Whitewater, Your Business, and Your Life

I am grateful for the lessons learned in the wonders of nature…

My sweetheart and I went whitewater canoeing in Narrowsburg, NY two weeks ago. This was my first time in whitewater. For me, being in nature and exploring new adventures brings growth. The uncertainties of an unknown deep forest path, a challenging mountainous hike – and now whitewater – allow me to go deeper into my strength and to know myself better.

Delaware River: still watersImagine a peaceful day as the sun is reflecting on the calm waters of Delaware River. A family of ducks is dancing to the symphony created by the birds, insects, and the wind. You are paddling your canoe and soaking in the beauty all around; everything is calm and at peace. All of a sudden you hear the sound of rushing water, and your heart gains a beat. And then…

You experience for the first time what being in the rapids feel like. There are rocks everywhere, the water is powerfully rushing forward, with you on it, and you barely know which way to sit and which way to steer, because anything can turn the canoe over or cause it to flood with the onslaught of water.

My experience was that I felt a gushing of blood throughout my body and my head screaming “What did you say YES to?”, but along with that came the feeling of excitement and challenge. I wanted it to end, but I knew we were in the middle of this event, and we were the only ones who could get us through to the other side, where peace reigned.

As this was happening I took a deep breath in, needing to be present to make the right decisions. That also brought to me the awareness that I was not alone. If my partner and I communicated calmly and clearly we would win this race against the rapids, as a team.

We needed to encourage each other and to do our responsibilities in the best way possible. I was to detect the rocks so that we would not get stuck or have a strong collision, and David who could see the wider view would guide the canoe, using my rock-avoidance instructions, so that we could move forward.

Delaware River rapidsDespite our best alertness, we did get stuck against a large rock, and the water pressure prevented us from simply pushing ourselves around that rock. We were stuck, and water started to enter the canoe. First David got out of the boat and stood on the slippery rock and pushed the boat, but that was still not enough to free up the boat due to the intense pressure.

Can you picture this scene? I started to get out as well, onto that slippery rock, but fortunately putting one foot on the rock released enough pressure, and now the boat could move! My teammate managed to jump back in the boat, and we were off. Sure, the boat had taken on some water, but we did not sink!

The struggle was temporary, and after some less powerful rapids, we were on the other side, and the calm waters and the stillness with all its glory was waiting for us.

While in the middle of those rapids, as well as some lesser ones that we also faced further down the river, I had to be present to skillfully manage the planning for the direction to take, and to paddle in order to move forward without tipping the canoe and without major collisions with rocks. It was afterwards as we were in the calm waters again that I could draw the analogy of “whitewaters” to life and business.

Mild white waterSometimes we are in the middle of significant challenges in life generally, or in business, but working with focus and confidence, both as an individual and as a team, is a growth experience. If managed well, it builds confidence, as well as closeness and mutual trust.

Experiential travel like this whitewater adventure is awe-inspiring, soul-stirring, heart-opening, fun, and life changing. Pushing one’s limits in order to achieve a desirable goal, and doing so as part of a team effort, is exhilarating. Those on your team with you, and yourself, can all take inspiration in experiences of shared effort and overcoming obstacles. I know that sounds like a cliché, but I was reminded of the fundamental truth to that message by my visceral experience in the Delaware River.

Perhaps you feel that way too — that exploring new environments and experiences that support growth can open doors to more meaning in life, more confidence, and in general, more well-being.

I invite you to travel with me to the beautiful, inspiring Azores Islands, located between North American and Europe, to awaken yourself in the wonders of nature, under the leadership of myself and my partner in this adventure, Christine Neve. While we will not be facing whitewater there, there will multiple opportunities to grow into a stronger, clearer you!