Feb

11

 “A Scout is kind and cheerful, helpful and trustworthy, considerate and clean, and wise in the use of all resources.”

This is Scouts Canada’s Scout Law, and the last phrase “wise in the use of all resources” strikes to the heart of improvisation when used in the context of creative problem-solving. As a Scout leader who does a lot of camping in different locations and different situations, I’m surprised at how poor improvisers children are, and I think it may have to do with the type of thinking that goes along with structured curricula at school. Younger kids at play with toys can be great improvisers, but does the school system bash it out of them?

I’ve found over the years that improvisation provides some of the most satisfying moments for me — particularly in outdoors situations. Just recently at a winter camp, I trekked into the woods on snowshoes to be the “lost” party in a search and rescue exercise. They were expecting me to start out along a path we had snowshoed the night before — but I changed the rules a little. Instead I walked up the road in boots about half a kilometre and then entered the forest directly there on snowshoes in deep snow. A found a rock outcropping overseeing the immediate area, but fairly far from the original path the Scouts would surely follow, and cleared enough snow to make a fire. All I brought with me was a box of matches, a plastic garbage bag, some nylon rope, and a walkie talkie on which to communicate with the other Scout leader Steve. While they roared off in the wrong direction, I scavenged deadwood from the immediate area, and using some resin filled evergreen branches, was able to get a fire going. My plan was to make it easier for them by seeing the smoke (which they never did). With the materials I improvised a very comfortable chaise lounge. One snowshoe I placed flat on the snow at the edge of the fire-pit (the depth of the pit gave me adequate leg-room), and flush against two saplings about 1½ feet apart, and the second I lashed to the saplings as a back-rest. Then, with the plastic bag as a seat-cover to keep me dry, I sat and enjoyed the morning sunshine, warm and toasty by the fire.

They had no clue where I was, so I called on the walkie talkie and determined where they were. I knew they needed to back-track so I told them to do so, and then in about ten minutes to call me again. When they did, I told the five of them to holler as loud as they could. I heard them very faintly , but enough to get a bearing on them relative to the sun. I relayed the information that they needed to travel in the direction of the sun directly at their backs. They couldn’t do that exactly and followed the trail back. We used this audible technique a number more times, and finally I gave them a due East bearing from the trail. For a while they couldn’t hear me (one voice), but once they did they zeroed in quickly. As the snow was really deep, I was surprised however to see they didn’t bring their snowshoes. “We didn’t think we’d need them”. I laughed. My rescuers were bedraggled and tired, boots full of snow, while I was “suffering” from my “injuries” by the fire in creature comfort.

My proudest moment though this year was the fall camp where it poured non-stop. So badly that some troops left. A had stayed at the base station doing warrant work (teaching kids how to use knives — no, not throwing them), and realized that the hiking party would be getting back cold, wet, and miserable. So I suggested to the other leaders we should start a fire if for no other reason than morale. We had a tarp up for one of the stations, but needed to get it higher to put a fire under, so we tipped a picnic table against a large tree and used it as a ladder to gain height. After tying off the heightened tarp, we then took the picnic table and set it against the fire pit we had built as a drying station. Additionally I crossed a bunch of ropes about five feet over the fire, and presto-– we now also had a make-shift laundry. Sure enough the kids returned and gladly huddled around that fire. And we dried enough clothes so they could go to bed dry (important for keeping warm) and stay overnight.

I love improvising, and I hope some of it rubs off on the kids. In trading, the great improvisers use liquidity and correlation well. If a set of conditions would move say five or six markets in a particular way, then good traders will take positions in multiple to markets to mask their overall movement, create liquidity for themselves, diversify to some extent, lock in profits, and/or to trade themselves out of a bind. I’m sure many traders here have improvised their way to profits or out of a jam — and that there are some great stories.


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