Outward Bound Graduate – Renee Dale

Renee Dale photoThe tardiness of my report on my Outward Bound experience could be considered a blessing in disguise. I’ve found the growth that occurs for Outward Bound graduates is more evident a few months after the seeds are sewn at Anakiwa. The wonderful thing about the course I went on was that it was full of such diverse individuals who all had one thing in common. We were all professionals who had been crazy enough to volunteer for a scholarship on a wild eight-day course of outdoor activities. Yet when the twelve of us stepped on to the launch at midday in our PT gear we were all completely disarmed and vulnerable. We clung to our conversations as a familiar distraction from the rising anxiety we felt brewing inside us.  As we embarked on our boat trip through the Marlborough Sounds the Picton ferry terminal slowly dwindled on the horizon, along with our feeling of comfort and control.

The launch sped into a breathtakingly stunning cove with lusciously green native bush brimming the edge of the cliff faces looming over us. The sun beamed down and reflected off the crystal clear blue water and into our bright eyes, illuminating our hope and apprehension. As the boat gently bobbed up and down we each took a turn at introducing one another and what our goals were for the ensuing 8-day Navigator course. We soon discovered that we were all there for very different reasons, and one or two didn’t even know what they had signed up for. My goals were to challenge myself and to come away from the course with confidence in my leadership, clarity for my life, and a healthy shift towards a more active lifestyle. We launched ourselves headfirst into the course by diving off the back of the boat in our PT gear and swimming 300m to shore before running 3km to our accommodation. This was to set the theme of our time there, running, swimming, running, swimming. I was truly thankful for the stunning 27 degree days we had all week long. When I’m faced with an uncomfortable challenge sometimes it’s just best to launch myself in head first, and to always appreciate the small comforts!

Renee 01Amidst all of the diverse outdoor activities we did, sailing will be a stand out memory for me for many years to come. We quickly grasped how to command the boat called the cutter with a team of rowers, a captain and a navigator. Parroting the captain’s instructions was the key to our success as a team and this wasn’t so evident until we had wind roaring in our ears. There was a short supply of wind in the morning so they towed us to part of the sounds where there was a touch over 5 knots. Here we got to feel what it felt like to sail a boat so that it literally hummed across the water. It was such a buzz to be working with this bunch of strangers and cooperating as a team. When we finally pulled into Double Bay we had been on the water for about 10 hours and we were more than ready for land. We hopped into the water at waist height and waded to shore to cook our delicious steak burgers and rice risotto on the secluded stony shore. It really was simple food but we ate it greedily as though we hadn’t eaten for days. I recognized over the course of the day that if a couple of team members disagreed with the captain, as a team, we were far more productive if we just followed his/her lead and succeed or fail as a team rather than as individuals. Here, I learned most importantly what it means to be an effective team member of a productive team.

Once we had eaten we then had to wade back to the boat in the dark and coordinate getting everything back on the boat which was where we would be sleeping for the night. We were all sodden wet and I was grumpily organising myself for bed when from underneath the boat a lone seal surfaced through the inky black water with a huge meaty fish flapping around in its mouth. There was a chorus that erupted from the boat in awe of the majestic beast. It circled around past the boat through the water and continued to chomp down its late night dinner snack. I felt like I was in the middle of a David Attenborough show and my mind was exploding with wonder. The seal’s flippers stirred the phosphorescent plankton in the water leaving a trail of glowing speckles that mirrored the flickering stars in the night sky above us. When I finally settled in my sleeping bag, the discomfort of the hard floor of the boat seemed to slip away as I had so much beauty around me to be grateful for. Delicious moments like this are a sweeter reward the harder you have to work for them.Renee 09

We were all tired and the prospect of having to wake up during the night for our ‘watch’ was not ideal. I fell straight to sleep on the bottom of the cutter looking up at the night sky soaking in the intensity of the Milky Way. When we were finally woken by the excitable Ahmed and Bryce, Marcel and I slowly crawled up out of the bottom of the boat for our 1hr watch around 1am. It took me a while to wake up but Marcel and I had a wonderful opportunity to get to know each other a little better. As we shared our life stories we watched the shooting stars and played with the phosphorescence in the water. The time ticked away rapidly and I was almost sad to wake the next watch. I rested my head back on the bottom of the boat and I nodded to sleep to the chorus of hibernating bears – my dreams full of marvel at the world around me. It was that night that I was struck by the beauty of the people I shared this boat with. They all had a story and a past that brought them to the same place as me. At Outward Bound though, you are not defined by your past, you are whoever you want to be in those moments and it seemed to me it was an excellent place to push those boundaries, make mistakes and to get back in touch with my own values.

We all woke up very early in order to cook breakfast and get the boat back to the launch in time for our morning PT session. I had my first experience of using “Doug” the shovel for my bathroom experience. The Wekas were most insistent on saying hello whilst I was in a very vulnerable position so I took to greeting them with a stick. After breakfast, Rob got us moving early by starting our PT session with a dance party on the boat and we were then tasked with jumping off the roof of the launch and into the oh-so-refreshing water. We embarked on our journey back to camp, rowing in our wet gear to our first way point. We found that singing would compensate the lack of actual wind and that it lifted our damp morale by putting “the wind in our sails” so to speak. We came up with our very own sea shanty version of “Living on a Prayer” as we creatively changed a few of the words to suit – “rooooowww – living on a prayer”. Our morale was at an all-time high and we seemed to really feed off our own fun and silliness. This was the first sign that we were in fact a high performing team; we had teamwork, clear communication, a common goal, a vision and FUN !

After lunch we rowed out to sea with Bryce at the helm. We lifted the mains and we just flew across the water. It was now we were instructed over our radio to rescue “Perry” (a floatation device) but before the instructor had a chance to start the exercise Ahmed’s favourite hat got blown off his head. As a team we all spontaneously kicked into “rescue-hat-mode” and we gybed and tacked our way back to get the hat. Ahmed was our Nav-man and kept his finger pointing at his precious hat while Bryce coordinated our team to manoeuvre the boat towards the hat. Unfortunately, we were dead accurate and we managed to sail the boat directly over it. The poor hat drowned so we had a minute silence for our fallen comrade. This was such a highlight of my day – that despite failing to collect the hat, we worked together as a team and to me that was much more of a success.Renee 06

This was the first time in ten years since I was a representative footballer that I had felt the buzz of being on a high performing team. What was fabulous about it all was the access we had to our life coach facilitator Vic who I nicknamed Spok as he seemed to just know everything about life. He gave us insight at every twist and turn about what the true value of each activity was hiding. Now that I’m about to build my own team within WineWorks I am really excited to start the process of creating a high performing team with these tools in hand.

On our last day at Outward Bound we were challenged with running a 12km track of the stunning Queen Charlotte Track. I never really enjoyed running and I had never run further than 8km ever in my life so needless to say I was feeling very apprehensive. My goal was simply just to not stop running no matter what. It honestly took about 5.5km to feel like I really found my rhythm. I noticed about 5km in to the run that my self-talk was somewhat negative. As soon as I changed to a more positive tone I noticed my body start to relax into a rhythm and I actually began to speed up. I then decided to set myself a time goal and as I overtook some of the fitter runners on my team I knew I was on track. I finished my time at Outward Bound on a high as I ran across the finish line under my time goal with a time of 1hr and 12minutes. Not only did I blitz my goal of 1hr 20, but I did better than I ever imagined I could do and I had an absolute blast doing it.

renee 08I got more out of Outward Bound than I could have ever hoped for as it happened to come at a time in my personal life that really needed it. Since being back at WineWorks I have realised my place within a team and I feel that I have relaxed into my own shoes. Outward Bound helped me find my true worth and to value my own place within a team of others. I was confronted with some difficult truths about myself that humbled me but I used this opportunity to redefine my own personal values. I learned about communication, how team work can improve productivity, some tools about establishing healthy relationships within a team, the power of positive and healthy mental attitude and what it means to be a high performing team. I learned that investing in the relationship I have with self by doing activities that are good for my own growth as a person is just as important as working on relationships around me. Through all of the tasks that we had to do I was surprised at what I found challenging and I was excited to learn methods to overcome these barriers. I learned systems and skills to break through the roadblocks in my own mind and I now have a desire to put myself in healthy situations that challenge me outside of my comfort zone. I also learned to be grateful for the small details in life and appreciate the beauty in the diversity of people around me.

This has been the most challenging year of my life but I’m excited to soon welcome my first year into my 30s with a fresh sense of knowing who I am and what I want in my life and career. I have seen all of this play out over the last 3 months in my daily life and I have felt a lot more grounded and comfortable in my role at WineWorks. I completed a 10-week fitness challenge at my gym, changed my lifestyle and eating habits, fulfilled some of my own personal business goals and have set some new fitness goals for the next 6 – 12 months.

I would like to thank everyone involved with getting me to Outward Bound including Tim and Lyn, the entire senior leadership team, Karen for organising all the Outward Bound registration, my wonderful manager Chris Kelly and the amazing team around me who picked up all the work I left behind for 8 days. Thank you so much for being a part of this amazing experience which I can say hand on heart has had the most profound impact on my life.


-Renee Dale