3 min Read
December 15, 2010

Getting lost on the way to bonding

Big Duck

A hearty thank you to Miranda Bogen from Masa Israel Journey, for guest-blogging. We hope you enjoy.

Let’s face it–working in a nonprofit can be draining. Employees take on multiple roles and work long hours for the love of the cause. So sometimes, we can all use a break. To get out of the office a few times a year, the North American staff of Masa Israel Journey takes what we like to call a “Yom Kef” (that’s Hebrew for “staff day”–or better, “fun day!”).

During our days out of the office, we always learn new things about each other and find commonalities that we probably never would have discovered over our cubicle walls. This time, we decided to go hiking on Bear Mountain. After rescheduling three or four times (coordinating eight people’s schedules is a challenge in itself), we finally tied our sneakers, packed our water bottles, and piled into two Zipcars to head out of the city. It was a beautiful day, the foliage was at its peak, and the company was good as we set out on the trail.

Only, we got lost.

That’s not to say we didn’t have a blast; but we did learn a few lessons that will definitely serve us back in the office:

Lesson 1: Always take (or make) a map. We reached the trail just fine, hiked to the top of the mountain, and then started to head down…only to realize we had no idea where we were going. We knew we were on a trail from the markings on the trees–it just wasn’t the right trail. When planning projects for Masa Israel, we often have great ideas and want to start working on them as soon as possible, but we don’t give ourselves enough time to plan effective follow-through. Now, we try to write up our tactics and strategies for new campaigns in advance and get input before we jump the gun.

Lesson 2: Listen to management, but don’t be afraid to speak up. Our director knew exactly where we were going as we scaled the trail to the peak. But an hour after we started our descent, we were all fairly sure we were headed the wrong direction. He was so certain he knew the way down, though, that nobody else was able to take charge and reevaluate our position until we were several miles out of the way. Our office is a young one; all of us are in our 20’s and 30’s, and we all are passionate about what we do–the challenge is making sure the people who have been around longer are open to new ideas. We try to make our office open to constructive criticism from all sides to keep everyone on their toes, but sometimes change takes a little longer than we hope.

Lesson 3: Recognize when it’s time to ask for help. When we finally came to the consensus that we were on the wrong side of the mountain, we had a choice: keep walking and eventually get back to our cars, or have two people try to hitch a ride and bring the cars back to pick up the rest of us. Luckily, we chose the latter–a friendly motorist stopped as soon as we pointed our thumbs skyward, and two of us jumped in while the rest waited on the side of the road. Ten minutes later, our cars arrived–but we found out that if we had continued walking, it would have taken us three or four hours to get back. In this case, asking for help ended up saving us a significant amount of time and effort in getting to our final destination. So it often is in the office; sometimes we convince ourselves that we can get things done on our own and by our bootstraps when the best idea is usually to bring in some outside help to point us in the right direction on the most direct path.

And so, without any awkward or cliché office bonding games, we bonded nonetheless by getting lost but working through our predicament together, scaling the both literal and metaphorical mountains.

After the hike, we went to dinner at a Bukharian restaurant in Brooklyn. The lesson there? Let someone who speaks Russian order for you (luckily our director did the Peace Corps in Kyrgyzstan). And don’t ask any questions. Nazdarovya (cheers)!