Allen Smith
Back to alumni stories

Allen Smith - Ullswater, The Lake District, 1966

“To serve, to strive and not to yield”. Little did I know at the time, how much the Outward Bound philosophy would impact on my life and career! It was back in 1966 when my employer asked if I had heard of Outward Bound and would I like to go. Without hesitation, I said yes and joined U108 on 4 weeks of undying memories and gratitude. Yes it was tough at the time especially in April when there was snow on the ground and the jump in the lake was recorded at 2 degrees fahrenheit .

I was well below the average age of Oates Patrol so had an inclination that things were going to be tough for me and at 8st 13lb (56kg in new money), I wasn’t the largest boy in town; slightly different nowadays as you can see in the photo but why shouldn’t I enjoy myself in retirement. I threw my all into the expeditions and recall having to climb in a sleeping bag with one of the team who was suffering hypothermia so as to keep him warm and await the mountain rescue teams’ arrival. This was on the final leg of climbing Helvellyn, Great Gable and Scafell. Needless to say, he recovered and so did I !! This was short lived as a solo hike followed by sleeping with only a bivouac sheet for protection. After laying the sheet on the ground, I wrapped it over my body and sealed the outer edge with stones. I woke the following morning under 40cm of snow and our remaining expeditions didn’t improve weather wise either.

So you may ask, how did this influence my life and career? Having revisited Ullswater in August 2012, I managed to get a copy of my report having never seen it before. Whilst I was commended for my competence in the theory, practice and the expeditions we undertook, one comment did stand out. It went like this; “It seems unfortunate that he seems to lack the urge to push himself forward and command attention. If he can overcome his shyness and self-consciousness, he will be able to use his talents to the full”. Yes – that was definitely me!!

I knew I was shy, so decided to strive to eradicate this as much as possible and thought the best way of doing this would be to find a career which would challenge my current behaviours so went into teaching people how to teach in Industry. Boy was that a challenge but remembering the motto “and not to yield”, I battled on. I continued in training for the rest of my career and became a well respected authority in the area of Leadership and Management Development working alongside of the likes of Professor John Adair who is one of the exponents of Action Centred Leadership, which I believe Outward Bound use today. That got rid of the shyness, but I can still get caught out occasionally and turn a brighter shade of pink. So what about the self-consciousness? In this case I studied psychology and ended up teaching that as well albeit I had to learn a lot about myself before I could do this with any authority. This led me into coaching and counselling some very senior management teams throughout industry and served industry well up to my retirement.

I guess Ullswater Outward Bound turned the boy into the man and how much of an impact those few words “To serve, to strive and not to yield” steered my life and direction.

Life is a series of challenges and opportunities. My advice is to face up to the challenges, no matter how difficult they seem at the time and take every opportunity that is put in front of you – you never know where it will take you; but have fun getting there.

Allen Joseph Smith
11.04.1966 to 7.05.1966