Mind the Gap Year

I never thought I would use the words Gap Year when it comes to a blog post. Gap Years are times for seeking and discovering what might be next. Typically students take them either before or after college. I’ve discovered that a “Gap Year” can be taken any time in life when a change in direction is needed. This year I have done a lot of writing, speaking and thinking, but none of it in this blog. It’s been over a year since I’ve posted a blog and there are good reasons for that. This has been a year for The Exploration Group to explore Dwight Gibson.

Gaps are chasms where there is a break. I recall the warning, “Mind the gap” which I’ve heard many times on the London Underground loudspeaker. Be careful when you cross the divide between the station and the railcar before getting on the train.

I think about Richard Nixon and the famous 18-minute gap in the White House recordings that hid a conversation he did not want others to hear. I think about Buffalo Gap. It’s a small town in South Dakota I visited years ago with an amazingly cool bank straight out of the 1800’s. I left Buffalo Gap inspired, having found a different place and time.

For me, this year’s gap was not a problem or a cover up, it was more of the chasm from the London Underground, combined with the fascination of a time and a place that I experienced in Buffalo Gap, South Dakota. This has been a year of new discoveries accompanied by the stripping away of what once was, so that what is next could be uncovered.

If “stripping away” sounds painful, for me it has been. Habits needed to change that were not helping me be fully healthy. Focuses needed to change as I realized some of the symbols of success— like our home that I loved— were now holding me back from the next season of life. My hopes needed to change. I realized my ways in the past were not ways for going forward in the world as it exists today.

This year is an important inflection point in the ongoing journey that continues toward where I am supposed to be in the next season of my life. During the year I focused on areas that needed change. Some I took on by choice. Others leapt up and surprised me, calling my name saying, “Change me, if you want to live.”

The unknowns of our lives can give us strength as they surprise us with new possibilities. Those unknowns, when not handled wisely, can cause our deepest difficulty. Even though I am an explorer I have to admit that for the most part it has been a difficult and painful journey. But I’ve realized it is a journey we all need to repeat over and over again in order to be vibrant and alive.

When I read about great writers I admire their discipline of writing every day. A few weeks ago I read about the late Tom Wolfe. In his obituary it noted that every day he insisted on writing ten pages of manuscript. Some days it would take him three hours, some days it would take him twelve hours but he insisted on completing those ten pages every day. As I have sought to put my ideas onto paper I recognize that writing is not a natural act for me. As I look at explorers throughout history, I think this is one of the reasons that the process of exploration has been an uncharted. Explorers explore, writers write, singers sing, baker’s bake and runners run. Explorers tend not to write.

Writing is a contrarian discipline for explorers compared to their natural propensity. For explorers our learning process tends to be experiential as we touch, feel and experience the new discoveries we are seeking. I am no different. I usually learn about myself as an explorer as I explore the opportunities around me. To realize who I am and who I am not has been painful. To question some of my comforts and relinquish them has been painful.

During this last year I’ve worked on one expedition that is birthing a new organization. The intercultural dynamics that we have sorted through have uncovered many lingering questions that we are still seeking to answer. For another expedition, I could tell you about the new studies that evaluate the role of the outdoors when it comes to hope and life change. In these we are helping a whole industry consider the experience they offer to their customers.

I could talk about an heirloom grain business that is expanding and moving into new areas as they build a supply chain, find their customers and create a niche by identifying their unique market contribution.

In each of these scenarios I found myself asking, “What am I doing? What is my role? How am I changing the status quo for those that have commissioned me?” This changing of the status quo is the main contribution of the explorer. And it can be painful both for the explorer and for those who desire the exploration.

Even as an explorer I realize that I have ingrained habits and practices like everyone else. I like change, especially when it is yours! We all have our anchors that provide a sense of stability in our lives. For me it has been our home. I have lived in this house for 15 years. It is the longest I have ever lived in one house in my entire life. It is a stabilizer for my equilibrium, but now it is time to move on. Everything in me does not want to move, but I need to in order to accomplish what is next. I refer to changes like this as lightening the load for what is next on the journey. Throughout history ships have had to lighten the load in storms in order to escape the doldrums of calm waters at sea. As of June 1, our house is up for sale. We are moving on. I’m not sure yet where we will move or even if we will buy a house. A friend of mine said, “Dwight you soon will be home free. That means there is nothing to hold you back.”

Most organizations want change. What they often don’t want is the change required to accomplish that change! It may be a change of staff, a change of direction, a change of facilities or a change in the business model. All those changes require new ways of thinking and new practices. It is the crossing of the crossroads in order to get to another place beyond where the organization has been. Organizations that explore forward build upon the history of what once was, but are not stuck in the past. People that explore forward do the same.

So here I am in the midst of a Gap Year. I’m discovering and learning with the clients we serve and at the same time learning more about myself than I expected at this season of life. It is time to take a leap of faith toward what is next, even though what is next is still not clear. I think of the scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark where Harrison Ford gets to the place in the treasure book that says take the leap of faith. All he sees in front of him is a wide chasm with no way across to the door he sees on the other side. He reads the words again and takes a bold step into the chasm. It is only then that the bridge across appears.

When it comes to the changes you are walking through, what have you found? Has it made you more of what God created you to be? Or have your explorations and life decisions pulled you away from who you are and kept you back from the full potential that lives in you?

For this explorer, I am getting rid of what was once needed both mentally and tactically to discover with the help of God what is next. The chasm is wide, the path is not clear, but it will appear when the first step in faith is taken.

Stay tuned the adventure continues.


PS. This post is not a statement to say that more writing is going to appear here. I am working with multiple clients, working on a book and a podcast. This post is more of a placeholder to say, “Yes I am alive and there are amazing discoveries happening.” Today we live in a world that is full of change and opportunity. For some that change feels like chaos as they rethink their ways of functioning and living. For me the personal changes in this Gap Year represent the stripping away of what once was in order to discover what is going to be.


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