by Todd Walker
I have a confession to make.
I’m the dumbest guy in the woods!
This isn’t an exercise in false humility. To increase my woodsy knowledge, I always assume, whether it’s true or not, that my woodcraft and bushcraft IQ is the lowest around the campfire.
Following this one simple tip, which 99% of the people reading this will ignore, will instantly raise your intelligence and skill level.
1.) Be Silent
We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listen twice as much as you speak.
Listen to everyone around the fire, including newbies who have never camped or even stepped off the sidewalk. That’s doubly true when kids are with you! Max, my oldest grandson, teaches me something on every outing. He keeps me on my toes with questions that have never crossed my mind.
Only around a campfire can you communicate without saying a word!
When it’s your time to talk, don’t. Just sit there. Poke the fire, stretch your legs, and stare at the flames… but don’t say a word. Let the lull happen. Folks get antsy at this point and feel the need to fill the conversational void. And they will. They have more to teach you.
Soak up as much woods lore as possible before they stop. Never leave a fire ring without learning something. Nuggets of woodsy wisdom are in your camp mates. Let them pass it on.
2.) Be Humble
Being the person with the lowest Woodsy IQ around the campfire goes against our nature. We tend to think we know more than we do.
Admitting that you don’t have an answer is not only okay, it’s the best answer. Pretending to know or making stuff up is easy. But you’ve just lost 10 points on the Woodsy IQ scale.
Your best bet is to admit you’ve never started a fire with a hand drill or brain tanned a deer hide. As you fess up, your fellow woodsmen or woods-women sipping on hot cocoa across the fire, experienced in both skills, may be willing to pass on their knowledge and time on to you.
Most folks in the woodcraft and bushcraft community are willing to teach and share skills freely. Find a way to reciprocate and add value back. A simple thank you is all it takes in most cases.
3.) Ask Questions
After listening, ask one question. You’ve had time to conjure up a good one while observing #1.
4.) Repeat Step #1
Once you’ve practiced the first four steps, something amazing begins to happen. You begin to…
5.) Build Community
DRG and I spent some time in the woods with members of the Georgia Bushcraft Facebook group recently. I’d met several members online, but putting a name with a face, shaking hands and sharing hugs builds real community. We’re new to this established community but felt welcomed and instantly connected.
The beauty of building real community as opposed to online is networking that passes on knowledge, skills, and resources. Putting in dirt time with folks who share your passion a natural way to learn and pass on knowledge. Skills grow exponentially.
Our group built a bamboo shelter which will serve as base camp for future gatherings. Little nuances were passed from one person to another in the construction process, classes, and hanging out around the council fire. We learned from one another. As it should be.
This is a short video by Casey at Coyote Mountain Outdoors of the project:
By the way, if you’re not convinced sitting around a fire with friends and family adds value, you need to read Bill’s excellent article here!
I challenge you to try these steps. I guarantee you that you’ll learn something new even if you’re a master woodsman.
But the master woodsmen already know this secret. That’s how they became the smartest people in the woods!
Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,
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