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Do I Own My Business, or Does it Own Me?

A friend recently shared an article that describes Unschool Adventures, my little travel tour business, with scary precision:

Let me ask you a question. If you went overseas for six months leaving your business behind, when you came back would it be in better or worse shape than you left it? Would you even have a business left?

If your answered negatively to either of these questions, then it’s likely you don’t have a business – rather you ARE the business. . . .

Don’t get me wrong, [such a business owner] may be financially successful. Their business may be thriving with a loyal base of customers but the problem is they are stuck – shackled to their business.

If they were to leave or get sick for an extended period of time, their business would cease to exist.

Yup, that’s pretty accurate. Unschool Adventures is me. Although I hire staff assistants on the trips I run—and once in a blue moon an entire trip happens without me—if I completely ignored my business, ceased my marketing efforts, or attempted to outsource everything, it would soon fold. Continue Reading

Trip Report: Kings Canyon High Basin Route

My friends Julie, Fred, and I just completed a 49-mile backpacking trip—mostly off-trail—through the California High Sierra, crossing the range from west to east. Here’s the report.

Introduction

Something I’ve wanted to do for a long time is hike across the Sierras, one-way. There are many ways to do this on-trail, but that’s boring.  I wanted to do something that left the valleys and reached the highest of the High Sierra, going deep into the rugged granite peaks that line the region. When Andrew Skurka published his Kings Canyon High Basin Route guide last autumn, I found a section of it that matched these goals. My friends Julie and Fred—both former assistant directors of Deer Crossing Camp like myself—enthusiastically joined. (Another friend and former assistant director, Morgan, got sidelined by a work emergency last minute. We missed you Morgan!)

Disclaimer: This route is hardcore! Don’t attempt it unless you have significant cross-country backpacking experience, map and compass skills, strong ankles, beefy thighs, and a sick love of getting pummeled by gnarly mountain terrain over and over again.

All photos by Julie McPherson and yours truly.

Day 1: Lodgepole to Silliman Lake

  • Hours: 3
  • Miles: 4.5
  • Starting Elevation: 6,800′
  • Final Elevation: 10,000′
  • Highest Elevation: 10,000′ (Silliman Lake)

We spent most of Day 1 getting a 6-hour ride (thanks Dana!) from South Lake Tahoe to our starting point, Lodgepole campground in Sequoia National Park on the western side of the Sierras. Two days prior we dropped Julie’s car at the terminus, Onion Valley Trailhead, on the eastern side of the Sierras.


(Can’t see the map? Disable your ad blocker!)

 

Getting back to Julie’s car from the west side (without a vehicle) would have been incredibly challenging, which meant that we were fully committed to this hike after started. Onion Valley or bust!

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The first few miles followed the Twin Lakes trail, and then we cut up Silliman Creek following an easy use trail and smooth granite slabs.
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We camped by Silliman Lake (SPOT coordinates) near a Sierra Club group. Our thighs ached from gaining more than 3000′ in three hours, but this was a mere taste of things to come. Continue Reading

Announcing: Off-Trail Learning & How to Live Nowhere

I just launched two big new projects!

Off-Trail Learning

Off-Trail Learning is a new website I’ve created for young people (ages 14-21) who aren’t satisfied with traditional education and want to blaze their own trails through life. I’m also restarting my podcast under the same name—listen to the first new episode here. If you know a young person who wants to take more control of their education, send them to Off-Trail Learning! (Thankfully this means I’m not paying $1000 to Trump.)

How to Live Nowhere

How to Live Nowhere is an online book I’ve created to explain the nomadic way of life that I (any many others) lead. It’s for twenty- and thirty-somethings who want a location-independent lifestyle that’s mentally, emotionally, financially, and romantically sustainable. After writing the initial content in January I spent the last few months polishing it and creating a gorgeous new website.

How to Be Interesting

On my recent Unschool Adventures New Zealand trip, I started a list entitled “WAYS TO BE INTERESTING / MAKE FRIENDS / CREATE NEW OPPORTUNITIES”.

Being “interesting” is a mysterious characteristic that many people want but no one is exactly sure how to obtain. I was ruminating on this and decided to attempt to create a list of simple, positive prescriptions that might make someone more interesting.

(Of course, “interesting” depends on the company you keep. It’s not so simple. Really, this was about what I, weirdo Blake Boles, along with the other weirdos in my group, found interesting. Bias acknowledged!)

My trip co-leaders and participants gave me lots of useful feedback. Here are the highlights:

  • Obtain traditional success and then give it up.
  • Go on a long human-powered journey (e.g. walking, biking).
  • Speak candidly (or write publicly) about your failures and struggles.
  • Curate the best links/articles/resources about a topic near to your heart, and share them.
  • Organize a community skill-share.
  • Host potlucks and dinner parties.
  • Partner dance.
  • Do extreme personal growth challenges.
  • Break minor rules.
  • Find ways to get something for free that others pay for (ethically).
  • Speak a second language.
  • Be an active listener.
  • Craft things by hand.
  • Build your own house.
  • Give valuable things away without expectation of repayment.
  • Actively seek out people who challenge your beliefs.
  • Put down your goddamn phone/laptop.
  • Travel without a fixed plan/itinerary.
  • Be comfortable with silence.
  • Figure out your communication style and attempt to improve its weaknesses.
  • Vow to never complain.
  • Give free walking tours of your local area.
  • Use Couchsurfing to meet and/or host travelers.
  • Actively acknowledge what you’re grateful for.
  • Don’t do something just for the sake of being interesting.

What are we missing?

Original list:

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Is Following Your Passion a Bad Idea?

sogoodtheycantignore-coverSo Good They Can’t Ignore You is a book I’ve been ignoring for a long time.

Published in 2012, the book’s author Cal Newport—author of How to Become a Straight-A Student, How to Be a High School Superstar, How to Win at College—struck me as suspiciously straight-laced and unquestioning of traditional education. A brief examination of his personal story revealed an extremely high-achieving, productivity-obsessed Ivy League graduate who seemed to have played by all the rules, profited handsomely, and now peddled the idea that “following your passion is dangerous advice” (the central theme of his book). This felt like a book I could indeed ignore. It’s also possible that I wanted to avoid confronting criticism of my own 2012 book, Better Than College, which promoted the “follow your passion” philosophy.

But over the years I also noticed that Cal writes an insightful blog and seems like a genuinely good person. He’s received endorsements from many authors who I admire and have endorsed my own work: Daniel Pink, Derek Sivers, Seth Godin, and Ben Casnocha. And, I had to admit, the “don’t follow your passion” thesis compelled me by the sheer virtue of its contrarianism. Having just finished leading 11 teenagers around New Zealand’s South Island for 6 weeks and feeling reflective about my own career, I bought the Kindle edition and read it in 2 days.

Here’s the deal: Newport’s book makes valid points that will help recent graduates and mid-career professionals think about their next big moves. But its central thesis—that following your passion is a bad idea—is dangerously oversimplified. The real message in this book is: when you follow your passions, make well-informed decisions instead of impulsive ones. Continue Reading