Tag : kayaking

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148: 5 Business Lessons From a River at Flood Stage

My regular clients can tell you that the weather has affected my office hours a few times this year. It happened again last Wednesday. I got a morning text message from one of my kayaking buddies. He was getting off work at 4 o’clock and wanted to know if I wanted to take the risk with him to drive up into the mountains and see if the Tye River was “runnable.”

Our area had received a lot of rain over a three-day span, and it was finally starting to affect the river gauges downstream of where we like to run. It would take scouting our preferred section in-person to know the practical volume of the water. We wouldn’t know until we got next to the river whether or not the flow was within or above my current abilities. That section of river is out of cell phone range and almost an hour’s drive from my house.

It was a risk I was willing to take.

I hurried to shovel all of the urgent design off my desk in time to mount the kayak on the car, assemble all my cold weather gear, and meet Johnny at the rendezvous.

As I neared the takeout parking area, the river criss-crossed beneath the bridges of the two-lane road. Though rain was pelting my windshield, I could see clearly that the river was very high and moving fast. It seemed to have risen enough to cover most of the rocks. I wondered if that would make it safer or more dangerous than the levels I had attempted in the past—levels which required the most technical paddling I’ve done in a kayak to date.

The short answer: more dangerous. While the volume did create bigger cushions for obstacles, it made the river too fast to make any mistakes. You had to make the right reads and then the right moves with split-second, instinctive decisions. Come out of your boat once, and you might never see it (or your paddle) again.

That was a risk I was willing to take.

If another kayaker tried to chase my abandoned kayak, though, it could put his safety and equipment at risk. That wasn’t something I wanted. So, wisdom prevailed. I volunteered to shuttle the experienced kayakers, so they could paddle the run a couple times. I stopped Johnny’s truck at points where the river neared the road to capture video of their fun and got to see them play limbo under the Route 56 bridge. They finished their second run in the foggy darkness that follows dusk. Johnny said, “If it weren’t for the actual whitewater, we wouldn’t have known where to paddle.”

Because of their expertise, they got to experience an adrenaline-fueled accomplishment.

Tye River Mist
On the drive home alone, I reflected on the evening. I wanted a lesson to take with me, since I didn’t get to add this grand adventure to my life story.

I thought about the times in life where I had bitten off more than I could chew. Most of those came with regret. Underserved or offended clients I’ll never win back. Personal relationships that have withered. Tens of thousands of dollars lost from mistakes. Embarrassing race results. Debates I wasn’t ready to engage.

Then, I started thinking about the auction industry I serve. I don’t have enough fingers to count the times a client has tried a project I’ve wondered if they should’ve declined. Those are the times when I get this phone call or email: “Hey, I’ve got this auction. I’ve never sold one of these before. How would you market it?” They’re hoping I’ve helped another auction company sell something similar.

When I suggest partnering with a reputable company that specializes in their conundrum, I’ve yet to hear, “That’s a great idea.” There’s a rampant belief that bid callers can sell anything, that an auction is a universal panacea. Auction marketers who know the idiosyncrasies of one or several asset categories assume they can keep adding more.

Never mind that the more areas in which someone claims to specialize, the less specialization they can actually claim. There’s a large chance—especially with absolute auctions—to seriously damage someone’s financial situation or to waste weeks of work on a no sale.

Sometimes, it’s not a new asset class or geographic area that proves to be the big stretch. It could be the seller situation, the legal hoops, unfavorable public perception, or something else. You know what it is when you see it, just like I knew that the Tye River’s flood waters were out of my league.

We can still try to learn and grow and chase adventures or accomplishment. We just need to do so wisely.

1. Learn alongside people with more experience.

Swallow your pride. Trust a worthy guide. Share your commission instead of settling for a small one or losing it altogether.

2. Let someone else risk their boat.

If your competition wants to carry the stress and worry and hassle, that means they aren’t working on the easier deals you can take.

3. Choose incremental stretches.

Graduate one grade at a time. Enjoy each level of improvement and gained skills. Remember that those child prodigies attending Ivy League universities typically don’t have great dating, sports, or extracurricular lives.

4. Gain trust through your unselfishness.

Refer clients to their best option, and they’ll remember you for sacrificial candor. That rarely goes unrewarded.

5. Understand that wisdom often hides within restraint.

Sometimes, the braver choice is the one to walk away. At times, it’s better to learn lessons from someone else’s mistakes—and even their successes—than to experience them first-hand. I’ve regretted far more projects I’ve taken than those I didn’t.

Someday, I’ll be able to successfully market more asset categories well than I do now. Someday, I’ll run class IV or V rapids in my creek boat. When those days finally arrive, though, I want to experience them with fewer regrets. Something tells me I won’t regret passing on running the Tye River at flood stage last Wednesday—or the professional equivalents that seduce me just as much.

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147: Band-Aids and the Big Bang Theory

Three weeks ago, I punctured my right palm while kayaking. The next week, I wore a bunch of skin off a finger on the same hand during—of all things—a golf mishap. It has hurt to lift weights, to accept a hand shake, and at times even to wash my hands.

I’ve gone through a lot of Band Aids.

The other day, as I was applying a fresh bandage, I was struck by the idea that I expect my hand to heal itself. I saw the issue of my cells regenerating and my skin replacing itself as a matter of when, not if.

Over the last few decades, I’ve watched my body heal itself after a double hurnea operation and shoulder impingement surgery. To date, I’ve recovered from influenza, bronchitis, pneumonia, sun poisoning, a cracked rib, a broken finger, a strained psoas, multiple sprained joints, a neck wrenched with torticollis, and more cuts & bruises than I can remember. Thanks to sports injuries, I’ve needed massage and physical therapy multiple times in the past few years alone. I’ve wondered several times what my physical existence would look like at this point in my life, if I had lived two hundred or two thousand years ago.

Modern medicine and the science behind it have allowed me to live a life with as few ramifications for my physical mishaps and misfortunes as possible. I’ve not soaked in the wonder of that often enough. On a daily basis, I’ve taken that gift for granted.

I call it a gift, because I believe there’s a giver. Even though it disqualifies me as a voice of reason in our culture, I find intelligent design behind every little marvel of our planet and its surroundings. There is an incredible display of diversity and serendipity in a world where the pragmatism of chance and adaptation wouldn’t need such creativity.

With the billions of dollars spent annually on medical research, it seems lost on most of us—me included—how much work evolutionists are doing to prove that we can’t reliably and sustainably be made whole or wholer, if you will, by beneficial mutations and freak anomalies. The more the scientific community collectively learns, the more patterns and order they find. Ironically, scientists who believe that everything is the result of unfathomable chance spend their lives proving that observable occurrences in the natural world follow predictable patterns.

Chance isn’t working with omniscience or omnipotence. Neither is our will. Few people, if any, can will their bodies to healing—for cancer or AIDS to disappear, for tissue to regenerate, for chemical imbalances to correct themselves, for lost senses to be restored. While lifestyle choices do determine a large portion of deaths in the world, you’d be hard pressed to say that natural selection is systematically weeding only the weak.

There are answers out there that trump chance and mere survival. That’s part of why we need science and its role in modern medicine. Neither academic medicine nor commercial research has found all of our needed solutions yet, but we know more each day than the day prior. Scientific medicine has righted a lot of its former wrongs and not just a long time ago—like the recent discovery that the source of ulcers is not stress or acid but bacteria. On the aggregate, most of the global population now enjoys a longer life expectancy and a better quality of life.

Standup comedian, Nate Bargatze, jokes in his Comedy Central special that scientists can constantly update their declarations without repercussions for the past scientists who got it wrong. Because science (and medicine with it) is seen as a series of substituting discoveries, there is an inherent belief about science that it’s not always right and that it’s definitely not finished. Everyone knows there’s more out there to know.

Academics and researchers who know there’s a lot they can’t yet prove with observational science ridicule people with spiritual or mystical suppositions that they can’t prove with science. That street runs both ways, too—with religious people discounting science’s yet-unprovable assumptions, when we have a good number of our own.

Observational science will never solve the origin debate, because no present or future generation has the ability to observe it or consult with someone who might have observed it. Neither camp can or ever will reproduce that initial moment on the same scale that they believe it happened. Those who believe in chance and those who believe in design are both looking at the same evidence and making different assumptions on that evidence.

To some extent, debate about origin is healthy. For me, though, it’s more productive to discuss our motivations for research—our primal hopes and unavoidable biases. People of religious faith explore to discover more evidence of a supreme being with incredible forethought, a source to which we owe our lives. People of humanistic faith research to prove that humanity is self-sufficient and unaccountable to anything beyond ourselves. Intelligent design says, “We can (or will someday) be healed.” Evolution asserts, “We can (or will someday) heal ourselves.” Creationists hope to find meaning by exterior infusion. I assume that those who ascribe to Darwin’s overarching ideas seek to create their own purpose for existence.

While science may not be able to unite us, it should be a common and ardent pursuit for everyone. Both worldviews should push us to explore the cosmos around us and the portion of infinity that lives inside us. All of us should ask why as we research how. And we all should find wonder in the small things we previously took for granted—like the hydrologic cycle and the colors of fall foliage, symbiotic species and biodiversity. Or maybe just how our body heals itself in the right conditions.

I hope that wonder leads you where it leads me. If it doesn’t, I’d really love to know where it does lead you and how it inspires you.

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