“Here are a few things you’ll need to know to make your trip down the river as enjoyable as possible,” said the orientation leader. With a flourish that remindded me of a circus ring-leader he began the presentation and my mind began to buzz with applications for our mindset community.
Our first whitewater rafting experience was a combination of excitement, anticipation, anxiety, and possibilities. I’ve spent most of my life on rivers, but never anything like this. I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity to learn available.
At certain points during the instruction phase of the orientation I almost started chuckling because of how perfectly the pointers fit with how we can all approach life. Think about it… most of us approach life with mixed bag of emotions and expectations, but very few ever get any instruction. If you’ll allow me to, I’d like to share a few of the whitewater pointers with you today and how we can apply them to this wild ride of life.
1. Look ahead and plan your route. There will be sections of life that get quick and require your undivided attention. The best way to enjoy these runs is to have an idea of where you’re headed before you get in the middle of it. Take a look down the river and establish a vision of your run.
2. The biggest waves are the safest. This was counter-intuitive to me at first, but it proved to be true. Going into a rapid we were to look around for the biggest waves and to point ourselves right at it. The biggest waves in a rapid indicate the deepest water which allows your raft or kayak to pass through without hitting rocks. Rocks are not your friend.
Just like in life, what might look like an obstacle to the uninitiated can often prove to be the best path. We learned that the smoother waters in a rapid indicated large rocks near the surface and a chance to dump your vessel into the cold water. Don’t automatically think the smooth waters are the best.
3. Big rapids require momentum so don’t stop paddling. We watched dozens of rafts and kayaks of different kinds go through the finish of the section we were going to run. The last drop is a class 3 called Nantahala Falls. It isn’t crazy hard, but 1 out of every 6 that we watched either dumped or had someone tossed out.
My 10 year-old son was able to pick up one of the most common problems after only a few observations. “Why do some of them stop paddling right before the drop?” It was true, especially for solo and tandem boaters. You could watch their hesitation and predict who would be in trouble before they went over. If you’ve worked hard to get through life, don’t let up just as you hit a turbulent stretch. Keep paddling and go for it!
4. If you get thrown out, work aggressively to get back in! One of the points they belabored in the orientation was what to do if you end up in the water. Obviously it happens a lot on the river and in life. The thing that the instructor impressed upon me was the exact way they wanted us to approach the situation if it happened. “If you end up in the water, work AGGRESSIVELY to get back in.”
We’ve all been tossed out at one time or another. The key to making things work best is to get right back in. You can regain momentum and correct your line faster if you work aggressively!
5. When in doubt, get a guide. The final thing that made me smile was how they closed the orientation. “If you are not experienced with whitewater or this section of the river, might we suggest one of our guided or guide assisted trips.” This is exactly what we should do in life!
More often than not, we are headed into areas we don’t know or doing things we’ve never done. It is very important for us to lay aside ego and look around for someone to coach us through. This coaching or mentorship can make all the difference between a successful, joyous experience and ending up all wet and worn out.
Life is an amazing ride and one that we should all take to the limit. Don’t be afraid, mind the instruction, and don’t be afraid to shoot the gaps!
Be your best,