Reframing our goals

By Neal Ritter

There is an inherent myth in the modern primitive skills culture of the “lone survivor”. We practice skills for when we are solo in the wilderness, and survival TV has cashed in the the image of the rugged individualist.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that solo time is vital for self discovery, and there is much to be said for alone time in nature. So much magic happens when we have no choice but to tune in to our surroundings.

It also forces us to perfect some of our skills. There are a number of primitive and bushcraft skills that are very challenging to practice individually.

That all being said, as humans we are social animals. Exile from the tribe was one of the severest forms of punishment, and often a death sentence. When in the wilderness on our Teen Expeditions, it doesn’t matter “who” starts the fire, it matters that “we” start the fire.

So we began changing that narrative in the front country. This spring, as our youth students were working on bowdrill fire, we focused on teamwork being the norm. Can we work together, and find that magic moment when a few sticks rubbed together give birth to a fire. Every session, the students would pair up to work, and throughout the session continually change partners.

Two things happened. First, they loved it, and looked forward to bowdrill practice more than any group we’ve had to date. Secondly, the success rate was through the roof. And we are talking about 10-12 year olds. Every single student was part of a team that made multiple coals.

It can be hard to step away from our individual desire to succeed, and win. I know, I am one of the most competitive folks you will meet. Yet, for us all to grow, and helps to reframe the goal, to focus on “us” winning together.

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