Why you should embrace your tipped canoes.

In early June of 2020, following a week of heavy rains, my family of 5 went on a paddling adventure on a swollen creek in Wisconsin. Notice I said creek, not river. A creek is a narrower body of water. Rain and high water create dramatic changes on a creek. If this were a podcast the ominous music would begin right about now…

This particular creek was littered with fallen trees. The tangled trees were like traps set to snare kayaks and canoes. Paired with swift water, the trees created very dangerous conditions for paddlers. (Cue the dueling banjoes…)

After several close calls, my family flotilla of 4 boats (3 kayaks and a canoe) came upon the most dangerous section of the river. The bend in the creek and the trees it collected forced us to navigate a narrow Z-shaped course in the river. (Which is Z most difficult to navigate.)

The last of the boats in our convoy got swept into the trees at the top of the Z. I quickly tried to turn my canoe around and paddle back upstream against the current to help.

In our attempt to help free the trapped boat, my 10-year-old son Magnus and I got swept into another tree. The rushing water soon broke over the top of the upstream edge of the sideways canoe. The force of the water tipped the canoe. (And Tyler too.) The boat instantly filled with water and sank below the surface of the rushing water.

Magnus and I were tossed into the current. Thankfully, we both held onto the canoe and quickly freed ourselves from the trees by swimming under the branches which dangled to the surface of the water.

We swiftly corralled all of our belongings and swam downstream with our submerged canoe until we found a creek bank where we could unload the soaked contents of our canoe, and flip the 17-foot vessel again to purge the water.

After a few minutes of rest, we reloaded the canoe and climbed back into our seats in the bow and stern of the canoe. We pushed off from the creek bank, caught the current, and resumed our travels downstream in the canoe.

The experience provided a few important lessons:

  1. It was a reminder that things can go wrong at any time.
  2. It is how you respond when things go sideways that matters most.
  3. Teamwork matters most when the stakes are highest.
  4. If you keep your head things will be okay.
  5. A little planning ahead, like packing your smartphone in your dry bag, makes you feel smart and well prepared when you open the dry bag to find your dry phone.

Now Magnus and I have a fun story to share and a stronger bond thanks to going through the experience together. We have seen how the other person stepped up in a crisis. Knowing that we can trust each other in difficult situations has brought us closer together. Which is the long-lasting reward for going through challenges with others.

Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to take risks. We learn more about ourselves and others in hard times than in good. Adversity is when character is revealed. And when relationships become strongest. The best memories and greatest stories are created when things don’t go according to plan. Embrace the challenges and mishaps that come your way. They will teach you how much you are capable of.

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Why you should embrace the bumps and the resistance.

Humans are full of potential. We are loaded with more energy and ability than you can possibly imagine. Unless maybe you are John Lennon.

Thomas Edison said, “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” It was that type of enlightened thinking that enabled Edison to invent both the modern light bulb and the ‘How many does it take to screw in a light bulb?’ jokes.

As you work to become all that you can be, like the United States Army, you will encounter bumps and resistance along your journey. It is important to recognize the full value they provide. Because humans are like matchsticks. #RobThomas We are meant to be set on fire. It is the bumps and the friction we encounter that create the sparks and the heat that ignite us. It is the adversity and struggle that strengthen us and bring out our best. Like Budweiser in 1984.

Key Takeaway

Embrace the struggle. Value the resistance. Don’t avoid it. Go through it. It helps reveal all that you are capable of.

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***If you think 3 asterisks are too many, you are probably right.

What to do when you find yourself in a blizzard.

I woke up this morning to one of the heaviest snowfalls I have seen in several years thanks to winter storm Orlena. The lake effect snow machine is in full effect here on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan. On top of that, the winds are whipping like the Dazz Band. And I say let it whip.

I love this kind of weather. Unlike hurricanes, tornados, floods and wildfires that leave massive destruction in their wake, a blizzard leaves the world better and more beautiful. After Orlena transforms the midwest and northeast into a fresh powder playground, images of the snowfall will be trending on social media like Gamestop. Or Grumpy Bernie.

My Daughter Ava sent me this pic from her room this morning.

Life Is Full of Blizzards

It’s useful to think of the challenges in your life like blizzards. They can be frustrating and disorienting. But once they pass, they often leave you better than they found you.

The Startup Blizzard

When I was first launching my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, the swirling uncertainty of startup-ness surrounded us. And that can really mess with you. Here is something I wrote about the experience we were going through 4 years ago.

From June 10th, 2016

Today I had a long talk with a co-worker who was having a hard time at work. Which is understandable. Because startups are kinda hard. Launching a startup is like walking in a blizzard. Wind and snow are all up in your grill. It’s cold. Visibility goes into the toilet. It’s difficult to navigate in these conditions.

In the middle of a blizzard, your survival instincts tell you to seek shelter. It’s natural to want to escape the relentless wind, disorienting snow and mounting drifts. Sitting by a crackling fire, drinking hot chocolate is far more appealing to most people.

But I like walking in blizzards. I like being out when no one else is. I like doing things that build my character, my will and my personal legend. In the same way a callus rises as the result of repeated friction, strength grows from pushing against resistance.

If a blizzard confronts you on your journey you have to keep walking. You must have faith that you know where you are heading. You have to take steps forward, even when it is hard.

Blizzards of the wintry, professional and personal kind are temporary. Eventually, the snow will stop falling. The wind will chill the eff out. And the sun will come out again.

When that happens, where will you be? It’s a matter of what you did during the blizzard. If you keep pushing, you will find yourself far ahead of where you started, far ahead of those who sought shelter, and closer to your ultimate goal. You’ll find the ultimate rewards far outweigh the hot chocolate you sacrificed along the way.

Key Takeaway

Blizzards are a part of life. They will make life hard for a while. But keep going anyway. Everything is more beautiful on the other side.

Follow Up Note

The Weaponry will turn 5 years old in April. Today we have 23 clients. Because we didn’t stop walking when things were hard.

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