Back in April, I left Slide UX to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) which spans 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada. Some combination of the adventure, simplicity, wilderness, and community pushed me in the direction of the PCT. For the next 5 months I hiked almost every day, sleeping under stars, and laughing with friends until I reached the Canadian border.
When I came back from the trail, I was asked a variety of questions. “What kind of animals did you see?” “How’d you eat?” “Did you hike alone?” “What did you carry in your backpack?” A question that has been particularly interesting to me is “What lessons did you learn?”
The trail didn't teach me anything particularly new. Instead it reiterated things we all inherently know. Be kind. Pay attention. Grit makes a difference. Gravitate towards things that inspire. Things get mistranslated. Try things instead of being held by a fearful expectation of results. Be resourceful with what you possess. The difference the trail makes is that these lessons are visceral. They are more ingrained, less abstract, and forgotten a little less quickly. As I’m editing this blog post, I’m realizing that the main lesson may be the importance of dancing back and forth between actually paying attention and actually reflecting. A story might help clarify...
Towards the end of the PCT, some friends and I took a side trail to climb Mount Adams in Washington. On the descent, a mid-sized rock loosened under my foot. I fell forward, breaking my fall with my trekking pole and snapping the bottom section of it. I instinctively assumed it was unusable. For the next 200 miles, I carried the dead weight on my backpack. Most of those 200 miles I coincidentally also happened to have a hurt hip. One day, my friend let me borrow his poles after watching me hobble downhill. A few days later, I found a trekking pole while night hiking. I couldn’t find the owner so I decided that this would be my replacement. I was tossing my broken pole away when my friend piped in, "are you sure it's broken?" A few seconds later I was dumbfounded. I realized that in my exhausted state descending Mount Adams, I never tried to fix it. All I had to do was shorten the length of the bottom section and it worked flawlessly.
Exhaustion made me not pay attention when stepping on an unstable rock. That night exhaustion (or laziness) made me not test if my trekking pole was broken. Even during the next 200 miles, I never stepped back to reflect on the situation and reevaluate. When I harmonize focus and reflection it allows lessons to surface and be remembered. This is the main lesson I learned on the Pacific Crest Trail.
When I left to go hike, I had no idea if I would return to Slide UX. And for the entire trail that rang true, I didn’t think about a job at all. But once I finished I knew immediately I’d like to return to Slide UX for a couple different reasons.
Slide UX is a remote-based company which is very important to me. I moved to Flagstaff with mesmerizing wilderness like the Grand Canyon nearby. From my perspective, work-life balance seems to be a buzz phrase that companies can cavalierly toss at potential hires. But Slide UX is serious about it. Slide UX defines what work-life balance is with each individual on our team. Working on average a 40-hour week allows me to be in the most beautiful places by Friday evening. But my definition of work-life balance extends further than hours per week. It’s being able to go on longer adventures than a weekend.
On the trail, I was constantly thinking about how important sustainability is. What my all day hiking pace is, how much I need to eat, how much I need to sleep. The quality of work, the internal processes, and the people surrounding it all make Slide UX sustainable. They say, you are the combination of the 5 people you interact with the most. Well, the Sliders are kind, smart, comedic people. What more could I want to be? And as a bonus I master skills, help people, and put some money in the piggy bank.
Header photo courtesy of Justin Helmkamp