This past week, I took off a few days to get into the wilderness with some colleagues. Five of us got dirty, smelly, and sweaty while hiking in the backcountry. These are smart, successful, interesting, and funny folks, so the conversation was not PC™, but wise and witty. And, of course, we got to places like this. But, in addition to beauty and wisdom, there was a lesson for me, too.
The first day out in the wilderness, the sky was threatening, and close to dinner time it suddenly turned worse. I was rushing to finish pumping water, couldn’t find the bag for the outflow (to keep it separate from the inflow) and didn’t quite make it back to the tent before the skies opened up. I got a bit damp, and worse when the zipper on the fly wouldn’t close. Every time I reached out to try again, I’d get even more drenched. The worry, of course, is that you get your down sleeping bag wet, and it will lose all insulation capability!
Well, the bag stayed dry, and the next morning we dried everything out, and were fine for the rest of the trip. The interesting opportunity for me, however, was how I proceeded from then on.
The next time I had to pump water, I took my time. I very deliberately found a good place to sit, and took special care to work with setting up the inflow and then the outflow. I did so similarly with firing up the stove and boiling water for dinner and breakfast. There was a pleasure in taking time to do it carefully and right. Now, there are certain things I naturally do the deliberate way, and other things I rush through. My realization is that there’s value in thinking more carefully about which things to do deliberately, and there’s an inherent pleasure in doing the things right that matter to you.
There are the arguments that the internet is making us stupider, and value in doing things the hard way. I think that the important thing is to choose for yourself which things to ‘outsource’ or do just good enough, and those which to take on and do a personally good job on. For example, I used to work on my cars myself (I could rebuild a carburetor, gap a distributor, etc; skills that are irrelevant now :), but as things have changed it’s not a worthwhile role for me anymore. So the lesson for me was to pay more attention to which things I’m doing carefully and which I will choose to decide quick enough is good enough (and which to have others or apps do).