The Journey is the Answer

Leaders always land in the wilderness, eventually.

It feels like failure – but it’s transformation – for all who emerge on the other side.


His summary of the wilderness was, “The wheels came off.”

Last week a leader explained their journey to me. It didn’t take long for him to get to the wilderness years.

Toward the end of our conversation, he asked if I had any advice. I said three things.


I asked, “How are you different because of your wilderness years?”


I asked, “If I shared a cup of coffee with you, what life-advice would you share? Tell me what you learned in the wilderness.”


I said, “Lessons learned in the wilderness are preparation for what’s next.”

The journey is the answer.

It was the first time I’d ever said, “The journey is the answer.”

Wilderness wisdom:

  1. Personal identity depends less on others. Approval is wonderful. But, after the wilderness, you see and know yourself more clearly.
  2. Focus shifts from you to others. When you begin, it’s all about you. After the wilderness, it’s about others.
  3. Hearing expands. Before the wilderness, you know. After the wilderness, you listen, even though you know more.
  4. Passion emerges. Leadership Freak was born after the wilderness, for example. It didn’t come immediately. But, I connect my attempts to write with a dark period in my life.

Not technical:

The wilderness is about strength of character, emerging passion, and clarity of purpose, not technical skill.

Many aspects of leadership are learned skills that depend on character for success. But, you won’t magically become a better leader because you spend time in the wilderness. That takes work.

You haven’t lived until you thought you might die in the wilderness.

What have you learned in the wilderness?