Friday, October 12, 2012

Or We Don't Go

I was recently speaking with a client who I’m helping get his new business designed and up and running. He “dropped the bomb” saying that he was down to his last $10 and his credit cards were maxed out.

How would you respond to that kind of situation?

First of all, if you plan to just give generic advice then you’re doing that person a disservice. You must see the problem from exactly where that person is, not some canned answer everyone gets.

Second, if you understand where they are personally and what brought them to this point you can start to provide very specific solutions.

So you might be wondering how this fits into a lesson from my river rafting experiences.

Most whitewater rafting opportunities are on rivers that run through narrow canyons. This means the areas for camping and off-river activities are often in small spaces used over and over again by river runners.

So these spaces are in some cases over-used or at least have an unnatural share of human activity during a river running season. For this reason, rules and specific guidelines have been established to minimize the amount of human impact but still balance that with the demand for use on that river.

Since there is a need to balance the desired uses of the river corridor with the need for environmental protection, the most popular whitewater sections of rivers are regulated by a permit system, The permit system usually limits the number of people who can go on the river at any one time as well as throughout the year and enforces specific rules of conduct and the required equipment for the trip.

When you apply for and obtain a permit you essentially promise to abide by the rules governing that permit. If you don’t, you may be heavily fined and may even be banned from applying for a permit in the future.

Most permits require the river users to carry EVERYTHING out and leave nothing behind on the river and especially in the limited spaces for camping. And one of the most serious problems with multi-day trips is the management of human waste. When they say carry everything out, they mean everything!

So who would want the job of taking care of the human waste system that has to be set up and taken down each and every time a group breaks camp and moves downriver? What if as a group we decided we just didn’t want to deal with that part of the trip because it’s not the glamorous and fun part of river running?

Back to my "broke" client: What if the only reason he was not making money in his business was because he had been simply avoiding the “un-glamorous” parts of his business development?

So I ‘called him’ on all the actions in his business he had taken up until that point and simply asked him if he had been avoiding the un-glamorous stuff. And he had to admit that that was exactly what was happening.

So I explained to him that just like on a river trip we have some unglamorous and quite frankly disgusting jobs that need to be done or else we don’t get to go on the trip. And there are activities in our businesses that are not as fun and exciting as others, but they still have to be done.

Keep in mind it doesn’t always have to be us doing those less glamorous jobs, but somebody needs to do it. And to be sure, if it is not us we still need to properly delegate and follow up. And it doesn’t just apply to business, but every important activity where we are looking for a specific outcome and requires some “less glamorous” effort.

So the next time you find yourself avoiding activities or parts of a project because they aren’t as interesting or glamorous, but you know they need to get done, remember this phrase, “Somebody has to do this, or we don’t go.” And I bet in most cases what you are dealing with won’t be as unglamorous as dealing with everyone else’s human waste anyway.

Avoiding the less attractive work means it may end up blowing up the whole project or anticipated experience. Or maybe even causing the failure of your new business venture.

So instead of focusing on the unpleasant task and avoiding it completely, resolve to just get it done and look forward to all the fun, excitement, and glamour that represents the entire experience or business development.

By the way, my client emailed just two days later telling me he had just made $5000.00 and his immediate cash flow issue was resolved. Not a bad result for choosing what needed to get done even though it was not so glamorous.

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Near Disaster in Disaster Falls

Most people do not realize that Major Powell and his crew started their first exploration of Grand Canyon way up in Wyoming on the Green River, which is a major tributary of the Colorado River.

An excellent section of the Green River that Major Powell explored on his way to Grand Canyon is a section called Ladore Canyon. Ladore is a beautiful canyon of deep red rock walls and a couple of challenging rapids.

One of those rapids is called Disaster Falls. The rapid received its name because the Powell Expedition lost a boat in that rapid. Another little known fact is that the Powell Expedition lined most of the rapids throughout their trip as well. Lining a rapid means they take lots of rope and lots of muscle power to lower the boats down the side of a rapid with ropes to avoid having the navigate the rapid by oar power only. Lining is a very difficult and time-consuming way to go, but a lower risk way to go in Major Powell’s day as well.

Since lining a rapid is considered a last option in modern rafting times, an important skill in rafting when the water level is extremely low is the ability to keep your oars from jamming in rocks while negotiating the rapid. Sometimes the water may only be inches deep at the top (beginning) of a rapid.

In a shallow rapid, if your boat is sideways in the current, which is very common and necessary, you have to be very careful about the oar that is on the downstream side of the boat. If you take a stroke that is too deep, your oar can jam in the rocks below and break. Or worse, it can get pushed up right into the face of the one rowing. I met someone early in my rafting days that was missing his two front teeth because he jammed an oar and the handle end launched right into his mouth.

So back to Disaster Falls on the Green River. The most difficult thing about Disaster Falls in my opinion is all the current constricts down into a smaller channel and heads right for a huge rock which blocks the middle of that channel. And the biggest concern about that kind of situation, even bigger than jamming an oar, is that it’s easy to wrap the boat.

Wrapping a boat is worse that flipping the boat upside down because it can be virtually impossible to free a boat that wraps on a mid-stream rock. Personally, I’d rather flip than wrap. A wrap usually occurs when the boat hits the rock sideways and the current upstream of the boat flows inside the boat and pulls it down and then around the rock and then the current pins the boat against the rock.

To compound matters in Disaster Falls, there are two sections called Upper and Lower Disaster Falls. Upper Disaster Falls has the big boulder that can be difficult to avoid. Lower Disaster is not as challenging but still requires good navigation skills.

In a low water run through Disaster Falls I made the mistake of digging my downstream oar in too deep as I entered the rapid. I remember very well being so focused on that big rock and avoiding it that I took my attention off the fact that the water was getting very shallow.

I remember just as I was digging in deep to make my move to avoid the big rock I realized too late that I had just made a huge mistake. The oar jammed and snapped just above the blade. Now I only had my right hand (upstream) oar remaining to maneuver the boat and I’m heading sideways towards that big midstream rock. Anyone who has rowed a boat knows that one oar makes navigation almost useless. I was now at the mercy of the rapid.

Knowing the difficulty that a wrap could bring I quickly decided that giving up and waiting for the inevitable would not be good. I decided I needed to do everything I could think of to avoid a wrap.

With my one oar I turned the boat with the front headed towards the rock instead of being sideways when we hit it. Once we hit the rock I pulled as hard as I could with my one good oar and we were able to pivot around the rock instead of wrapping around it.

Had I given up when the oar jammed and broke assuming the situation was hopeless, Upper Disaster Falls could have turned out to be much, much worse than it did.

In life, we sometimes feel like there is no hope and that we should just give up. But if we choose to keep on trying while we still have an opportunity to do something, we may find a more favorable result. I didn’t know if hitting the rock front end first and trying to pivot would work. But I learned early in my rafting experience that if I kept working the oars even when it wasn’t looking good that many times I was able to get just enough movement to avoid a bad situation in the rapid.

Winston Churchill is famous for one of his last speeches repeating the phase, “Never give up.” I believe he was expressing the same thought I learned rafting Disaster Falls that as long as there is something you can try then don’t stop trying and don’t give up.

Winston Churchill learned to never give up in a world war. Fortunately I was able to learn it in a rapid. In both cases, disaster (excuse the pun) was avoided because the choice was made to never give up.

© DTE Consulting 2012 “Helping you to Do The Extraordinary!”

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Breathe When There's Daylight

Whenever we go rafting and have completed the rigging of the boats and everyone is ready to go, we take the time to go over the safety lecture. There are many safety measures that are important to remember. So repetition is a good thing. In the stress of an emergency moment it may be difficult to remember what to do. 

One of the safety measures discussed has to do with the unforeseen moment when you find yourself outside the raft in a rapid. That event usually happens when you get knocked out of the boat by a large wave, or if the boat flips from a large wave or “hole.”

In the safety lecture we talk about making sure you orient your feet downstream to be able to push off of rocks and other obstacles you may encounter. We also recommend just holding on to your lifejacket and relaxing whenever possible and not try to swim as the current is typically very strong in a rapid and not worth expending any energy unnecessarily trying to fight the current.

What most people do not realize until it happens to them is when you are swimming a rapid you do not bob up and over the top of each wave. What really happens is you get pulled through the middle of the wave. So the experience is more like getting hit in the face with waves over and over again, one right after another.

That can be alarming and make it very difficult to breathe if you panic. So in the safety lecture we continually stress that if you find yourself outside of the boat in a rapid to 1) orient your feet downstream, 2) hold onto your life jacket, and 3) breathe when you see daylight. Then we remind everyone that help is on the way from the rafts that are running the rapid together. That’s why one of the most important safety rules is to raft together in a group. Always travel with at least two boats.

In the safety lecture the very best thing we can do is to keep it simple. If you can just remember “breathe when there is daylight” then you can settle down and start breathing in a sequence that actually makes it quite easy to have plenty of air in most rapids.

In life we can often feel like the waves of adversity are coming at us at such a pace that we feel we have no time to do anything to remedy the situation. Even though our point of view makes it appear that it’s just wave after wave with no time to breathe, in most cases there really is space in-between waves of adversity where we can take the opportunity to evaluate the situation (breathe) before the next wave.

In many cases, if you are able to calm down, take a few minutes or hours to evaluate what’s really happening, you’ll find you can survive the situation, and more importantly, find that help is really not far away at all. And be sure that you don’t try and go it alone.

(c) DTE Consulting 2012 "Helping You Do The Extraordinary!"

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Know Your Limitations

I started river rafting when I was 14 years old. I had the opportunity to join my dad on a Sierra Club trip he was leading in Grand Canyon with a commercial river company named Wilderness World. It was the first year the Sierra Club had changed their river trip policy to not use commercial companies that used motors. Wilderness World used oar power, no motors.

A few days into the trip, to my alarm my dad was talking to the guides about getting his own equipment. The ability to row a boat through the rapids in Grand Canyon seemed so technical and difficult to me that I thought my dad was crazy.

By the next spring, we had two boats and my dad, my brother Greg, and I were heading up into the Sierra Nevada mountains to run the Stanislaus River. We took one boat and met one of the managers of the river company ARTA near Angel’s Camp, CA to borrow some equipment we didn’t have yet.

Check out the following link for some nice black and white photography of the Stanislaus River:

My dad was teaching my brother how to row and pretty much my dad was learning himself as well. We had a book about whitewater rafting by an author named McGinnis that we used to help us figure it all out in theory. I was a passenger for each trip we did.

My dad was able to obtain a permit to run the Rouge River in Oregon for a summer launch date. I thought they weren’t even close to ready to take on a 5 day trip on the Rouge, so I stayed home and worked.

They came back with stories of a great trip, except for some trouble in a pretty technical rapid called Blossom Bar. More on Blossom Bar in later articles.

The next season, we spent a cold Spring Break on the Stanislaus improving our skills. My dad didn’t think I would be up to rowing yet, so he had a friend of my brother’s along to learn as well.

By the time we started our Spring Break week of rafting, I had spent a lot of time studying the McGinnis book and thinking about how it all worked. Since we now had three boats, I took a few turns at being one of the guides. One thing about the Stanislaus is it was considered an intermediate river, but a somewhat forgiving river also. It was an excellent training ground, but sadly, has been underwater since the mid 70’s due to the completion of New Melones Res.

In the off-season, prior to our Spring Break “boot camp” trip, I realized that I was just not very strong and if I were to row I would need to figure out a different way than to “muscle” my way down the river. I was a pretty scrawny kid at 16 years old.

I decided I was going to figure out how I could use the river as a partner, and not the adversary. Once I decided it was a partnership, I realized I could row. It became a game of finesse and not about how strong I was. I recognized my limitations and figured out ways to use the river to my advantage.

It the years since it has been interesting to watch other guides trying to let their strength be their #1 advantage. My observation has been that the bigger the river, the bigger the problem that kind of thinking becomes.

Besides, why make the river your adversary when it can be your friend? Just look for the routes the river gives you and the way the force of the river can move you where you want to go instead of fighting against such a power.

In our everyday lives we can adopt that same attitude. Why not figure out ways to use the challenges, obstacles, and opportunities in cooperative ways whenever possible.

In today’s US economy and with the struggles it presents, we have a choice to fight against it or learn how to use the economic realities of the current situation to our advantage. Do you just drift along and do nothing while your employer moves closer and closer to your layoff or being out-sourced? Do you just complain and fight the current tax laws or figure out through study or other experts how to take full advantage of those very rules?

Take an honest assessment of your current situation and identify what you don’t like. Then, look at how you can use the available resources and rules to your advantage. If you focus your attention on “it’s not fair” thinking, you’ll be stuck. Any honest reflection of life will tell you that in many instances, life is not fair. It’s what you choose to do next that makes all the difference.

If I say, “It’s not fair that rock is right in the middle of the channel!” that won’t make the rock move no matter how unfair I think it is. I just need to focus on how I can use the power of the river to get me by that obstacle and moving safely down the river again.

In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve moved way beyond the Industrial Age and into the Information Age and our school systems have been struggling to keep up. So we go through our years of schooling to learn how to be good employees in industrial age businesses, and many of those jobs have moved on to other parts of the world. It’s like running out on the field to play soccer, only to find out it’s full contact football. Only those that figured out it’s football rules are the ones not getting hurt. You can complain about the unfairness of the situation all day long, but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re in a football game now, not in a soccer game.

Another way to say it is, “You joined this river trip and there’s only one way to go and that is downstream. Every other alternative is even harder and more dangerous.” So instead of “checking out” and just complaining, learn what is coming downstream and what you can to do now to be prepared for what lies ahead.

We can do this and still maintain our optimism, and more importantly, our integrity. There are a lot of cheaters out there, but we don’t have to join them. But we would be well served to know what game we are playing, who isn’t playing by the rules, and just what the rules are.

The game and the rules are best left for another blog. Stayed tuned.

© DTE Consulting 2012 “Helping You To Do The Extraordinary!”

Friday, January 13, 2012

Just Like The Chinese Dog Leg

I learned to be a river guide on the Stanislaus River that flows west out of the Sierra Nevada Range in California. The section we would run has been under water since the late 70’s unfortunately. It was an excellent section to raft as it was considered an intermediate river with forgiving rapids. Meaning mistakes would rarely damage equipment and generally not present life-threatening situations.

One of my favorite rapids was called The Chinese Dog Leg. In the middle of this rapid the river became boulder choked and divert the water to the left. So the run would start on the right hand side of the river and then you would work your way back to the left at a 90 degree angle to the river channel. Once you were past the boulders, you had to make a hard pull back to the right towards the center of the river or you would run into the left hand bank of the river.

If you can picture a Letter “S” laid out in front of you and you approach it from the bottom of the “S” and work your way to the top. That’s the direction this rapid would take.

As you worked your way from right to left, it was important to bring the right side oar into the boat because the chute was so narrow or the oar could hit the rocks that were on each side of the channel. Hitting the rocks could really mess up the run, let alone risk breaking an oar.

A few years later we were rafting the Klamath River in northern California. None of us had run the river before and we had a basic idea about what to expect. My dad and I were rowing, as well as a friend of my dad’s named Lynn who had never run the Stanislaus, but had some experience on a few other rivers.

On the last day of the trip my dad was in the lead, I was in the second boat, and Lynn was third. I was holding back my distance a bit from my dad because Lynn was a ways behind me. As I came around a sharp corner I came on a rapid that was full of rocks and I couldn’t see my dad anywhere. There was no time to stop and scout or do anything but search for the right channel to run.

My first thought was that there was nowhere to go. Then it occurred to me that this rapid looked very much like the Chinese Dog Leg that I had run so many times before on the Stanislaus.

So I set up the same way and ran it in similar fashion and had a nice run. By the time I was coming through the end of the rapid I noticed my dad had pulled over and tied up so I did the same. I tied my boat up as quickly as I could and ran up the river bank as fast as I could to give some hand signal directions to Lynn.

As he was approaching the rapid I could see him looking right at me, but he didn’t seem to understand what I was trying to tell him. I found out later from Lynn that it was because about 8 other passengers on the trip followed me and started waving and yelling as well. He couldn’t tell I was even there until it was too late. (That’s another lesson for a later blog.)

Lynn did not have a good run through that rapid. He never experienced anything like Chinese Dog Leg before and ended up crashing the boat into the boulders that blocked the middle of the river and tipping the boat way up on its side. Fortunately the boat didn’t flip, but everyone was thrown out of the boat and we all had to act quickly to launch a rescue of people and the equipment.

The name of the rapid is Little Blossom. Named after a technical, boulder choked rapid on the Rouge River named Blossom Bar. I have multiple lessons learned from Blossom Bar as well. But we’ll save the Blossom Bar lessons for a later post as well.

Check out the following link for some nice photos of Little Blossom:

There are a number of lessons we can learn from this experience. Perhaps you can think of a few of your own. The main lesson I want to share from Little Blossom is that sometimes we want to shelter others from learning by experience, though at times they can be difficult to face. It’s not that we should want to put someone in harm’s way, but we should allow people to try. And that should include the opportunity to fail.

I think we send the wrong message when every participant in youth sports gets a trophy. In life there really are winners and losers. There really are people who break the rules and cheat and still win the game. There are many, many times when there is not one right answer. Life is filled with “multiple guess” experiences and we just have to make our choices based our best information and get on with it.

Can you imagine if you went to sign up for a sports team and the coach told you that the team will only play the games that have a guarantee of a win or the team will refuse to play? What’s the point?! There really is very little room for improvement or challenge with that kind of attitude.

If we shelter others from challenging experiences, they may never get a chance to run a “Chinese Dog Leg” a few times where the consequences are not as serious. But the lessons from the experience and the mistakes made could be excellent in helping them prepare for the times when the stakes are a lot higher.

I like the acronym that is used for “fear.” I’m not referring to the more common “false evidence appearing real,” although that is a great one. I’m talking about “fail early and responsibly.”

So make the decision to allow yourself and others to take some risks and have the opportunity to learn and maybe even fail. It’ll probably pay off in more critical situations later in life.

© DTE Consulting 2012 “Helping You Do The Extraordinary!”

Friday, January 6, 2012

Pushing To Lava

In July 2010 I was lucky enough to have another chance to raft the Grand Canyon and row for my sister-in-law’s trip. The year before in 2009 I finally had my launch date after a 16 year wait. (The private permit system has since changed to a lottery which means you’ll probably have better odds in Las Vegas. That subject is worthy of it’s own rant/blog/whine, but not now).

This trip was one where the entire group of 18 was family. One of the things we would do every evening is have a little devotional to add a spiritual feel to each day. We each took turns sharing a thought at some point during the trip. My opportunity was on the last evening of our trip, just before taking out at Pearce Ferry, just a few miles upstream from Lake Mead.

I started my devotional message by asking everyone if they happen to notice that from the very beginning of the trip I would rarely row backwards in the flat water sections, mostly using a push stroke instead. Most said they did notice but didn’t know why I would do that.

Anyone who has ever rowed a boat generally learns pretty quickly that the strongest and least strenuous stroke is to pull backwards with straight arms and use leg muscle more than arm muscle.

So why would I spend most of my time pushing? I had two reasons. The first reason was I could see the canyon in front of me, so I didn’t miss out on the spectacular views, and I have always preferred to see where I am going.

But the second reason is really the most important. I was “pushing to Lava.” Lava Falls is the meanest, and one of the most difficult rapids in Grand Canyon. From the day we launched at Lee’s Ferry I had Lava on my mind.

Back in the early days of recreational river running, a man named Nate Galloway came up with the idea of turning his boat around when negotiating rapids. Until then, conventional wisdom was to row backwards, always. Nate decided to turn around. Today it’s unusual to see someone intentionally running a rapid backwards from beginning to end.

Since you are typically facing forward when negotiating the rapid, your backwards “power stroke” is not available to you as you hit large waves. Lava Falls is a series of waves, really big waves, one right after another.

A good boatman/woman knows that in order to maintain momentum through waves, especially big waves is to keep your oars in the water and push as hard as you can through each wave. If you stall out in a wave, the likely result will be to flip the boat as the faster water behind the boat pulls the boat down. I wanted to have as much pushing ability as I possibly could when running Lava.

This same lesson can be applied to everyday life. What are you doing now on a regular basis to be ready for the challenges in the future? Are you strong enough to push through the really big waves of life when they come? They may be waves of opposition and challenge, or they could be waves of opportunity. Luck favors the one who is prepared.

A great business philosopher, Jim Rohn, would say that you can be very sincere and hard working and still end broke and embarrassed. We’ve got to do more than just hope for the best when we reach our “Lava Falls” moments in our lives.

Think about all the challenges and opportunities that could come your way and determine what preparation should be made to take full advantage of the opportunity. Or be fully prepared for the challenge. Better to be prepared and not need the extra preparation than the other way around.

By the way, we all had a great run through Lava and I ended up not needing to push as hard as I anticipated I would need to. And if I ever get the opportunity to run Grand Canyon for a sixth time you can bet that from Lee’s Ferry on down to river mile 180 (Lava Falls) that I’ll be pushing my boat most of the way.

Photo #1) Approx. Mile 243 - Below Separation Canyon, July 2009
Photo #2) First Camp, July 2009
Photo #3) Lava Falls, July 2009
Photo #4) Lava Falls - Right Side Run, August 1982
Photo #5) Upset - Pushing Through the "Wall", August 1982
Photo #6) Hermit - Right Down the Middle, August 1982

© DTE Consulting 2012 “Helping You Do The Extraordinary”