Joshua Gagnon

thoughts on Jesus, leadership, and the Church.

Ep 178: Leadership Lessons from the Wilderness Pt 1

Welcome to the 178th episode of the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast!

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You can read the full transcription of this episode below.

Joshua Gagnon: Welcome to the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast. Thank you for hanging out with us. This is Joshua Gagnon sitting here right now. I don't know how the audio is, but we're sitting here and in the north woods of Maine. If you hear popping, that's a fire. We're sitting in the north woods of Maine that don't, don't be alarmed and we're not in a house. So the fire is not a danger. We're not at risk.

Roman Archer: Well, we are at risk.

Joshua Gagnon: We are at risk. We're actually doing, an executive team. Sure. If we do one every year for the last 10 years, what are some of the ones we've done? The four of us. So identify yourselves. This might be your last chance.

Daniel King: This is Daniel.

Roman Archer: This is Roman.

Walt Robbins: This is Walter.

Daniel King: We've done Lake Champlain.

Roman Archer: I think it started at Waterville valley at one time.

Daniel King: Waterville valley.

Roman Archer: In New Hampshire. It was the first one, which is pretty interesting that the first trip we ever did is now where we do our staff refresh. It's kind of cool.

Walt Robbins: We did those mountains last year. Where you rolled your ankle.

Joshua Gagnon: Oh yeah. We did Champlain a bunch of times. We did Florida. Before we had a location there. Remember?

Daniel King: Yup. We've done hiking.

Joshua Gagnon: We've really done almost for 10 years, right? Yeah. When was that long with...

Daniel King: The very first one was not Waterville valley. The very first one was that lake way up Maine near Canada. Remember when we caught that salmon trolling? Boyden. Yup. Boyden Lake. They what it was called. I think that was the first one. Is that the first one? I think so.

Walt Robbins: Pablo the Cat, from Pinocchio.

Daniel King: The stray cat.

Joshua Gagnon: Yeah. We really, for the last 10 years, made it a priority to do life together. Not only in the office, but in our every day lives. I think that's what makes us think, uh, makes it special. When do you guys think?

Roman Archer: Definitely unique.

Joshua Gagnon: I don't know how many organizations or even churches have a, an executive team or elders that are...

Walt Robbins: ...doing life at this level.

Joshua Gagnon: Yeah. So where are we now? What are we doing now? What are you, what are we doing?

Roman Archer: So we're in the Allagash northern Maine.

Joshua Gagnon: Explain that.

Roman Archer: I think I'm still trying to wrap my head around what this.

Joshua Gagnon: Go back to this point A.

Roman Archer: So, so originally we were supposed to be going on a trip with Gordon MacDonald. He's been on the podcast and he had a, an injury.

Joshua Gagnon: We were going to Switzerland with him.

Roman Archer: Yeah. We're going to go hiking in Switzerland and spend a week. He takes the trip all the time. So he's very familiar with it.

Joshua Gagnon: I was expecting to meet Jesus.

Roman Archer: Yeah, we were all really looking forward to a week with him and just talking and being able to um, obviously do the hiking but really time with him.

New Speaker: Ahh....Time with him.

Roman Archer: Yeah.

Joshua Gagnon: You were looking forward to the hiking?

Roman Archer: No, really with him. Then he had an injury and so he was out. So then we started saying, well we do our "Bleed Green" so we have to do it anyway. And uh, from there, Daniel.

Daniel King: We ended up in the Alllagash.

Walt Robbins: Which is probably one of the most remote places in America.

Daniel King: Yeah. So the Allagash is, uh, the very top of Maine up bordering Canada.

Joshua Gagnon: Yeah, we literally saw the Canadian border coming here.

Daniel King: Yeah. To give you some idea their town, uh, where we're going to end up as a population of 200 people. So there is no cell service, no Internet, no humans, no camps, no radio. We bought an emergency weather radio for the trip and you can't even get emergency radio service to know what the weather is. Emergency radio, the most useless $50.

Joshua Gagnon: Where else are you going to use that thing in today's day and age?

Roman Archer: It's the only place we need it.

Joshua Gagnon: It's not like you can go in your bathroom and be like, crap. Well, you know.

Daniel King: Yeah. So it's been about a month since we found out that we, that pastor Gordon was injured. And so in a month we came across this idea and we spent the last month reading every book, watching every YouTube video you can imagine about how to survive in a hundred mile canoe trip through the wilderness.

Joshua Gagnon: I don't think we're going to survive.

Daniel King: I'm not sure a month was enough.

Joshua Gagnon: What day is today?

Daniel King: I'm not sure a month was enough information.

Walt Robbins: Day four.

Joshua Gagnon: Day four.

Daniel King: Day four. As we sit here.

Joshua Gagnon: We haven't talked on the phone once. Of course we haven't talked to to our wives. Have no Internet.

Roman Archer: Pretty much the only people we've seen for the most part has been like a game warden or like a forest ranger cause they patrol the area for lost souls like us.

Joshua Gagnon: Two guys last week we were looking, they were looking for their canoes today.

Daniel King: Yeah. They asked us to for their sunken canoes while we were passing through the area they saying and we almost sunk in the same lake.

Joshua Gagnon: Yeah. Roman and Daniel took on water today, had to rush to the shoreline.

Daniel King: It was quite the situation.

Roman Archer: The Allagash is like a connection of rivers and lakes that all merge into one another and so.

Daniel King: Turns out it's all just lakes.

Roman Archer: Yeah, it's been a lot of lakes with high winds.

Joshua Gagnon: We've done 40 miles, you think?

New Speaker: 40 miles of lakes and about uh, more than that. Over 40 miles of lakes and about five miles are river so far.

Roman Archer: Yeah, we got, hopefully the rest is river from here. And, and I know canoeing doesn't sound that hard, but it's canoeing with all of this stuff we have. That's what makes it hard, cause you have to sleep out here.

Joshua Gagnon: Yeah so we have everything from tents to sleeping pads to food to things you need to make food. I mean...

Roman Archer: Fishing poles.

Joshua Gagnon: ...on and on and on. Yeah.

Daniel King: Yeah. What did they call in that magazine? Primitive camping. That's what they call it. Primitive camping. So it's not like you're going to a campsite where you reserve your spot for the holiday weekend and you show up there and you buy firewood from the forest Ranger Wood and you set up your tent and then you stay in it for five nights.

Joshua Gagnon: I think one of the things we can share with our listeners, other than just wanting to invite them in on a fireside talk here in the Allagash at nine o'clock on a, couldn't even tell you what day...

Walt Robbins: Friday.

Joshua Gagnon: Nine o'clock on a Friday night. Just kind of being raw and letting them know kind of, well this is why one of the, one of the things that has made Next Level what it is, you know, 10 years from nothing to this is just the, the relationships around this fire. One of the things we had to do today though is we had to go backwards. Yeah. That was a tough decision. We got to a point on the lake where the waves were so big and the wind was so strong, as I said before, Roman and Daniel had to quickly make it to shore. Their boat was filling with water. Me and Walter, we were not filling with water, but we were under pressure. And uh, we got to the beach, we beat them in. We could go to a camp site to our, uh, to our straight across the lake, or we could go all the way back to where we had been earlier that day, two miles to another campsite and we wanted to cross the lake, but we recognize that was more dangerous. We thought we could make it. And so we decided to go back two miles and paddling two miles is...

Roman Archer: No joke.

Joshua Gagnon: Yeah.

Daniel King: Pretty discouraging.

Roman Archer: Especially after 17 miles.

Walt Robbins: And huge waves.

New Speaker: Well going backwards, I knew guaranteed that we would be safe enough, secure enough and stable enough to eventually go forward and so we could have risked going across the lake, but one mishap, we lose all of our gear, potentially drown or die of hypothermia. We probably would be able to get to shore though, but we lose all of our gear.

Roman Archer: For sure.

Joshua Gagnon: For sure. We'll lose all of our gear and we'd be living out here in the woods for the next couple, three days. Literally. I don't know how to explain it, with nothing. We can't get off of this. There is no, there is no escaping.

Daniel King: No, there's no exit, bailout.

Joshua Gagnon: Yeah, and so, trust me, I would've taken it. I'm not a camper. I've only camped one time in my life until this trip, one night in my life. I say all that to say we went backwards, which was frustrating, but now we have, now a guarantee we're going to go forward further than we ever would have had we have capsized by taking the risk and so I think sometimes in leadership, even understanding we have to make decisions that seem like we're going backwards, that guarantee us the greater opportunity to move forward. That could be staffing, that could be shutting a location down, that could be moving out of a building or moving into a building that could be making a hard decision and people leave the church and your giving goes down. You can make making a hard business decision that goes against what employers want. Employees leave and sales go down. It could be all sorts of different things, but I think making the, making the right decision that will leave you guaranteed to go further over the long period of time. It's always wiser than taking the risk of crossing the lake.

Daniel King: Positioning yourself for the next next step because boy did I want to go across that lake.

Joshua Gagnon: You guys kept begging me.

Daniel King: In my mind. But it was not the wise thing to do.

Joshua Gagnon: I know that they would do what I wanted to do. Not that they're like puppets, but you know, if they really didn't want to, they would input. They trust me and I know. And that meant moment. If I said, hey guys...

Daniel King: Well, you have the most experience canoeing, too.

Joshua Gagnon: Yeah, say if I said, hey, let's go across. I think everybody would have. One of the questions I tell them, I always ask myself in those moments is what would your kids want me to say? And uh, I think leaders, sometimes when you're making decisions for those under you, ask yourself, what would your, what would their kids want you to say? Any other leadership or anything you want to share?

Daniel King: Think I'm too tired to process the other lessons I've learned right now. This is has been so hard. So hard.

Roman Archer: If you catch a Musky, beat it with a rock.

Joshua Gagnon: Oh, we just saw a moose.

Walt Robbins: Yeah, while we were building camp.

Joshua Gagnon: If you've never experienced black flies this time of year.

Daniel King: I have hundreds of bug bites right now.

Joshua Gagnon: His head's all swollen.

Daniel King: It's unreal.

Joshua Gagnon: Tomorrow we're hoping to get out of here.

Daniel King: Hoping to get to all river by tomorrow.

Joshua Gagnon: You keep telling me it's not really only river though.

Daniel King: I mean there's definitely some ponds and stuff mixed in.

Walt Robbins: But I think that's it, then the lakes.

Joshua Gagnon: We have to cross a dam in order to for it to be river. You know that?

Daniel King: Yeah.

Walt Robbins: Portage.

Roman Archer: Is that a rule?

Joshua Gagnon: Of course it's a rule. How does the river start?

Roman Archer: No, that's not true. I've been on rivers out of ponds.

Joshua Gagnon: Little ones.

Roman Archer: What do you call it? A stream then?

Joshua Gagnon: Yeah. Stream fed pond, but I mean we're not going to go canoeing down a river. We need a dam. We need something to create the...

Daniel King: Well there's that dam that you can't, you have to portage around. It's not in existence anymore because that used to be a dam, yeah. It's like broken. You know what I mean? But they said it looks like you can go through, but there's large spikes underground, so we recommend you carry your canoe around. So we're going to go ahead and take that advice.

Joshua Gagnon: Well, we've wanted to work better as a team. Every time we get to the campsite, we all have our own rules.

Walt Robbins: Have our own jobs.

Joshua Gagnon: Done some praying, done some singing of Amazing Grace in the middle of a pond where no one in the world can hear us. And it was the first time I heard Romans sing with confidence and loud because he didn't really care. Beautiful. I'm not sure he's ready to lead NLC worship.

Roman Archer: That was my big audition.

New Speaker: Cool. Well, this is, we really just wanted to start up the podcast and invite you guys into a fireside conversation, sitting around a fire in the middle of literally nowhere with no way to escape. What's been the hardest part? Let's answer that before we leave. What's the hardest? So before days in, probably have another at least three days of three days of canoeing, Daniel?

Daniel King: Yeah.

Joshua Gagnon: Four days, potentially, if tomorrow's a wind day. If it looks horrible. Oh, the rain sucked yesterday.

Daniel King: I mean, the thing is like there's the mental, there's the physical, there's the emotional of not being able to check in with your family and all that.

Walt Robbins: That's probably one of the hardest parts.

Joshua Gagnon: Is this the first time you've ever gone four days without talking to your wife?

Walt Robbins: Oh my goodness. Yeah. We've talked every day for 18 years.

Roman Archer: You, Roman?

Roman Archer: Yeah, I think so. I mean by the end of it, it will definitely be the longest.

Daniel King: If you asked me in the middle of the lake, I would tell you the physical was the hardest. If you asked me at the setting up camp site, I'd tell you the mental of having to set up and break down and move the next day again is the hardest.

Joshua Gagnon: Setting up.

Roman Archer: My body hurts right now.

Joshua Gagnon: Yeah, I'm in a lot of pain. Setting up. Well, we've literally canoed in what, three and a half days because we started at 12 o'clock on Tuesday.

Daniel King: I mean a typical day we're spending two hours packing up camp, not eating breakfast because we're getting eaten alive by bugs. Getting immediately in a boat...

Roman Archer: ...at like six o'clock...

Daniel King: Canoeing. Yeah. On the water at 6:00 AM, 6:30, canoeing for 15 to 18 miles average and then spending what, two and a half hours trying to set up camp again and hoping you find firewood when you get there that's dry and hasn't been rained on, and that's a good day when you're not getting rained on the whole time and you can actually make a meal.

Joshua Gagnon: Yeah. Have you enjoyed it?

Daniel King: Yeah. That's the weird part.

Joshua Gagnon: I've enjoyed the challenge.

Daniel King: It's the weird part.

Joshua Gagnon: I think we're going to get to the end of it and realize we have more in us than we ever thought and I hope that that we remember that in all areas of our life. I think things like this, when it's truly mind over matter, when it's truly overcoming everything, I think it allows us to, in every area of life, I think subconsciously we start to remember what we can, what we can do, when we truly want to. We've never canoed. We didn't get in shape for this.

Daniel King: This was the first time I was ever in a canoe.

Joshua Gagnon: Daniel tells us two days before we leave, he's been researching it, giving us all the tips, you know, he's the brains of the operation. And so two days before the trip he goes, guys, I gotta tell you this. I don't think I'm actually been in a canoe.

Daniel King: That makes your partner in the boat feel real confident.

Roman Archer: Oh yeah.

Joshua Gagnon: Toughest part, body. Oh, that's our satellite.

Daniel King: Satellite phone is beeping. That might be a good time to call this a wrap. Satellite phone is beeping, our emergency phone.

Joshua Gagnon: Cool. Awesome. Thanks for hanging out guys. Maybe we'll plug back in here in a day or two, whatever. Maybe we'll do this for a few episodes. It's just kind of like talking through this and just, even if we don't put it on there, we'll have it for ourselves. Nothing fancy. I think people like these type of conversations. Wanna know the raw, the real. Get away with your team. And if you don't like them, drown them in a canoe. Imagine you guys drown (laughs).