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Reclaiming One’s Freedom After Being Trapped in a Cage

Reclaiming One’s Freedom After Being Trapped in a Cage

In the shadowy recesses of an undisclosed European enclave, we were ensnared in the allure of beta-testing a newly created escape room. This adventure sought to unravel the mysteries of its intricate puzzles and technological marvels, tailored for English-speaking escapees.

 Within this immersive realm, reminiscent of past escapades, we were thrust into a divide at the outset, one ensnared within the confines of a forbidding cage, not even as big as a typical jail cell. Traditionally, our singular mission would be liberation, prioritizing the release of the captive comrade over all else. Yet, as the narrative unfolded, the participant initially confined to the cage – their identity veiled to preserve anonymity (and momentary stupidity) – embarked on a swift survey of their incarceration. Failing to uncover a clue within, their focus shifted outward, pleading with the other partner to help release them.

 Minutes stretched into eternity as attempts to unlock the cage ensued until a glitch in one of the puzzles prompted the game master’s intervention, resetting the scene. Amidst the shuffle, roles reversed, granting the previously free escapee a chance to scour their cell. In a breathtaking revelation, a map materialized, hidden within the cell, paving the swift path to emancipation. Of course, there was a bit of teasing since the previous cage inhabitant missed a pretty obvious clue.

 From this immersive odyssey, a profound truth emerged, echoing through the chambers of the escape room and beyond the imperative of introspection. The erstwhile prisoner’s journey is a potent reminder to seek answers within rather than casting blame or seeking salvation externally. Let this tale of confinement and liberation serve as a call to action, beckoning all who feel ensnared by life’s trials to introspect and reclaim agency. In the shadows of our own captivity, may we find the keys to unlock our boundless potential.

Go Team! Save the World Twice in One Afternoon!

Go Team! Save the World Twice in One Afternoon!

The following is a guest blog submitted by Stephanie Farlow.

Imagine it—you’ve entered a dark room with a light bulb flickering somewhere in the distance. To your left is a TV/VCR combo that, in its day, was the height of technology. It is one of many rooms in this homicidal adventure. You must survive to save the world from a computer virus that will end technology as we know it, then steal from a pirate as the ultimate prize.

Can you accomplish all this on your own? Would you even want to? Is it better with others, a.k.a. a group – or best with a team?

Escape rooms offer a thrilling adventure, a unique opportunity to delve into the dynamics of a team within a fun, safe, and engaging environment. It’s a chance to witness our reactions under pressure. While escape rooms are primarily for entertainment and a way to escape from the day-to-day happenings of our lives (pun intended), some puzzles are challenging. They can elicit stress reactions in us (some more than others – but that’s a topic for another blog ). Escape rooms provide an opportunity to be aware of our reactions and discuss them in a post-adventure chat with our trusted team members.

The word “team” is often overused, diluting its meaning and importance. I cringe when I hear organizational clients constantly use “team” when we all know it’s really a group. What’s the difference, you ask?

In my experience having worked in organizations and being a consultant in the organizational and talent development space, a team encompasses the following critical elements:

  1. Operating with a growth mindset,
  2. Genuine care and concern amongst the members and feeling safe with them, and
  3. Common goal(s) and no hidden agendas.

 In a singular afternoon, the three of us had to save the world twice – and be rewarded for it! We had to embody these three elements to truly be a team and leverage one another’s cognitive skills to solve those puzzles! There’s no way we could have accomplished these tasks on our own – with plenty of time to spare. The success we achieved as a team in the escape room underscored the importance of teamwork and the critical elements that make it successful.

What does “team” mean to you? What are the critical elements you need to be a successful team member? How can you be an effective team leader who creates this team “feel”? I invite you to reflect on these questions and share your insights as we delve deeper into the importance of teamwork and the critical elements that make it successful.

Determined to Survive the Apocalypse

Determined to Survive the Apocalypse

​In the heart of an enigmatic European landscape, we embarked on a thrilling escape from a post-apocalyptic vault, daring to rescue humanity (you owe us one!). Despite the company’s booking stipulating a minimum of three participants, we defiantly signed up as a duo, gambling on the chance they might accommodate us upon arrival.

 Upon entering, our game master embarked on an impassioned soliloquy, her emotions palpable as she recounted her own harrowing experience attempting the same challenge with just two players. Despite her heartfelt plea for reconsideration, we remained resolute in our decision.

 Undeterred, we plunged into the depths of the adventure, braving the perils of the vault, toppling malevolent robots, and navigating a treacherous maze of sewers (thankfully devoid of their characteristic stench). Yet, amidst the adrenaline-fueled triumphs, frustrations arose as our game master faltered in her role, inadvertently disrupting our progress with untimely hints.

 Nevertheless, the experience proved enlightening, underscoring the profound truth that individual perspectives can drastically shape shared encounters. We departed with newfound wisdom, emphasizing the importance of forging our own paths and refraining from allowing our own or others’ setbacks to dictate our journey. Let this escapade serve as a testament: perseverance prevails in the pursuit of our ambitions.

Surviving the Slaughterhouse: Lessons Learned Inside the Home of a Murderous Butcher

Surviving the Slaughterhouse: Lessons Learned Inside the Home of a Murderous Butcher

The following is a guest blog written by Stephanie Hubka of ProtosLearning.com

The room was pitch black; my flashlight had mysteriously turned off when I needed it the most. From behind me, a voice growled, “You’ll never get out in time.” I rolled my eyes and fumbled toward the doorway, aware of how my heart had settled into a steady, measured rhythm. “That’s what you think,” I muttered. Despite the dark, success was the only option I could see.

Far from my typical days as an instructional designer, I found myself voluntarily trapped in the home of a notorious butcher in a desperate attempt to confirm his identity before he struck again—and if he did, it could be at my expense. Partnered with two of my brilliant friends turned investigators, we had just 60 minutes to solve puzzle after puzzle, each one bringing us closer to the escape we desperately wanted.

As we entered the butcher’s home, we shared a singular focus, but with no time to strategize, I wondered how I might best contribute to our work. It quickly became clear that if we were to outwit the butcher, I needed to know when to lead and when to follow. It was tempting to rush in and begin moving items around, searching for patterns or clues in a way that made sense to me. If I were alone in the room, that strategy might have been successful, but with two team members bringing their own skills to the task, it became essential that we find ways to build on each other’s successes. When one person worked on a puzzle, I focused my attention elsewhere to avoid duplicating efforts, and we gave each other space to make mistakes and reach conclusions as experts in the tasks we tackled. When someone had a breakthrough, I was quick to learn about it and think of ways it might impact my work—and when I had a breakthrough, I readily shared that information so we could move forward as a team. Each of us had a few celebratory moments while searching for the butcher’s identity, all because we were willing to lead where we could and follow when someone else more clearly saw the path in front of us.

There was much to see, do, and process while locked in the butcher’s house. It would have been easy to let our dwindling time take up valuable space in my brain. Instead, I focused on my experience instead of the clock. It’s so easy to get distracted when the pressure starts to build; our internal voices can be the first to plant the seeds of doubt. I was only a little surprised to hear an external voice echo the same doubt I was trying to bury when I was alone in a dark room. At that moment, I had two choices: I could give into the fear or leverage my confidence. The latter helped me recenter, focus, and return to contributing to the challenges we faced. The benefits were instantly noticeable when I did: my heart rate lowered, my senses sharpened, and my brain felt sharp instead of cloudy. When our team ultimately found success and escaped what would have been a gruesome demise, we still had time on the clock. All of us found the confidence we needed to get the job done.

Fortunately, I don’t battle against murderous butchers regularly, but I discovered that thriving in that environment isn’t as different from thriving at work as I might have thought. Escape rooms are an incredible way to test your boundaries, strengthen your skills, and identify new talents. They can also provide valuable lessons long after the final clue is deciphered. When I experience contentious conversations or find myself up against challenging deadlines, I take time to center, focus, prioritize, and let others take the lead when they have more information than I do. I’m always amazed by how much easier, more productive, and more fun work is when I apply those key takeaways in the real world.

How do you decide when to lead or when to follow? What techniques are used to center yourself when internal or external voices threaten your focus? You never know when the answer to these questions might save your workday or life from a notorious butcher!

The Dual Nature of Anticipation in a Secret Gallery

The Dual Nature of Anticipation in a Secret Gallery

As we penetrated deeper into the labyrinthine corridors of the mansion, the secret gallery whispered its secrets from the shadows. Our sources had been adamant: the magical stones of untold power lay within these ancient walls. Time was not our ally; it raced against us with the relentless tick of a clock in an empty room.

Navigating through the mansion was like wading through the cluttered mind of an eccentric genius – a chaotic amalgam of brilliance and madness. Every room was a trove of mysteries, each artifact a potential clue. The omnipresent question haunted us: were we mere steps away from our goal, or did an endless maze of deception lie ahead?

In one dimly lit corner, a faint outline suggested a hidden door. Was this a gateway to our prize, or just another intricate ruse of the mansion’s enigmatic creator? Doubt and anticipation waged war in our minds, a maelstrom clouding our focus. Then, an alcove unveiled itself as if by fate, a beacon of hope in our dimming quest. It was a pivotal moment, realigning our path with the stones’ elusive trail. To our surprise, we were much further along than we had dared to hope. Finally, with the stones securely in our grasp and the malevolent mansion receding into the night, a wave of relief enveloped us. The ordeal was over, and we escaped just in the nick of time.

This escape room adventure mirrors the dual nature of anticipation. When we anticipate joyous events – like a long-awaited vacation or a celebration – it fills us with energy and positive emotions, casting aside anxiety and stress. But the anticipation of less desirable outcomes – be it a daunting job interview or a challenging social event – can have the opposite effect, amplifying our stress and potentially clouding our judgment.

Often, we find ourselves fixated on the worst-case scenarios, especially in situations shrouded in uncertainty. This negative anticipation can spiral, potentially manifesting the very outcomes we fear most. It’s a psychological trap, one that can ensnare even the most rational minds. However, there’s a way out of this mental labyrinth. Recognizing and confronting these negative anticipation patterns, we can anchor ourselves in the present moment. Here, in the now, we can reshape our emotions and expectations. Like finding our way through the enigmatic mansion, we can navigate our minds away from the shadows of dread and towards a brighter, more hopeful perspective.

Ultimately, our journey through the escape room adventure – much like our journey through life’s uncertainties – teaches us a valuable lesson. By confronting and overcoming negative anticipation, we can emerge victorious, no matter how winding the path or elusive the goal.

Seeing with New Eyes

Seeing with New Eyes

During our recent escape room getaway, our team returned to an escape room venue we had visited three years prior. Our anticipation was high, fueled by fond memories of its sophistication and fun. With five new rooms to conquer in a single day, our excitement was palpable. Our adventure began by battling phantoms in an abandoned campground, followed by four other captivating yet frustrating challenges. Over dinner, as we discussed our experiences, we realized our heightened expectations were the source of our frustration. Our recollection of enjoyment was genuine, but our perspective had evolved dramatically after tackling some of the world’s most exceptional escape rooms in the following years.

Have you ever revisited a place, situation, or individual, only to perceive them differently after new experiences? This shift in perspective can happen gradually over the years or instantaneously. It might feel unsettling initially, but reflecting on your personal growth and how it reshapes your perceptions can be incredibly enlightening. Consider your journey and how it has informed your outlook—it’s a valuable part of your ongoing development!

Show Appreciation When Accepting an Exclusive Invitation

Show Appreciation When Accepting an Exclusive Invitation

We had received an exclusive invitation to meet the owner of a famous toy store. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the store, we realized something was wrong, and the renowned toy maker had died. His ghost was still present, though, and he invited us to work through a series of delightful challenges to recover a priceless toy. Our adventure took us through an alley, we then shrunk and found ourselves inside an arcade game, and then through the toy maker’s workshop to get all of the necessary objects to locate the secret room in which the priceless toy was located.

We were grateful to have received the invitation that led to this experience. Gratitude is an underrated emotion that can completely change one’s perspective and how one experiences their current reality. We find that the more we look at people, events, and experiences with gratitude, the more precious they become. Where could you use a little more gratitude in your life?

Bring Knee Pads When Traveling Through Time

Bring Knee Pads When Traveling Through Time

We had a serious mission to undertake – the doctor who invented time travel gravely messed up, resulting in chaos in our current timeline. As he traveled through different eras, he inadvertently left bits of the present in the past. Our job was to return to other times in history and retrieve the various objects, returning them to the present and saving the timeline. We started out in an alley and were able to work through a series of puzzles to activate the time machine, finding ourselves crawling through a tunnel and into the days of the caveman. After retrieving an object, we had to crawl through another tunnel and into the Wild West. 

Working through the various eras required a lot of crawling, and none of the time tunnels were outfitted with soft padding. We soon found ourselves with sore and bruised knees. We successfully reset the timeline, leaving the challenge bruised and battered. Lesson learned – we face many challenges in life, and we need to prepare for them as much as possible. It may feel silly bringing knee pads to an escape room experience, just as it may feel silly bringing a certain tool you think you need to work on a project, but you’ll thank yourself later for your amazing foresight.

A Couple of Bumbling Spies Can Still Be Successful

A Couple of Bumbling Spies Can Still Be Successful

We entered the secret location of the evil General under the cover of being pest control technicians. We weren’t aware of what our cover would be before we arrived at the location, so we were scrambling to sound like we knew what we were talking about when we met the guard who would escort us throughout the building. It was an awkward conversation as one of us would take turns attempting to distract the guard while the other would search the room for clues. We were after the blueprints of the secret location so we could scan them, send them back to HQ, and then get out of there before our cover was blown.

We finally got rid of the guard for 30 minutes or so, allowing us to explore the facility further, and we found a missile ready to launch, with its destination being our HQ. After a few failed attempts at disarming it, we successfully disarmed it and fled the location before being captured. While we felt we weren’t being the most effective spies, we still got the job done. This parallels life when there are times when we don’t feel like we’re being successful at whatever we’re attempting, but as long as we get the job done, we should be proud that we persevered and finished.

Staying Calm When Your Partner is About to be Electrocuted

Staying Calm When Your Partner is About to be Electrocuted

We found ourselves in another asylum. This was different because they were experimenting on how willing people were to electrocute a test subject in the other room to escape. We worked through various challenges and found ourselves in an electrocution chamber. We realized that we were now part of the experiment and had to find a way out before the next group electrocuted one of us.

The atmosphere was intense as we could see the other people working their way through the challenges we had just completed and were attempting to complete our own before they succeeded in throwing the final switch, which would electrocute one of us currently strapped into a chair. To make matters worse, there was an urgent whispering voice telling us what needed to be done, loud music, and lights flashing. All of these were cultivated by the experimenters to create anxiety, taking away from the ability to focus and work through the tasks at hand.

Being experienced escapeletes, we knew that we needed to stay calm, shut out the distractions, and take the time to think through what needed to be done to escape. We succeeded just minutes before one of us met our untimely doom! We realized this was yet another reminder to stay calm and focused when there appears to be chaos around us, perhaps a looming deadline, an overwhelming task list, or whatever else a typical day throws at us. When we can take a moment to step out of the chaos and change our mindset, it is amazing how the clarity and focus gained can help us accomplish what we need.