I Was Trapped In A Mine Shaft

I recently had a fascinating experience “trapped in a mine shaft” in an escape room with six other people. Escape rooms are physical adventure games in which players are locked in a room solving a series of puzzles trying to escape within a 60-minute time limit.

Being “trapped in an abandoned Utah mine shaft”, I began thinking about how we all can get “trapped in a mind shaft”. Here are a few leadership observations from the experience:

  1. Curiosity. Age and experience are not always helpful in problem solving. Ross, a curious 13-year old on our team, was perhaps the most helpful person in solving the myriad puzzles we encountered. Ross brought positive perspective, curiosity, and a willingness to keep trying new things. As a leader, I need to remember that creative ideas can come from anyone, regardless of age, experience, or college degree (or not).
  2. Yes And. There were numerous times when I got stuck and didn’t know what to do next…and almost magically, someone else in the group was able to use what I’d learned to take us to the next level. Forwarding the learning matters, even if it doesn’t get you to the finish line.
  3. 1 + 1 = 3. I’m convinced that I’d “be dead in the mine shaft” if I had gone in by myself. We had “one hour’s worth of air” according to our guide. If I start thinking that I’m the one with all the best answers, I know I’m in trouble.
  4. Flow. The synergy created by our team of seven was remarkable. I’ve been in countless real life meetings where I’ve witnessed someone mentally shut down. Heck, I’ve done it on more than one occasion. But in this instance, all seven stayed in the game, kept asking questions, stayed curious, tried multiple options, and didn’t judge people’s answers. Again, as a leader, how can I create a safe, trusting environment where people feel comfortable sharing ideas…any ideas.
  5. Time Matters. We knew we had only one hour. A sense of urgency to create movement or change can be incredibly helpful. It was also nice to know we weren’t really going to die if we didn’t reach our goal. Most work environments are not literally life or death, so keep it light, but keep nudging to create momentum.
  6. Free to Risk. When someone’s idea didn’t work, and there were plenty of those, we simply discarded it without judgement and went on to the next idea. It’s a very freeing thing to be able to risk without fear of criticism or judgement. How might that change your perspective about fully showing up at work (and home)?

P.S. I’m thinking about my friend, John (from the February 15 blog) who said he felt “invisible” at work. His many attempts to make a difference had him feeling like he was stuck in a “mind shaft”. He’s since resigned and found a new job. John was proactive to create a new story ending and was able to get himself unstuck from his previous “mind shaft.” What kind of change do you need to take on in the near future?


This blog shares my perspective on how we have the ability to create new endings to our stories that are meaningful, powerful and filled with hope. I facilitate transformational change processes helping organizations achieve maximum mission impact. Also, I provide leadership coaching to help executives and aspiring leaders become the fullest expression of who they’re intended to be. @beckerbits