I had a wonderful weekend. My daughters and I canoed part of Nebraska’s beautiful Niobrara River Saturday. It was cold. We got pounded by a prairie thunderstorm Friday night just as Rita was coming ashore down in Texas. Saturday night, the storms were even worse. Over 1.5 inches of rain and vicious lightning is an exciting event in a tent. Lying on your back in a sleeping bag while torrents of water pound on the thin wall of the tent and lightning flashes all around make you feel as if you should DO SOMETHING. Anything. It’s tempting to panic, or run to the car and head to the Holiday Inn Express you passed 15 miles before the campground. But, we endured. We sang "Amazing Grace" at the top of our lungs and we lived to sing another day.
Reflecting about the canoe trip on the way home, I thought that perhaps there were some lessons to be learned about running a business.
There’s a reason for a ship (yes, even a canoe) having only one captain. Dad sits in the back of the canoe so he can steer and keep an eye on (manage) the crew and passengers. If he is derelict in his duties, the canoe will invariably end up sideways in the current or stuck on a sandbar. Even if he is just eating some trail mix or snapping a picture.
Forget it. It’s a canoe, not a bass-boat with a 200-hp outboard. Keep your eye down-river and react BEFORE you get to the splashing water. The splashing water is 3-feet DOWNSTREAM from the rock. The splashing water is reacting to the rock. You must act way before you get to the rock. When you see the signs of the rock (splashing water) make sure you are not headed for it. If you wait until you get to the splashing water, you will already have hit the rock. Ouch.
OK, we listened to the audio version of "Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy" on our way to the canoe adventure. But it’s excellent advice. Someone on the canoe (probably the youngest, most inexperienced person) will panic when the canoe hits the rock. They will also panic when the canoe wobbles because the captain needs to re-adjust his underwear after sitting on the canoe seat for 2 hours. They must be calmed. The panic must not be allowed to dictate direction. The focus must be in getting off the rock (or getting the underwear adjusted) and not on the panickier.
Above all, remember that life and business are just like a canoe trip. If you are always watching for the splashing water, you’ll miss the scenery. If you spend too much time on the scenery, you’ll never get anywhere. If you are too aggressive about adjusting your underwear, you might tip the canoe and dump the passengers. (fortunately, this didn’t happen) Strive for Balance.