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Maxim 33: If You’re Leaving Tracks You’re Being Followed

September 27, 2017

It didn’t snow on us Friday night. During the night, I wish it had. Snow is warm. I know that sounds crazy, but when it’s snowing, it’s not as cold as when it’s not snowing. More specifically, it’s not as cold as when you have no cloud cover. We were prepared for 6-12″ of snow. That’s what was in the forecast. Clouds are like a really fluffy blanket that helps to trap warm air. As the snow goes down and the temperature drops, cloud cover prevents the heat, even if it’s only a little, from dispersing quickly.

And if you actually get white flakes, the snow on your tent acts as an insulating blanket. It’s why snow caves are actually fairly comfortable to sleep in. But, the snow stayed away and we spent a frigid night with the Mercury dipping down to 8 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, the following morning, as we were breaking camp and desperately trying to warm up, the lack of new snow was a blessing.

I used to write training materials for Microsoft Exchange. I was good at it. When writing a training manual, a reasonable “development ratio” is 40:1. Meaning that it takes fourty hours of development to come up with a single hour so classroom material. I know how crazy that sounds, but trust me 40:1 was considered pretty good. More technical courses might have ratios as high as 60:1.

I created a new product course for Microsoft Exchange 5.0. The course was a two week introductary course. So, I’d been leading the team working on this course for nearly a year. I was the course developer (called the Instructional Designer.) We had dedicated trainers who taught the course. For the first time the course was offered, I travelled to the class. This was typically one of our call centers in North Carolina or Los Colinas, TX. For this course, I was in Charolette, NC. A trainer named Win was pair teaching with another trainer. Win got to portion of the course that was new to 5.0. As he was explaining it, I could tell he was getting it wrong.

Sitting in the back of the room I tried to play “lifeguard.”

Win, don’t you mean that the feature works this other way?

No Rodney. That’s not how it works. It does this and this.

Well, can you explain how it does this other thing?

It doesn’t do that.

Could I talk to you when you complete presenting this module?

I didn’t want to embarrass him in front of his class. But, he was training support engineers. I needed to make sure he was teaching the right concepts. As he finished up and handed off to his co-presenter, Win and I stepped out into the hallway.

Win, I didn’t want to press the issue in front of the class, but that feature really works like this.

No, it doesn’t.

Win, I understand this is a new concept. But, it really does this right here.

No, you don’t understand it Rodney.

Win, I’m trying to explain how it works.

Rodney, the book disagrees with you.

Win. . .I wrote the book.

There are times where you end up referencing yourself. This was one of those times. I think about the classic scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Sean Connery is trying to explain to Harrison Ford how to get past the traps or tests that anyone attempting to get the Holy Grail had to pass by.

Well, he who finds the Grail must face the final challenge.

What final challenge?

Three devices of such lethal cunning.

Booby traps?

Oh, yes. But I found the clues that will safely take us through them in the Chronicles of St. Anselm.

Well, what are they? . . .Can’t you remember?

I wrote them down in my diary so that I wouldn’t have to remember.

Even if you know the path you need to take, recording it is important. Later you might need to refer to your own path.

As we got up Saturday morning, the blue sky reflected off of Long Lake.

We were 3.5 miles from the trailhead. Unlike the slot canyons that we often hike, the High Uintas are open, forests with minimal underbrush. In the summer it’s not an issue there are trails and trail markers made from steel with the names of the lakes and trails drilled through the signs.

But, my worry was that we’d wake to a blanket of unbroken snow. We’d broken trail on the way into the lake. Would we be able to find our way out if we had to rely on a path that was buried under a foot of snow? I had a map and a compass and our other leader was very familiar with the area. But, even he admitted, “If we needed to, I can get us out cross country.”

However, because of our frigid night under the stars we didn’t have any new snow. It was a simple process to find our way out. We simply followed the path we’d made when we hiked in. Often when hiking you’ll notice a footprint, and think, “I wonder who the hiker who owns that print is? I wonder where he’s headed?”

It was the first time that I’ve been able to answer those questions. The steps we were following were our own. No one else had braved the elements to get to Long Lake. It was also the first time that I literally marked my own path out of the mountains.

Maxim 33: If you’re leaving tracks you’re being followed
-70 Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries

Sometimes the person following is you.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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