Archive for the ‘ Rafting ’ Category

Changing Course

I’m in the office recounting one of my many river trips on Cataract Canyon. Nothing like the roar of 16 foot waves and an accidental swim to get the blood pumping and to focus the mind. Have you ever planned a course of action, only to discover midway through that life and the elements were taking you in a different direction? Sometimes you need to stick to your guns and push through along the path you planned, and sometimes you need to switch gears and make a new plan. Knowing which time is before you is the great challenge of life.

I was at that crossroads in the rapid named Big Drop 1. I scouted the rapid from shore and plotted my course before shoving off to run the first of a series of three extremely gnarly rapids. I steered the boat through the first waves and set up to avoid a large hole at the bottom of the rapid. En route, I discovered that my boat was too water ladened and the river too swift to execute our escape. Consequently, we were headed straight for the center of a large and ugly-looking wave.  In a panic, I shouted out loud, “Holy s__t; mother of god; this is going to be bad!” This, of course, did not inspire confidence from my four friends in the boat. As we crashed into the hole our boat was twisted sidewise and the wave swept me off my seat and into the water. This left the boat upright, but captainless. One of my co-adventurers grabbed me and plopped me back in the boat. I searched the horizon for where we were headed next and spied “little niagra”, the most dangerous feature at the top of Big Drop 2. Normally, you pull the boat over to scout the next two rapids, but a heavy boat and the loss of time from hanging out in the water made this option impossible. The river was taking us through the next rapid!

I pulled with all my might, but the boat was not budging from its collision course with “little niagra”. I begged Ferryn (the one who plucked me from the water) to jump on the oars and help me maneuver the boat to a safer course. Together, we pulled the boat across the river where I had to make a decision: should we keep pulling to get us to the left side of the “marker” rock (the traditional and most used route) or straighten the boat and take a right run (a non- traditional and more dangerous route)? In a couple of seconds I had to make a decision that would significantly impact the safety of my friends and myself. In Big Drop 1 I had stayed on course and nearly flipped my raft. This time I decided to abandon my initial plan and change course. Fellow rafters have since exclaimed, “nobody takes a right run at Big Drop 2!”. I’ll never know if I had the strength to safely pull our boat to the more traditional path down the rapid.

Business managers and supervisors are constantly plotting courses forward into their future. We face challenging decisions such as when to keep going with a software program that needs configuration and when to scrap it and purchase a new program, or when to keep going with a marketing strategy that isn’t generating the results we want and when to create a new marketing plan. We can use hind sight to evaluate how we performed, but not to determine if another option would have worked out. We all come to crossroads in our lives and face the challenging decision of staying the course or plotting a new one.

The most important thing to do when you come to this point in business, or in your life, is to MAKE A DECISION. Choose a course and allow the consequences to guide your hind-sight evaluation. We regret a “default decision” far more than a conscious decision. When we go into default mode, we tend to bemoan the fact that “I should have done something.” When we make a decision that didn’t work out the way we planned, we tend to exclaim, “I’ll never do that again.” We made it successfully through the rapid, barely kissing the edge of “little niagra”. More importantly, my four friends are still friends.

Authored by: Clare Coonan, LCSW

Clare is a Senior Consultant and one of the founding partners at Five Degrees Consulting.  This is a blog we share  between several of the Consultants at Five Degrees, guest authors and colleagues.  We work with companies large and small on People and Organization strategies.  Our work specializes in organizational development, leadership effectiveness and executive development. With a focus on working with leaders at all levels to create an intentional corporate culture, we help organizations increase employee engagement, energize working teams, develop critical leadership competencies and enhance strategic communications for more information about our services, please connect with us.
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