Getting off the Rope

By Jake Kirpes

Sometimes no matter our personal skill, strength of our team, or knowledge of our current field, there’s just one way to overcome what’s challenging us.

Rope handsDuring an intensive leadership training camp in college my fellow Resident Assistants-in- training and I were progressing through a series of rope course challenges. By working together, rotating leadership roles to match strengths to each challenge, and growing as a team we had strung together a series of successful solutions. With confidence growing, we found ourselves blindfolded and marching along a wooded path.

Arriving at the next challenge, we remained blindfolded while our guide dispersed the group along a spider web maze of waist-high rope. Our guide presented the rules of the challenge: we were allowed to talk and ask each other questions but had to leave one hand on the rope until we found a way off the end of the rope.

Confident in our abilities, our group set about exploring the maze with our hands, calling out junctions of rope crossings, and working together to find the way off the rope. When the solution didn’t become apparent in the first 5 minutes team members began allocating themselves to junctions to help mark paths and find the exit. Five minutes later, the calm confidence began to erode, while tensions and volume began to rise.

In the next five minutes, all semblance of a unified team was fragmented with each member attempting to set their own direction and many questioning, loudly, if there even was a way off the rope at all. As my personal frustration and conviction no exit existed was reaching new heights, it was announced someone had found their way off the rope and sent onto the next challenge.

Renewing my search in earnest, I sought be to second off the rope. Ten minutes later, I was second to last still on. Feeling overwhelmed at the circumstance and convinced I had been over every inch many times, I stopped searching for a way off and, talking to myself, said loudly in frustration, “I need help”.  A second later I felt a touch on my shoulder and the guide spoke in my ear, “congratulations you’re off the rope”.

A powerful lesson. Sometimes the best way (and perhaps even the only way) to overcome a challenge is to ask for help.

Think through your own life and work. Is there something you’ve been putting off or been unable to resolve for far longer then you care to admit? Perhaps it’s time to ask for help.


Jake Kirpes is a Business Strategist & Engineer at TPG Companies. He’s a  team leader who excels at working with organizations and their leaders to identify, develop, and convert market opportunity to business success. And he’s learned to ask for help.

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About Paul Kirpes, TPG Companies

For over 35 years, Paul J. Kirpes, Founder and President of TPG Companies, has transformed businesses, corporations, communities, and ventures in the private and public sectors throughout the U.S. as well as internationally. Paul empowers companies, their owners, and leaders to Transform, Perform and Grow!
This entry was posted in Leadership, Strategy, Team Leadership/Management and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Getting off the Rope

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