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The EDGE Method Step Three: Guide

The third step in the EDGE Method is G: Guide. We’ve all been guided in learning something new, all throughout our lives. In fact, I can still picture my dad being out with me the first time I got on my bike without training wheels, running alongside me. The thing about being a guide though, is that you have to allow the person you’re helping to fail—just like my dad allowed me to wreck.

That failure, happening with the presence of your guide, creates the understanding that you can get back up when you fail. It may shake your confidence, but when your guide explains why and how you failed, it helps you in future failures. You’ll know that you can get right back up on that bike and try again. Then, when you are enabled to go do it on your own, you experience freedom.

When I wrecked my bike and no one was there, I knew how to get up, brush myself off, and continue on. The same thought process should be embedded in our organizations when we’re teaching processes. The whole purpose of guiding someone is to help them build the confidence and resilience to fail and learn from the failure so they begin to build competency, and eventually failure is very rare.

Every year, there are two guides I always hire to go with me to maximize my enjoyment on two particular adventures. One is my fly fishing guide. Having him with me allows me to have access to areas I wouldn’t have on my own, which means I have a better experience than I would if I did it myself. It also maximizes my experience because I have someone who is so extraordinarily competent that they have the ability to help me enjoy the art of fly fishing.

I really like fly fishing as an example, because there is a lot of failure involved. You hang things in trees, there are obstacles underwater that you can’t see, you can accidentally spook the fish, and you can miss the strike and not be able to hook the fish. Or you hook the fish and they jump off!

The second guide is someone I hire for my whole family. We’ve made it a habit to hire a ski instructor the first day we get on the mountain. Since we don’t ski every day, the instructor reminds us of things we’ve forgotten, and demonstrates the right way to ski. Seeing those practices allows us to get back into the groove really fast. Just like the fly fisherman guide, the ski instructor allows us to do things we wouldn’t be able to do alone. Having an instructor allows us to cut to the front of the line, and helps us find a great spot to ski without having to guess where is good and where isn’t.

I’m reminded again about Simon Sinek’s LinkedIn post about asking for help. The thing is, asking for help is asking for a guide. We’re allowing that person, that subject matter expert, to guide us. Like Dan Sullivan says in his book Who Not How, we have to find the WHO in our life that helps us do the things we need to do, faster and with more confidence, and provide more enjoyment. We get to bless others by allowing them to share their gifts, skills, and talents more often, more frequently, and many times this even helps provide for themselves and their families.

That’s the whole reason I wrote Refining Through Failure: The Guide, so people would have a place to begin, something they could follow. In the guide, we introduce people to a lot of  ‘WHOs’ who are subject matter experts to be their guides in specific things, and help them figure out their own journey. When we ask for help or a guide, it helps us not experience loneliness, and that guidance instills courage to do things we might not do by ourselves.

It’s critical to remember though, that you can’t progress to the “Guide” stage without having done the work of “Educate” and “Demonstrate.” A guide isn’t there to do the process for you, they’re there to guide you.

Kanchha Sherpa, among the first group that assisted Sir William Hillary in summiting Mt. Everest in 1953, was interviewed at age 91 and spoke about his experiences. He was concerned about the fact that sherpas are guiding up too many people. These are people who aren’t properly prepared and are counting on their Sherpa to do it for them, rather than using them as a guide.

The climb is now congested not only with trash by those who don’t respect the mountain, but also the dead bodies of people who didn’t do the prep work to summit Everest in the first place. They relied on their guides to do all the work for them. But the guide isn’t there to do for them, the guide is to come alongside. A lot of those people didn’t fully understand what the cost of failure truly meant.

On Mt. Everest, failure means you’re preserved as a frozen monument to show others the cost of failure. Not only did they fail, but that person lying on the ground had a lot of people relying on them; their death impacted everyone who loved them, everyone who relied on them. It’s truly a compounding tragedy.

However when you’re appropriately educated, the “guide” step is incredibly empowering. And the most important thing a guide can do is, when their client is at 80% competency, let go and say: “You’re now enabled.”

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