Friday, December 23, 2011

Lessons From The River

With some time off during the Holidays, I recall a talk given by Jack Roberts, Executive Director of the MHSAA some years ago. Over the previous summer he and his wife had spent five days rafting the Salmon River across Idaho, from almost the Montana border to almost the Oregon border, 85 miles in all. At the conclusion of his trip, he brought back from the river three things:  a black eye; poison ivy, and three teachable moments that he shared.

The first teachable moment was this.  Before the group “put in” – that is, put the rafts in the water – they were told to “point positive.”  They were told when in the lead raft to point not at the trouble – not at the rock or hole in the water before them – but to point away from the trouble.  Their path would show those who follow the better way to go, not the way not to go. What solid leadership tips! Show the good course, point out the better way, point to the good example and emphasize the good and the positive more than the negative. Point positive.

The second lesson from the river rafting, which Mr. Roberts readily admitted he did not appreciate until suffering the shiner, is that one must pull the deepest in the most turbulent waters.  One must paddle the hardest when the waves are the largest. If you cease paddling in the rough waters, the boat swamps.  If you pull hard, you can reach the top of the waves or pull through the waves and successfully navigate the rapids.  You survive the troubled times by working, not resting. This was another tremendous tip for both our personal and professional lives?  Pull hardest and dig deepest in the most difficult times.

The third lesson from the river was that when the rapids end, you need a breather; you need to “eddy out.”  An eddy is the quiet water behind the rocks where your boat can sit safely, without moving, as the river’s fast current races by. It is the place to rest, to gather yourself, to collect people and paddles if you had a spill.  It’s the place to recall past adventures, to plan for the next adventure and to prepare for the next rough water. We all need to find some quiet water to eddy out. 

Three lessons from the river:  (1) point positive; (2) pull the hardest and dig the deepest in the toughest times; (3) eddy out after turbulent times to evaluate the past and plan for what’s ahead.

When do you eddy out? Perhaps it can be early in the morning before the day starts or during some quiet time on a Sunday evening? In the summer, perhaps you can spend time at a loved one's lake cottage as I have been privileged to do for the past decade or so?  During the Holidays I for one plan to use the relative calm of fewer calls and emails to eddy out, to evaluate past practices and plan for the upcoming year.

May you and your family enjoy a very happy Holiday Season! 

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