Christian humor self-development prayer

Life lessons learned from climbing up a mountain with a juice box, four sweets and wearing flip flops – Pt5

Blog pic

FSNP: Analysis

Teamwork makes the dream work…..John C Maxwell

Understanding group dynamics is useful knowledge for anyone who has or will in future work with other people. Even more so for a manager or a person in a position of leadership  in any area or aspect of their lives. Bruce Tuckman’s group development theoretical model (1965), provides great context and understanding through it’s universally applicable stages of forming, storming, norming and then performing. As no matter the purpose, goal, location, age or socio-economic background of the group, members will need to navigate the aforementioned necessary stages in order to meet targets, objectives and deliver results.


My experience of climbing a mountain under unusual circumstances, serves as a useful application case study of Tuckman’s initial four stage theory. Typically in the forming introductory stage, there is caution, anxiety and excitement amongst the group. Members look for acceptance, seek to understand project goals, how the task will be accomplished as well as each other.


Some groups never progress past the storming phase due to conflict, competition and misunderstandings. Arguments, tension and challenges to management authority are commonplace at this stage and some members quit or become withdrawn. Managers/leaders may need to step in to quell dissension and disintegration of the team.


At the ‘norming’ stage the team may regress back to the storming phase from time to time, though on the whole, there are respected ground rules, boundaries and cohesion. Leadership is shared, feedback is constructive and individual contributions are recognised by the team as beneficial for all.


If a team manages to make it as far as the performance phase, members are highly motivated, use their initiative with very little supervision or no management required.  The high performance team are even willing to go the extra mile to accomplish goals and are successful in completing objectives. The team can adapt to change and respond well to unforeseen challenges. This is a productive and efficient team whom now have an affinity for one another.



I had little or no relationship with the majority of the group prior to that eventful day, as we were from different backgrounds, ages and I even had a bit of a language barrier with one of the team.  However, in order to successfully achieve our shared goal of getting off the mountain alive and unhurt, we all had to work as a team. This meant unequivocally working through Tuckman’s ‘forming, storming, norming, performing’ group development stages. As I had no option of quitting, changing teams or the luxury of bringing in preferred people.  Therefore being able to get through that experience was a great learning and development, character-building opportunity for me in respect of being adaptable, working with different types of personalities, working through different issues, improving communication skills, persevering under pressure and of course trusting in God.

Christian humor self-development prayer

Life lessons learned from climbing up a mountain with a juice box, four sweets and wearing flip flops – Pt3

Blog pic

Am I in a horror movie? Are we all about to die? Is this for real? 

Horror story plotline 1 – background set up of movie character’s demise.

I am definitely not a fan of the horror movie genre, but even I have watched a few and wondered what some of those characters before they reach their demise, were thinking in the first place. Such as those typical scenarios where there is a crazy murderer on the loose, but there’s a character who decides to investigate by shouting “heay, is there anybody there?”- dumb! In my scenario, if this was a movie they would be wondering why I decided to climb a mountain with a juice box, four sweets and wearing flip flops  – dumb! What could possibly go wrong? As explained in Lesson 2, we were having to climb to the top in order to freely access the roads and get off the mountain. So when there is a near earth shattering clap of thunder and the darkened sky suddenly illuminates – five words suddenly pop into my head.

table-mountain1 (2)


Horror story plotline 2 –   ‘that annoying female character’

In the movies she’s normally a tearful blonde female, that screams at the slightest thing, gets left behind and falls and trips on something. Well in my circumstance, I’m not blonde, but I tick most of the rest of the boxes for the role of that annoying female character! I’m up a mountain and in torrential downpour, when there is a loud clap of thunder and the lightning strikes so close to us I keep letting out an involuntary scream over and over again! One hour into our supposed 1/2 hour stroll, we are trekking up steep terrain at pace. What’s more, it’s difficult to see as the conditions are like walking with an overhead power shower turned on. it’s so slippery walking in my flip flops, I lose my footing, trip and painfully twist my ankle. I don’t think anyone can tell because of the rain, but there are serious tears falling now. Boxes ticked.


Horror story plotline 3 – ‘mind your step’

In the movies, groups sometimes find themselves navigating booby-trapped floors. In my scenario, the words of advice being shouted to the back of the group are ‘Look carefully where you step, only step on where you can clearly see the path – nothing else’. I’m handed one of the big branches fashioned into strong sticks being distributed and I think great – now I can take some of the pressure off my twisted ankle and use the stick to walk as well as keep a firm balance in the slippery conditions. However, I notice that the rest of the group are using their sticks differently – tapping the ground & swishing it from side to side. I quickly ask what was going on and learn that aside from snakes being on planes (haha) they can actually be found on mountains!!! Apparently heavy rain drive snakes into clear open pathways where they’re camouflaged in the muddy path and someone ahead has seen one. The five words – ‘we are going to die’ keep going through my mind over and over and the tears continue to fall.


Horror story plotline 4 – ‘shhh…what was that noise?’

In horror movie clichés, there is often a monster out on the loose and the cast have got no cellphone signal or seemingly way out. There is also always someone who hears something before the monster appears. In my case, since the venomous snake sighting, the group is more audible and nervous, yelping at anything – sadly fear is contagious. Someone ahead jokingly starts singing the chorus to Gloria Gaynors ‘I will survive’ and we all join in which lessons the agitation in the group….until someone says “shhh, what was that noise?” At this point I’ve had enough, my legs almost buckle beneath me (I won’t confirm if my bowels loosened) – I can’t take any more. We are told to move silently as it sounds like it’s a group of adult baboons, our singing and noise is drawing them closer to us. No one has to tell me twice. After about 10 minutes, I finally stop sobbing and in accordance with 2 Cor 10:5, bring my fearful thoughts of death under control and I silently open my hotline to heaven and begin to cry out to God!

Chacma Baboon 1

Horror story plotline 5 – Do the opposite of what you’ve been advised

For example, when they’ve been told in the horror movie don’t go down there, don’t open that, let’s stay together – but someone wanders off etc. ignoring advice. Yes we’ve been told to be quiet- but I can’t! I started of with silent prayer, then quietly whispering and then one of the guys ahead of me joins in, then another joins in and we are after a while all praying and praising God loudly. Doing the opposite of what we were advised earlier, but the funny thing is – there are no longer any approaching baboon sounds and now instead of ‘I will survive’ we are singing a range of worship songs. The torrential rain stops as we near the peak too and though soaked through in near subzero temperature, we eventually stumble like long distance runners at the end of a race, onto the road to escape.


Horror story plotline 6 – Good triumphs over evil, higher power intervention, the mother of all clichés

Yes I am sure lovers of the horror film genre would of wanted a storyline where in the seriously adverse extreme weather and resulting muddy conditions, one of us slipped and fell to our death over the side of the mountain. Maybe one of the many varieties of poisonous adders and cobras could of bit us and then one of  the group died because we couldn’t get any medical treatment – possibly the one who kept screaming and had exposed feet climbing a mountain in flip flops. Or perhaps ‘Planet of the Apes style’ the unafraid of humans adult baboons could of savagely attacked us as we encroached on their territory. Or there could of been a ‘Lord of the Flies type’ group insurrection, where we turned on each other in a very short space of time, as after all our nerves were frayed. People were tired, hungry, thirsty and in a very serious extreme situation where masks are dropped and personalities revealed.

Thankfully, all the above shoulda/woulda/coulda DIDN’T happen by the grace of God! Even though they were plausible scenarios and very real alternative endings to my situation! All I can testify and say is that there was paranormal activity that took place on the mountain and this was Psalm 18:5-6:-   


The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.

Call it a cliché or what ever you want, all I know is that I am truly thankful that God is good, answers prayer and is an ever present help in times of trouble. Amen.



In lesson 4( yes, really there is more to learn), I discuss team dynamics…..

Christian humor self-development prayer

Life lessons learned from climbing up a mountain with a juice box, four sweets and wearing flip flops – Pt2

Lesson 2 – Plan and Research

Blog pic

Following on from lesson 1, I’ve established and explained why it is generally easier to follow and much harder to lead. As well as why you have no one else to blame if you thoughtlessly follow someone down a dead end, follow bad advice etc.

I like to at times ‘live in the moment’, ‘wing it’, ‘take life as it comes’ – basically be open to new experiences. But having a laissez-faire attitude can leave you in situations that could be avoided. Take for example if you go on a journey to a place you don’t know, or decide to climb a mountain, doing some research should really be a consideration. I generally believe that we are obliged to use the brain that God has given us, but in this particular situation I found myself, disengaging my brain. So the second life lesson is about research and planning.

You see, when it was suggested at dinner the night before that we go and check out the majestic landscape views of Cape Town, from a great focal peak point, I simply said ‘great – I’m in, what time am I being picked up?’ I assumed we would be in the luxurious air conditioned van driving for most of the way to the top, but upon honest reflection, if I’d asked a question or two, done a little research, I wouldn’t have found myself in the predicament I wound up in.

If I’d googled, bing’d, yahoo’d – searched on the internet, I would of discovered that this South African landmark, was not the presumed hill top I thought we were going up, but an actual 3,563ft mountain. Seriously who decides to climb a mountain over dessert? Yes we were all joking about walking off the calories the day before, but as we approached the base of the mountain, my pupils began to dilate.

table-mountain1 (2)

As we get out of the van, and the driver leaves us at the entrance, I guess I’m in a state of shock as I look around me and I become acutely aware that looking ‘nice’ and well styled was not the priority of the rest of the group who were all wearing hiking gear! Though a little late, I find my voice and I decide to speak up and enquire what exactly we would be doing this morning.

The group’s majority decides that we should walk for a bit and then take the aerial cableway the rest of the way to the top. I’m reassured by a lady who’s at least twenty five years older than myself that the path we will take is scenic and that the 30 minute walk will be done at a slow pace. As it’s such a nice day (the sky is blue with a warm gentle breeze), I’m won over, it sounded like a good plan and besides I didn’t mind the early morning stroll.

However forty five minutes later, we are still walking, not near the cable car entrance and the weather has dramatically changed. The sky has darkened and it’s now raining. I’m near the back of the group of seven walkers and I can just about hear what the guy leading the group is saying. From what I have gathered thus far, when the weather is like this, the cable cars are stopped. Therefore by the time we’d reach them, the area would be locked up and we wouldn’t be able to ride them to the top of the mountain.

I turn around in order to begin to walk back down, but my walking ‘partner’ for want of a better word (we’re the last two at the rear of the group), grabs my arm and explains the bit I’ve obviously missed. The entrance of the mountain will also be locked up by now and there is no way we will be able to scale the wire and fencing, even if we wanted to (I asked). She then hugs me as my face must obviously show my bewilderment and trepidation as it dawns on me that I am going to have to climb this mountain with only a juice box, four sweets and in my flip flops. There’s a loud clap of thunder and I think to myself that this feels like the set-up of a horror movie….as it turns out, I wasn’t that wrong…..TBC

Blog pic

Christian humor self-development prayer

Life lessons learned from climbing up a mountain with a juice box, four sweets and wearing flip flops

Lesson 1 – Be careful who you follow.

It’s important that you don’t just follow anyone’s ideas, fashion sense, into battle – or in my case, up a mountain….

It’s easy to follow, much harder to lead and sometimes it actually makes sense to follow a more learned, experienced person. I could even cite the great biblical example of Elisha following Elijah here and in fact go as so far to say I believe we all could do with an Elijah type figure in our lives – a spiritual mentor, father and/or mother. But let’s be clear that’s not what I’m talking about so that said, you have no one else to blame if you follow someone into some kind of ridiculous dodgy situation.

In my case I’d paid hardly any attention to anything that had been said about the day’s itinerary the day before and simply settled in my mind to follow others as we would be doing everything as a group anyway. This was not the first time I’d used this strategy and it had always worked out fine to let others take the lead. No worry, no stress.

Therefore if I’m honest, upon reflection I hold my hands up and acknowledge I’m ultimately to blame and I can’t really say following the advice of a 10 year old boy about whether wearing my flip flops that day was okay. Especially when my inner voice said at least twice, change into trainers (sneakers) before I set off that day. Somehow following the advice of a kid overruled my gut feeling, the Holy Spirit and any kind of common sense. It of course set me up for big problems later on, but at the time, I thought ‘que sera sera, whatever will be, will be – basically what’s the worst that could happen?’

Anyway by now some of you may be wondering if I am being serious, perhaps exaggerating or confusing a very steep hill with an actual mountain. Well the mountain in question has the following Wiki Facts:

  • Table Mountain is a mountain overlooking the city of Cape Town in South Africa
  • The highest point of Table Mountain is 3,563 feet above sea level
  • The mountain’s main feature is a level plateau at the peak approximately 3 kilometres from side to side, surrounded by steep cliffs.
  • Table Mountain has apparently for various reasons, seen more deaths in the last century than Mount Everest.
  • Climbing a mountain was never on my bucket list.

table-mountain1 (2)

Part 2 to follow shortly