Respect, don't mistreat or obey the sign.


The irony of this sign is as rich and non-nonsensical as a Zen koan. If you haven't been respecting the signs, why would you respect a sign that told you to respect it? 

However, it's useful to keep this sign in mind in the wilderness. Known decision-making traps like Confirmatory Bias (ignoring observations because they don’t fit a known pattern or desired result) and Illusory Correlation (assuming an isolated event is representative of a pattern or class of events) incorporate observations (signs) into our decision.

In a Baja sea kayaking example, if fishing boats are getting off the water, pelicans have stopped flapping their wings, and cat's paws are turning to whitecaps—these are signs. Respect them.

Risk Mindfulness involves taking perspective and analyzing whether or not our filters or biases are impacting our ability to absorb objective information.


A common tool used to help outdoor leaders maintain situational awareness is the “risk-management triangle.” In the center of the triangle are the human factors; on the triangle’s three sides are the significant environmental factors.

NOLS has adapted the risk-management triangle for different activities like sea kayak expeditions. Risk-assessment tools can help you maintain situational awareness but only if you can maintain your mindfulness.