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Like everything else in life, wisdom is based on knowledge not chance. [Photo: submitted by Geremy Olson]
Like everything else in life, wisdom is based on knowledge not chance. [Photo: submitted by Geremy Olson]

Outdoor Lessons for the Real World 

Geremy Olson
 January 5, 2022
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Stretching Yourself 

I am not sure if it's a sign of how last year went, but I’m not quite certain how I should start the new year. Part of the reason for my delay is today I am writing about stretching myself and in all honesty, I can’t tell you if this is an “outdoor lesson for the real world" or a “real world lesson for the outdoors”? So, let me flip a coin to see where I should start…nothing like random chance to get the year started off right…right? 

Well…tails it is and so I guess I am starting with the outdoors part of this tale.  As you get to know me, you will learn I love the winter, it’s my favorite time of the year. As I’m getting older, I’ve grown to appreciate a new winter activity that was not available to me as a kid. That is: sharing what I’m doing all winter with my friends down south. Yeah, I know some of you are thinking I’m bragging to these southern folks that think the world is going to end when the temps dip below 70 degrees. No bragging involved, just pure jesting in the unrealistic hope that they will someday decide to come up to go ice fishing with me. This last December was especially fun for my new pastime with all of the colder than usual days.  

I love sending pictures like this to my friends down south when we’re out enjoying the outdoors. [Photo: submitted by Geremy Olson]

Their favorite question to me is how do you survive those brutal temperatures? My standard answer is sort of to the effect of “well I roll my hoodie sleeves down.” But to be honest it has more to do with stretching myself every year. You may be asking how that works when it’s so cold that everything breaks before it will ever stretch. That is a good point, but let me explain.  

Last year my son Andrew and I went out duck hunting one morning. When we got to the lake to find that it was frozen over, we checked the forecast for the first time to find that it was 6 degrees. We broke a rake while trying to get some open water to put out decoys and found the freezing point of neoprene waders that morning. We were prepared for staying warm but not hunting in the conditions that day. Instead of giving up we persevered through the day and learned all sorts of lessons.  

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago and we knowingly loaded up the trailer and went goose hunting on the Missouri River with a starting temperature of seventeen below zero. After a couple hours of hunting, we had two problems we had to deal with. First, we ran out of food, and second, the geese apparently thought it was too cold to fly anywhere. So, we packed up and headed home too. Late breakfast and then set out to see where the geese were.  

That morning we were better prepared for the colder weather because of what we learned the year before. Yes, it was cold out, but it was a fun day where Andrew and I learned a lot of lessons…apparently the geese don’t like to fly around when it’s seventeen below zero all day.  

When you trust the lessons that you’ve learned it allows you to have faith and a positive outcome. [Photo: submitted by Geremy Olson]

When you think about it, life is no different. Last year had plenty of hype with all of what was going on, but it really was no different than any other year. What I mean by that is there were good things that happened and bad things that happened. Like everyone, I had friends die last year. I also got to experience the joys of many firsts with my kids. What I’ve learned growing up is that just like the outdoors, if we allow life to stretch us, we grow.  

A wise truth that I learned growing up explains why this is true. “…When troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” This truth became very real to me years ago when I was working at getting out of my wheelchair for the third time because of complications and setbacks from getting hurt as a volunteer fire fighter.  

What I learned back then is the same thing Andrew has been learning while waterfowl hunting in the cold. Faith isn’t a game of chance; it’s rooted in experience and testing. The more we are stretched, the more capacity we have for faith. It’s easy to default to fear and take the safe, no-risk option, but where will that get you? 

When we stretch ourselves we get to enjoy the beauty of nature that most people will never see. [Photo: submitted by Geremy Olson]

My friends from down south routinely ask why we aren’t scared to go out on the ice. I guess many of you may be asking the same question. The answer is faith. Faith in the experiences, thousands of test holes and a little bit of stretching that I have over the last forty years. See, I don’t have to blindly hope that the ice will hold me up. I’ve learned what ice I can trust and what ice I can’t trust.  

With only a couple of days left in the year for archery season, Andrew and I headed out to see if he could fill his first stick and string deer. Wouldn’t you know it, it was twenty-seven degrees below zero. Brrrrr...that’s cold enough to put a coat on for sure. Well with the lessons we'd learned stretching ourselves up to this point, we were able to grow and find success in the deer blind on our second day.  

A successful hunt is only one aspect of stretching yourself and spending time with others.

Like I said at the beginning, I can’t tell you if this is an “outdoor lesson for the real world” or a “real world lesson for the outdoors”. What I can say for sure is that when you are willing to allow yourself to be stretched, you are also opening up the ability to learn faith and grow. This growth gets rid of relying on chance and replaces it with endurance...and maybe the continued joy of picking on your southern friends. 

Geremy Olson grew up in the outdoors. After being burned as a volunteer firefighter, he had to figure out how to teach outdoor skills to his children from a wheelchair while learning to walk. Today he is an inspirational speaker, author, FCA Outdoors ND director, tournament director, video producer, wildfire consultant, and proud father of the owners of Missouri Secrets Tackle & Secrets to Fishing.

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