Challenging Yourself

Brad Bowen / Insights

05 May 2023

Last weekend I crewed for a 48km Kokoda Challenge team of which my daughter was a member. The team had trained over quite a few long runs with Mr Dean and they felt relatively confident that they could complete the challenge; but I knew that most of them wanted to win the School’s Challenge because for at least two of them it was their last chance. Many things can go wrong on the day, but due to good preparation and planning by the team as well as a slice of good fortune, all went well and they completed their goals. It has been wonderful to catch up with the team this week and note that they are all still on a high….especially Mr Dean!

It was wonderful to watch, as team after team, some with staff, some with parents, finished their Challenge, smiling and laughing, hugging and high fiving, happy with their success and acknowledging the combined efforts of the team. They were aware that what they had just achieved was quite special.

I write this as a reflection that hard work in preparation leads to a certain sort of satisfaction of having put true effort in, over a period of time, which results in positivity and a sense of fulfillment that I have witnessed this week from all participants.

On a similar vein and for those of you with Netflix, a show called The Alpinist has recently been released. It tells the true story of a shy, social media-averse and socially awkward Canadian, Marc-Andre Leclerc, who happened to have a knack for making solo free-climbing ascents look less stressful than a walk to the shops. Leclerc's climbing wasn't about the athletic activity, it wasn't about sport. It was about a commitment to adventure.

Leclerc stated: “When you’re in the mountains, with a mission, it’s like all of the superficialities of life just sort of evaporate, and you can often find yourself in a deeper state of mind, and that can stick with you for a while after a big climb. You appreciate everything so much…that you take for granted most of the time. It’s kind of funny. The actual achievement doesn’t really change your life, like you think it might, but what you’re left with is the journey that got you to that point. It’s like when you put so much planning and effort into achieving something and you reach something beautiful and stay there: then you appreciate the journey.”

Marc-André Leclerc’s journey sadly ended – along with that of his climbing partner, Ryan Johnson – on 5 March, 2018, on the side of the Mendenhall Towers, just north of Juneau, Alaska, shortly after their completion of a new route on the north face. He was 25 years old.

Of course, the on-screen relationship with Leclerc is superficial – you can’t really claim to know him simply because you watched a documentary. Using his life as an example isn’t to say we should all start climbing actual mountains, of course, in no way am I encouraging this! But if this documentary does anything, then it is the realisation that we all have mountains of some shape or form in our lives, and maybe it’s time to start approaching them and appreciating the journey.

A young person needs to experience the satisfaction of truely owning the experience of working hard at something, putting in effort, planning and it stretching them beyond what they had imagined.

This is why at St Andrew’s we work hard to provide opportunities; opportunities that might be physically tough like the Kokoda Challenge, or opportunities that stretch their view of the world like our Service Learning trips, or our vast number of co-curricular opportunities which teach and stretch our students in countless other ways, and why we aim to celebrate that journey on every scale.

I encourage all our St Andrew's students to step out, experience and learn from life’s challenges. They may fail, things go wrong so often in life, but as they learn, support them in the journey and celebrate their successes.

Author Profile

Brad Bowen

Head of Secondary

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