Life Lessons From Off the Road
Why is it that we tend to get upset by obstacles and challenges in life but we look forward to them off road?
What would an autocross course be without the pylons? Are not the yumps and twisty turns the most exciting part of a rally race? Without wet grass, dirt and other traction limits, rallycross would just be autocross.
When we are at play, we look forward to obstacles and challenges. These are what make the game fun. We get bored when games are too easy.
I am amazed that we will load up the Jeep and drive several hours to camp in the cold just so we can drive on muddy or dusty roads to get to even rougher places to drive. For the ultimate challenge, we even drive places where boulders have purposely piled up just so we can drive over them.
If we wanted to take the easy road, we could just stay on the interstate. Or we could at least stay on the nice gravel road instead of playing in the rock garden.
Pushing our limits is how we have fun. Whether it is pushing the limits of acceleration and braking around and autocross course or testing our nerve on a narrow gravel road surrounded by trees in a rally car, we love the challenge. The challenge is what makes the game fun.
When I first stared enjoying the sport of off road driving, I saw absolutely no point in the rock gardens. My justification for off road driving was accessing places that were off the beaten path and only accessible by Jeep. Getting there was the goal – not the journey.
I would sit and watch the others bash their Jeeps on the rocks while I took the easy bypass. I would wait impatiently until they all got through and assessed the carnage.
On one trip however, the road to the campsite had no bypass. This road had real obstacles just like the ones I had bypassed in the park. I was really wishing for some more experience before I faced such a challenge with no options other than turning and going home. And I knew that if I went down that rock the only way out the next day was to come back up it.
I suddenly realized what the rock gardens were for. These were places where I could hone my skills in a relatively safe manner. If I got stuck in the rock garden, there were plenty of resources to help me recover. If I broke my Jeep, there was easy access to the trailer and tools. And if there was a weak link in the Jeeps armor, it would be exposed and I could modify it later.
The skills I have since learned in the rock gardens have boosted my confidence on the trails. I know a lot more about what my Jeep and I are capable of. I have learned what modifications I need to do to my Jeep to make it more capable and more enjoyable to drive.
Trails that once intimidated me, I now consider easy. My sons and I were recently discussing that what we call a minor adventure others might call extreme. While still others would consider our adventures mild. As our skill and experience in dealing with obstacles increases, so does our confidence. With more confidence, it takes more to qualify as “adventurous.”
By facing obstacles in a confident yet careful manner, we build our skill at off road driving. We learn to assess the obstacle and determine the best way over or around it. How we attack an obstacle will depend on the equipment we have, what we are willing to risk and the skill level of the people around us whop are willing to help.
Having a strong support group is also very important when facing obstacles off road. I am willing to try much more difficult obstacles when I am in the company of a group that I have confidence in. I know that they will support me and come to my rescue if I fail.
When I am surrounded by people that I don’t know or trust, I will be more cautious off road. I am even more cautious when I am with people who have even less experience than I do with off road driving.
It us still amusing to me that we actively seek out obstacles in motor sports but we tend to react negatively to obstacles in life. I am now learning to treat obstacles in life as learning opportunities instead of problems. Treating my life as a game makes it so much more fun.
When I hit am obstacle now, I try to assess it like I would an obstacle off road. Is there a bypass? What can I learn about myself by attempting this obstacle even if I might fail? What are the potential consequences of failure? What resources do I have? What skills do I have?
How well prepared am I to face this obstacle? Do I need to retreat and gather more resources? Who is available to help me succeed? Who is willing to help me if I fail?
Another lesson I learned very quickly on my first off roading trip was to watch how others handled the obstacles. Since I was with a group of Jeep XJ fans, we all had the same basic equipment. Seeing someone else make it over an obstacle in the same truck I was driving gave me the confidence to try.
So when faced with an obstacle in life, it is often a good idea to study other people who have conquered the obstacle you are facing. Did they do it with similar equipment or did the require more resources that you currently have?
Challenges and obstacles in life can be faced the same way as those we enjoy off road. We can look for easy ways out. We can bypass them while we watch and learn from others. We can avoid them all together. Or we can drive right up and face them with the same enthusiasm as when facing an obstacle on the Jeep trail.