I am not a big fan of tall forests of corn, screaming children and dead ends. Yet, that is exactly what my family and I paid money to experience this weekend at the Edmonton Corn Maze. Despite the weeping and gnashing of teeth that went on around us, we had fun. I even realized a few things about how to do life a little better.
“Good leadership is knowing when not to listen to people who are wrong.”
The maze has a nicely worded pet policy… but does not have a similar policy for the little children. I think my experience would have been better if they could change the policy to include both pets and children:
- Pets and children must remain on leash at all times (including in the maze).
- Please clean up after your pet and your child.
- We have no access to potable water so it is a good idea to bring some extra for your pet/child.
- Please refrain from bringing your pets or your children close to the farm animals.
We began our quest both happy and hapless. Within minutes of being in the maze, we were repeating the same loops over and over. After ending up in numerous dead ends we began to get annoyed with each other. At one point I said to my wife (in a moment of obvious stupidity), “Good leadership is knowing when not to listen to people who are wrong.” Yup, I said that. Thankfully, she let me live.
My afternoon in the maze taught me these five lessons about how to live and lead a little better (or at least how to have a little more fun in the process):
- Quit but persist. We entered the maze with no plan. We quickly became lost and had no idea where we were going. We persisted for a while but ended up repeating our mistakes. Then we stopped and we retraced our steps. We left the maze and took a break. That helped us to keep our cool. The second time we entered the maze, we completed most of it because we took a different path and knew a little more about the dead ends. I think there is something positive about failing fast and failing small because it gives us quick and important feedback to help us improve. I also think that eating Kettle corn helped. It is magic.
- Use your (inner) child. Having our son with us in the maze helped to lighten the atmosphere and reduce the pressure to get to “the end.” In a maze, there is no “end” except for the one that is attached to the top of your legs. The end never comes… just like in parenting. Keeping our humor increased our willingness to try different routes because we saw it as an adventure. The laughter kept us flexible and reduced our stress so we did not take things so seriously. Also, having children around reduced the swearing.
- Get lost on purpose. The first time in the maze we went around in circles and we all knew it. When we admitted we were lost that reduced our urge to panic. This is good, because panicking in a maze is embarrassing. Also, having children run past me who clearly knew where they were going convinced me there was a way out.
- Create your own end point. We almost quit after only 20 minutes because we figured out that there is no end to the maze. It may sound like a good time, but walking in circles and running into numerous dead ends is frustrating. We live in a society where reaching the end, the destination, is how we measure our success. In a maze, the destination is where you put your feet. I remember saying to my family, “When there is no end, no finish line, the way you treat each other along the way is the destination.” I think this is my new mission statement, because there really is no end to the traffic, to being put on hold and to the paperwork. How we treat each other along the way is the destination.
- Celebrate. It was funny how it took us a long time to find our way through the maze, but only a few minutes to find our way out. This taught me that the end of a project is not really the end. Only when we celebrate can we make sense of what we have learned. Celebration gives meaning to the everyday. One thing we do in our family to celebrate a success (and even a failure) is talk about what we learned and what we are grateful for. Yes this is geeky, but it helps to make the random events of our lives make more sense. I think that celebration weaves separate experiences into the greater story of what is going on for our lives.
“How we treat each other along the way is the destination.”
The Edmonton Corn Maze was fun and I learned a few things about life: There is potential for greatness in every day. And thankfully we did not meet any creepy aliens or an even more creepy Mel Gibson!
Keep it real.