Reflection: My Life Outside

Summer 2022

By Mike Davis
Head of School
Colorado Academy (CO)

For the past 14 years of my headship, the key to sustaining my energy, as well as my commitment to my school, has been to get outdoors—and living in Colorado makes it easy to do the things I love. Any chance I get, I am skiing, rock climbing, mountain biking, fly-fishing, and hiking.
These outdoor pursuits give me time to think—I often return with a new idea for my blog or an address I have to deliver on behalf of the school—and to work through various issues, like how to approach a difficult situation as I mountain bike up a 1,000-foot grind. Many of these activities require focused concentration on only the task at hand. I can’t, for example, be thinking about a tough conversation with an upset parent or a complaint about a school policy when I am skiing down a double black diamond through a cliff band. These moments feed my creativity, relieve stress, and make me better at my job.
I also always have an expedition on the horizon. It’s important to set aside time for some level of personal challenge and growth and an experience that will bring personal joy. Planning trips to amazing locations like the canyon country of southeastern Utah, whether with family, friends, or students, requires careful preparation and research. I look forward to the planning, and I know I have to stay focused on school issues so I’m able get away. Most important is the perspective that such journeys bring. The beautiful sandstone canyons in Utah that were carved out over millions of years or the magnificence of the Rocky Mountains gives me an important outlook on my life and work.
Yes, our work as heads is important—we are responsible for the welfare and education of future leaders. It’s personal because we care deeply about doing the right thing, and difficult issues constantly test us. But there are forces in the world around us that are so much more powerful and impactful. This knowledge helps give me humility. The great outdoors reminds me that my time on Earth is limited, and I want to experience as much as I can. That certainly means diving deeply into my leadership role, but I don’t need to be tethered to my email or cellphone to do my job well. In fact, getting away from the office helps me lead.