When I was a little girl, I LOVED the Little House books. I must have read each of them at least four times. Probably more. It was more than me just being a history buff. When I read those books, I was taken into an entirely different world. I was taken to the prairies of the Western United States, which I’ve never seen for myself except from the air. I was taken to a time when a blizzard could mean that people would get lost and not found until the big thaw. I was taken to a time when there weren’t neighbors, when a piece of sugar was a delicacy, and when going to a small town was a big adventure.
I was not confident that I’d read a book from my own time period, by a real person, writing about their own experiences, that would transport me quite like Laura Ingalls Wilder did. However, if you read Amber-Lee Dibble’s book, My Identity Crisis, that is exactly what happens. Instead of getting transported to the 19th century prairie, you’re taken to Chisana, Alaska. You follow the “AlaskaChick” around as she guides people throughout the Wrangell St. Elias National Park. You get transported to what Amber-Lee frequently calls “the last wild frontier.” You get taken to a deserted gold rush town where there are still shoes and tea cups that were abandoned by their now long-gone owners.
Eight lessons from My Identity Crisis
There is more to this book than just being transported to a land and life that is probably so different from your own. I pulled eight important lessons out of the book as I was reading (there are more but these eight jumped to the front of my mind). Here are the eight truths that jumped out at me as I read Amber-Lee’s book.
1. How loyalty is best defined
I often have difficulty explaining my concept of loyalty to people because I always speak the truth. If the truth is not jiving with what that person wanted to hear it’s easy for them to make accusations of disloyalty, right? Amber-Lee included this quote from General Colin Powell, though, and I think this captures it perfectly: “When we are debating an issue, loyalty means giving me your honest opinion, whether you think I’ll like it or not. Disagreement, at this state, stimulates me. But once a decision is made, the debate ends. From that point on, loyalty means executing the decision as if it were your own.”
I found that pretty spot on.
2. Online friends can be real
One thing that the book reiterates again and again is how isolated Chisana is. In fact, you can only find Amber-Lee and Pioneer Outfitters by plane. In this context, the power of social media becomes even more palpable. Even in the most isolated regions, you can now connect with people as long as you have a way to hook into the “grid.” And to Amber-Lee, as to me, and as I’m sure to you, many of the connections you make evolve from simple “community people” to real friends. Not all of them. But it can happen.
3. There’s a path – even if you can’t see it
There is a really interesting passage where Amber-Lee writes about traveling on a path that was not visible. She and the people she was guiding had to trust the horses knew what they were doing. Sure, most of us don’t have horses traveling our paths with us, but the lesson is key. Even if you can’t see the next step, you have to trust sometimes that there is a path that is taking you to a great place. Just keep stepping.
4. Don’t settle
In her own life, Amber-Lee went after her dreams with a vengeance. She could have worked at a car plant or she could have stayed at her family’s dairy farm, but she knew what she wanted. The hunters she guides similarly know what they want, but sometimes they seem willing to settle for a little less. This book reminds you of all of the reasons why you should never just settle.
5. You can’t always just pin the blame to a person
One of the challenges Amber-Lee mentions often is that as a guide, the joy of the trip for her customers is often credited to the guide. Similarly, if something goes wrong, the guide is blamed. This is pretty ridiculous up in Chisana. Sometimes the animals don’t cooperate. Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate. Sometimes nothing cooperates. This is the way things go. Blaming the guide, blaming other people…even blaming yourself, doesn’t accomplish anything.
6. “What you are doing is not nearly as important as how you feel about what you’re doing.”
This quote, by Clifton Burke, appears about halfway through Amber-Lee’s book. It is SO appropriate for her own life. Her passion for what she does is nearly tangible as you read. This is a key lesson for everyone though. There is so much pressure on us to “be great.” What does that really mean? The answer is in you, not in other people.
7. Leadership means handling your fear
A recurring point is that experiencing fear is perfectly normal, especially in situations where you’re in danger from things like grizzly bears or hypothermia. But if you want to be a good leader, the key is not to pretend you’re unafraid. Rather, the key is to accept your fear, embrace it, and then keep going. Make sure everyone gets through, then you can let your legs go wobbly. This takes great internal strength – and that’s why I believe it is a key trait for any leader in any scenario.
8. Sometimes telling people they can’t is a favor
Finally, a little about brutal honesty. A lot of people apply to be guides at Pioneer Outfitters, but Amber-Lee writes that she writes “fail” on many a test and many an application. Why be so harsh? Coddling people can place them in more danger. Better to say, “I don’t think you can handle this” versus letting someone march into a dangerous situation which, in fact, they don’t know how to handle. We all want to be nice, but sometimes the nicest thing is to give the truth someone does not want to hear.
Margie’s review: wonderful!
I highly recommend you check out this work. You can get the e-book for just $11, which is a steal (not an affiliate link). This is an absolute steal.
Thank you, Amber-Lee, for writing this book. It was wonderful, and it has helped me view my own life in very different ways!