Do You Hear the Silence?

Canyoneering in Rock CanyonThis past spring, I found myself in a climbing harness and inching slowly backwards down a “blind” repel in a narrow slot canyon in southern Utah. I had not repelled in over twenty years and was more than a little anxious. The first time we threw our rope bag over the edge of the repel we heard the “thwack” of the rope on the canyon wall and then an unexpected silence.

The Sound of Silence

My friend and expert guide knew that something was wrong - all he heard was silence, “I didn’t hear a thud,“ he said. “The rope’s not long enough.” Listening for the cues from the rope and the canyon let him know we needed more rope. Having a rope twenty feet too short would have meant an arduous and risky climb back up or a free fall to the canyon floor with at best a couple of broken bones.

We decided to pull the rope back in, add more and then try again. As we threw the rope bag a second time, my ears were more attuned than at first. I heard the slap as the rope hit the canyon wall and then a quiet, but certain thud as the rope bag hit the canyon floor. However, we still couldn’t see it. We had to trust our ears and then take action. I continued to inch over the edge and finally came to the point where I could see the canyon floor. There was the bag of rope. What a relief.

I have been at the top of many “blind” business repels and maybe you have too. Big opportunities with the possibility of “breaking the company’s legs” or at least wasting time and money we don’t have to climb out.

What Questions to Ask?

What made all the difference in the canyon was having an expert that knew what to listen for. In business it is to have the experience to know what questions to ask and what answers are acceptable when faced with a difficult challenge. And if we don’t have a clear sense of what questions need to be asked or what answers are acceptable, it’s time to get some advice.