Friday, June 09, 2006

Square One
How To Really succeed

Over coffee, JB and I were discussing our training and what we wanted to do in the kayak world. He, of course, is ACA, BCU and American Kennel Assoc. rated. I had toyed with the idea of going out to SeaKayak Georgia for BCU stuff, while he (as we speak) is in Madison working on teaching future teachers how to teach.

This is not a new topic for me, generically speaking. I do career workshops and often give speeches with titles like, When success doesn't bring happiness, or Now that I own the company, why aren't I happy? The common theme in all this is the need some of us have to achive while having no concept what being successful means to us. Hence, when a man reaches 50 and realizes he will never be the president of his company, he may suffer what I call an acute onset of reality.

What's going on here, anyway?

We live in a better is bigger society while secretly believing that your's is bigger than mine. This is especially true among men. Go to a party. Women chat freely and get to know something about one another. Men, on the other hand, walk away knowing the other guy's name and occupation and having a vague impression (based on the other guy's watch and clothes) whether he makes more or less money than the other guy does. And, if he is jugged to make more, or to be more important, he is considered more powerful and to be a success. Hmmmmm.

It takes one of my 1-2 day workshops to get into just how we end up in the careers we have in the first place. Never mind that for now. Just know that we usually end up doing something for all the wrong reasons...and they are usuallysomeone else's wrong reasons at that. The point to take here is that once hooked into whatever career we've stumbled into, we set out to succeed. And we do so with no idea of what that looks like.

I think it was Aristotle who said, "Most men live quite lives of desperation."

The same satisfy-someone-else thinking that got us into our work often is used to define what-someone-else-calls-success.

But take a case where someone actually goes into some area where they have a passion, something they really enjoy. Take being an engineer, for example. The person really likes the math and problem solving, does well in school and gets a great job that stimulates him or her. They do well because they love what they are doing. the company notices them, and there are promotions upon promotions until, ultimately, the person "succeeds" to management where they live "successfully" and unhappily ever after.

So it can be with kayaking (or any other sport). Just the other week, after teaching an introduction to recreational kayaking class, I found myself suggesting that some of the students might want to consider "going on" to sea kayaking. I realized that I was insinuating that sea kayaks were "real" kayaks in which a "real" paddler could learn to tame ten-foot waves. Implicit in the thought was that a rec. boat wasn't a "real" kayak and, in turn, that rec. kayakers hadn't really succeeded in the "real" world of kayaking.

I wonder how many people "graduate" to open water kayaking, don't like it and quit the sport forever feeling they have failed when, all the while, they would have had a lifetime of pleasure paddling quite ponds and rivers rather than trying to meet someone else's expectations.

So, maybe I don't need to become a 4-star general with oak leaf clustures on my PFD. Maybe, like paddlers such as Gary Simon, I am better off pursuing the part of the sport I like best (in his case, fitness padlling). Maybe JB will decide not to become a full professor with tenure (although, if he does, he will be a good one). [Weird thought: what if Alex only paddled one boat for the rest of his life or Derrick decided he didn't really need to know how to roll....nah].

Yeah, now I see it. I can be happy paddling just the way I do now. Sure, I want to continue to improve my strokes. I want Gary to help me develope an exercise technique in the boat. I want Alex and Derrick to help me with rolls...but for the fun of it. I don't need to keep climbing ladders.

Besides, the world needs me to make pictures better and better.

Paddle anywy you wish, just so you paddle safe(ly).


1 comment:

derrick said...

good post.

I just go back to the whole "kayak for fun" thing. If it's fun to climb ladders, which it is for me, then great. If you like to just relax on the water, great. We certainly have to be careful to say "our way" is the only way or that you should always be moving up. "Up" is a very personal perspective and personal choice.

See ya, we're off to Two Rivers. .