I couldn’t have agreed more. Not just during my schooldays but also in my professional life I’ve always lived in dread of the itinerary arriving which would tell me of my expected attendance, sometimes for a few days, at a given time and place, to be a ‘candidate’ with colleagues from all over the UK. A course perhaps to teach us all the ins-and-outs of the latest innovations within a given field of expertise. Sales training courses were always the worst, ever placing one in situations where ones weaknesses were exposed for all ones contemporaries to witness. There were the telephone customer service scenario’s to be played out on video, or the sales techniques that, frankly, only a few sad individuals would learn parrot fashion. They called it ‘roleplay’. Didn’t they realise that the best way to sell anything was to be ones self? Then, in the last week of April 1994, a little piece of paper arrived on my desk which was described as the definitive modern team building exercise much used by the corporate’s as the ‘last-say’ in bonding experiences. It was my greatest nightmare.
The one week outward-bound hell which saw thirty odd soft-handed individuals thrust into a wilderness in the middle of the Lake District. Mind you, on reflection, a great many of them were already somewhat athletic with their golf this or football that. There were even a couple of people whose hobbies included mountaineering, and a few others that would think nothing of running the odd marathon or two. I had to face facts. The only ‘wimp’ on this little venture was me. These were the days when sales and marketing divisions of many companies had mouth-watering budgets to spend on such jollies into the great unknown. All of our expenses were paid: petrol, hotel, three square meals a day and, yes, a completely free bar. To prove ones faith in ones colleagues in any environment one had to sit on a dry stone wall with ones back to the rest of the group. The drop of the wall behind was at least three times that of the drop forward. The idea being that upon a given signal one would simply fall backwards putting ones life and faith in the fact that the others were not only there but would break ones fall by catching one. Then we all went off orienteering into the great unknown. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried this little gem, but one thing is patently clear: fitness is essential. I’d been given a map, compass and a clipper-thing to mark given points to prove that I’d actually completed the course. Whenever I drive north to Scotland I find myself looking at a particular junction that leads to that one specific place. I just keep driving.