At the end of March 2020, I, along with the rest of the Outdoor Ed industry was hit with the news that that all school excursions would be cancelled for the foreseeable future due to Covid-19. This was difficult to swallow and I don’t think at the time I really knew the magnitude of what lay ahead.
Don’t wait for opportunity, go and get it for yourself!
“It’s only after you’ve stepped outside of your comfort zone that you begin to change, grow and transform” – Roy.T.Bennett
In October 2018, after a decade of teaching high school students, I took a year’s leave to work in the Outdoor Education industry, primarily to work for my-self and subsequently Black Diamond Adventures was born. It was a challenging year as my family (wife and two young boys), had to move out of our family home and into a small single bedroom granny flat.
The year was good, business was growing steadily, but far from stable. Income was patchy at best and some weeks non-existent at all.
In October 2019, after considering my Plan B (casual teaching during the quiet times, or return to teaching if it doesn’t work out), it all seemed rational and helped me make, what was to this point, the most difficult decision of my life!
I made the very difficult decision to resign from my permanent job. A job that I loved and a school that I remain proudly loyal too. Many people tried to discourage me from making this decision and understandably so. It went against common logic. However, I knew deep down that to truly grow as a person and to develop my character, I needed to take on opportunity and experience true discomfort and face adversity. That is exactly what I got, and with the added bonus of the COVID pandemic, the experience has reinforced the value in everything that I wanted to achieve when I set up Black Diamond Adventures.
“If you don’t like something, change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” – Mary Engelbreit
Term 1 2020, was an exciting term. I had a great team and Black Diamond Adventures had continued to grow. At around week 6 of the term, we came off a high after delivering several Duke of Ed expeditions and a very successful Year 10 camp at Jervis Bay, only to be kicked in the guts with the news that evening that all school excursions would be cancelled for the foreseeable future. This was difficult to swallow and I don’t think at the time I really knew the magnitude of what lay ahead.
Resisting the urge to place Black Diamond Adventures into immediate hibernation and begin to activate my Plan B (chase up some casual teaching work), I took the following week off and travelled up the coast for a few days of brainstorming, planning and relaxing with one of our employees. This turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made throughout the COVID period. The 7-hour drive provided plenty of time to debrief and rationalise the situation. During the week we reconsidered and discussed at length what Black Diamond Adventures really stood for. We were able to clearly articulate our mission, vision and philosophy, and decided that we would accept this period as an opportunity rather than a set back
Throughout that week, it became blindingly obvious that what we were experiencing and what skills we would need to employ, in some way or another, was exactly what we want our students to experience and learn. We want our students to feel unsure at times, we want them to be nervous, uncomfortable and challenged. We want our students to take on opportunities respond to their feelings and environments positively. In hand with a little bit of guidance by Black Diamond staff, we want our students to begin to develop strong features of their own character.
Gratitude, Patience & Persistence
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough” – Oprah Winfrey
Deciding to adopt a strong positive mindset would go on to serve me well, as a few weeks later the situation became seemingly more serious with my wife being made redundant. Once again, we discussed, rationalised, and put into perspective what this meant for our family. I was able to do some casual teaching, and my wife would now have the opportunity to spend more time with our two boys and explore her own interests further. We were very grateful that we had a healthy family, a roof over our heads and a modest weekly income that would keep us grounded. We are well off in a number of ways, and live a privileged life compared to many. We have acknowledged that we can only control what we can and with a bit of patience and persistence, it was reasonable to think that Black Diamond Adventures will be ready to fire up again when the time is right.
Worst Case Scenario
“Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised” – Denis Waitley
Although we always hope our ‘Plan A’ will work, I would not advise being ignorant to having a Plan B, or even a Plan C and D for that matter. COVID has proven that we may be faced with obstacles we are not capable of even imagining, I certainly was not. Investing in Education was a ‘safe & reliable’ industry, or so I thought. However, the Outdoor Education industry has been hit as hard as any, with zero business since March for most, and with no sign of it returning to normal soon. I would encourage everyone to work hard at whatever job you ever have. Take on opportunities and up-skill yourself whenever possible. Make good relationships and always leave on good terms.
I have been lucky enough to successfully launch my Plan B and pick up some teaching work again. I have recently been working at a school where there are many young people from underprivileged homes, which has also reinforced my perspective, empathy and appreciation for what I have.
Character Forming Experience
“Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition – such as lifting weights – we develop our character muscles by overcoming adversity” – Stephen Covey
When and how Black Diamond Adventures will be back in full flight is still unclear. There has been some bookings and promising meetings take place, however, there is a long road to travel until the schedule is back on track.
Anyone who has been involved in one of our programs will know that we relate to stories of Australian’s unique ability to respond to adversity; stories of the old days, of pioneers, bush families, times of high interest rates, the depression the World Wars and the continual struggle our First Nation People face for equality. I’m not going to judge whether or not this period is deserving of being placed in this same category. Although, for myself, I’ll one day draw on the fact that I lived and managed a young family and business through the ‘COVID period’. There is no doubt that my character will have been positively shaped as a result of what I will accept as a challenging yet positive life experience.
Confidence in Outdoor Education
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less” – Marie Curie
For anyone who is unsure about getting their school’s OE programs back up and running. I can assure you that all professional and governing bodies have been working tirelessly with OE companies to put in place best practice and procedures to ensure student and staff safety.
After all, we are experts at assessing and managing risk, it is one of the biggest parts of our industry and this is no different. When legislation allows, you can be confident that your OE provider is going above and beyond to manage the inherent risk of COVID. Give them a call, shoot them an email and begin to take the steps to get your OE programs back into full swing. Black Diamond Adventures is looking forward to working with you when the time is right!