Business Lessons from Life Adventures: Rafting

I was recently on a trip with my youngest daughter and her Girl Scout Troop.  I felt like I was hit in the face with all of the lessons and information that I could directly relate to business.  So I have decided to bring a series to you on these ‘ah-ha’s that I experienced.  Look for the title and hashtag, Business Lessons from Life Adventures, to follow this series. 

Then, let me know your lessons that you have learned outside of the office. 

I was 17 years old when I graduated high school.  At the time, in my community, it was customary to take a crazy week to Ocean City, Maryland, get drunk and try not to get arrested. My parents said, ‘no’ to this trip.  So, as an alternative, my friends and I coordinated a camping and white water rafting trip.  I had camped all my life so that was the easy part. I had also canoed all my life, being on and in the water was also very comfortable for me.  The new twist was rafting in white water.   Being the 17 year old know-it-alls that we were, we opted not to get a guide as we rented our equipment and rafts from the local outfitter.  

We must have had a lesson or someone in our group had rafted before so off we went. To make a longer story short, the relevant piece of information here is that our trip went south.  We hit the white water, our raft tipped and people fell out, including me.  Others were pulled back in but I was not. In the chaos, it took a moment for others to realize that I was back peddling for my life in front of a patch of water that would have pulled me down and likely never released me.  When my friends did pull me in I was within seconds of being pulled under.  As I treaded the water vigorously, I knew that death was a possible outcome and I fought against the river and that outcome. 

That was it.  

We made it down the remainder of the river and back to camp.  I never got into a raft again.  I had flashbacks and panic attacks at various points in my life about that moment. White water was not for me.

Until, my 9 year old daughter’s girl scout trip planned a white water trip and my daughter, asked if I would go with her. It was time to confront my fear.  This time however, we would be on a man made course, with all the right gear, and a guide.  At any point, I would only ever a moment away from being pulled ashore if I got into trouble.  How could I show her bravery if I didn’t face this challenge myself?  I decided to go along. 

Each step, listening to the safety talk, getting in the raft, being pulled down stream in the raft, heading towards the rocks and going over turbulent water, was facing that moment decades before all over again and I breathed through it. Lots of deep breaths.  Paddling forward and trusting the safety from which I was operating.  We made our way to a stopping point where we could practice jumping into the moving river.  My daughter raised her hand to jump in. She looked to me.  I would have to jump in, too.  How could I teach her courage if I didn’t jump?

Breathing deeply and reassuring myself, “I am safe here.” I jumped in and let the water carry me then swam to shore. I survived the test.   We made our way through another lap around the white water.  There was another opportunity to stop and this time be allowed to walk into the white water, be pulled through it (and briefly under water), then out into the river and swim again to shore.  Her hand to participate went up.  I knew I had to go, too.  I was afraid and yet even in that fear knew that I had to step into the rushing water and face the churning river ahead.  

I stepped in, the current pulling me towards the rolling white wave, rocks on either side of me.  Feet up! Once my feet left the concrete floor of the river I was whisked rapidly in and then pulled down under.  I held my breath and popped up 3 seconds later, passed the danger and then swam against the current to the shore. 

I did it. 

This time, I got back into the raft and was ready for the next rapid. I even contemplated, although the opportunity never came, to jump out of the raft into the last rapid. 

Decades of reliving a terrifying moment were re-written moment by moment. 

There is a lot to unpack from this experience so I will do it in pieces over the course of several blogs.  Today, I challenge you to consider, what fear are you holding on to from an experience that went badly?  How does that fear shape your decision making today?

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