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Friday, March 23, 2012

Hanging In and Letting Go

Subtitle: Life and Leadership Lessons from White-water Rafting.

White Water Rafting

One of my favorite activities is white-water rafting. I don’t get to go very often any more, but my favorite place is The Gauley River when the dam is open in early October. If you haven’t been, you must put this on your “bucket list”…but I digress.

Cold, bracing air, water as far as the eye can see, trees, eagles, and the rapids! Tons of rapids. You and your paddle. Man, what a rush!! You, and your little paddle, and your helmet and life jacket, in a little rubber raft of strangers.

Rules of engagement

They give a 15 minute drill before you and your boat mates embark on your journey downriver. And, this is a lesson in follow-ship. Yes, follow-ship, not leadership. People die on the river; not often, but it happens. The discussion is about paddle strokes, paddling together, losing your paddle, leaning to shift the weight in the raft so that it doesn't capsize, saving a “man” overboard, being the "man" overboard, and finally, what to do if you are floating away downriver separated from the boat.

When you are surrounded by the roar of the rapids, looking at the next BFR (big freaking rock) that you are heading toward, water splashing everywhere it is very easy to get caught up in the moment. You become so focused on doing your part of the job, moving in rhythm with your mates, and getting the boat down river safely with all of your teammates (and sometimes your children) still inside the boat, that you forget the rules.

The Paddle Doesn't Care

When the paddle gets knocked from your hand, your first response is to quickly get it back. Get it back and get back in sync with everyone else. Become one with the team again, because that’s what good and loyal team members do.

But in that critical moment, as you are reaching well over the side of the boat, starting to feel your feet slip as the whole boat shifts with the unbalanced weight, and the paddle teases you just out of reach of your fingertips…you remember. You remember the rules, and you remember to think.

Is it worth everything?

Is your life worth the paddle that is drifting away of its own accord, unencumbered by your worries?

Is everything that you have invested in a situation worth your sanity, well-being, or even your life?

Sometimes in life, just like on the river, all we can hope to do is figure out how to keep “hanging in and letting go.” Often situations or people are just outside of our reach for “correction,” “fixing,” or making everything alright. It’s a bumpy ride. Its hard work, and sometimes a heart-breaker.

So, what can we do?
  • Stop, and...
  • Breathe.
  • Remember to think outside of the emotional storm.
  • Let go of what you can.
  • Hang in; help where and in ways that you can.
  • In time we will be okay - and safe.

What do you need to let go of to move forward?

You have to have a plan:

What specific step(s) are you going to take to start the process?

photo credit: http://is.gd/b7lx09

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