Thursday, November 30, 2006

"Stuck" on square #1

(a CASKA photo)

I am one of those folks who does a lot of stuff, and when I do something I really do it. Once I develope an interest, I often get obsessed with learning and doing more with it. Like sea kayaking. Once I took JB's course at 'Baga, I was hooked. I got a boat and was on the water every moment I could find free to do so. The next summer I was back to do instructor training and evaluation. I started teaching at symposiums and took advanced rescue scenario classes. I built a wood boat from a kit. I built a skin on frame and got a traditional style paddle and a tuilick. Now, certified by the ACA, I have to decide whether or not to do the BCU package which, in the final analysis, covers the same ground. After all, don't they tell us that if we stop growing we die?

That was all by way of introduction (the ultimate digression), now for the meat. I own the trademark Work/WorkShop and do seminars, trainings and one-on-one education around careers. The group that interests me the most is the mid-life crises bunch, usually men. Most of these guys are "successful" and miserable, having risen to the top of a mountain they had wanted to climb only to find there's nothing but ice up there.

Zen teaches that we think with and are driven to suffering by our egos. If so, it begs the question for whom are we climbing the mountain? The answer is often to impress others and/or to meet the expectations of others. In they end, they could care less, and we are left alone atop an inhospital pinnacle.

When is the last time someone turned down a promotion that took them out of field work (which they loved) and into management (which they knew nothing about and didn't like doing)? To say "no" to a step up is to say, "I resign." Why would you turn down the honor, the prestige and the money? Well, you might, but your ego wouldn't.

I have a copy of a cartoon (I don't show it here because I do not have the author's permission...but I digress). It shows a man in a business suit, carrying a brief case and standing in the lobby of an office building. The design of the floor consists of large square tiles, and he is standing looking down at the one he is in. Next to it is a sign that reads, "Square #1. The captions, which is what he is thinking, reads, "This feels pretty good right here."

So, how far are you going in your career? In paddling? Do you actually like lazy paddles on quiet rivers but have "evolved" to big water upon which you never feel comfortable? Has acquiring more and more equipment become boring? Do you no longer look forward to going out with the gang...the group that insists on seeking out 6-foot waves? Would you rather be alone or with one or two others on a quiet inland lake? Who do you paddle for? Do you really need to be an instructor and, if so, how many letters do you need on your resume?

When was the last time you looked forward to a paddle and enjoyed it without worrying about meeting someone else's expectations? Perhaps that one time was your square #1, and there is nothing wrong with staying there...but you have to give yourself the permission to do so.

Disclaimer: None of this applies to DM ( who still has the goal of standing on one finger in his cockpit :-)

Paddle safe...



JohnB said...

"When was the last time you looked forward to a paddle and enjoyed it without worrying about meeting someone else's expectations? " The last two times I was out! Just out enjoying the day with me mates!

Guess I'm guilty of the letters game though, but it's for me, not others.

Nice post.

So, you gonna do the BCU thing?

derrick said...

hmmm, I'm sure you could say we all strive to please some social pressure. Whether they chose it for us, we perceive the need to impress or whatever. I'm sure I'm probobly motivated by all the folks who told me what a loser I was since the day I was born. . but many of them are dead now so the certainly would not be impressed by anything I do. On the other hand success can be it's own reward even if no one is looking. Most days, what I do in a kayak impresses no one. I don't live around kayakers. So they just see some weirdo doing weirdo sorts of things. For every one person that's impressed 100 more could give a care!! Then I think there is a truth in there that we are social animals. We want acceptance, respect, and such. Many pretend they are immune to it. I just don't believe them. We all want it from someone. . even if it's just our partners, or whatever. just my nickel. .

Anonymous said...

Good post.

I was trying to decide if I was going to enter a race this weekend. I've never done it before and I'm no racer. But it's a nice little trip and I thought it would be fun to participate anyway. You've convinced me to go ahead and do it for myself and have a good time. I don't need to impress anyone and I might learn something. We all have to start somewhere anyway.

Silbs said...

Thanks to all for sharing your insights. For me it is the "shoulds" that got instilled into my head somewhere during the frowing up process. Part of why I write such stuff is to keep me conscious and aware that those "shadows" may be folling around with my head.Andrew, enjoy your paddle.

Michael said...

In my first year of teaching I became principal of the school I was teaching in due to some unforeseen circumstances. I've been working my way down the mountain ever since! I was lucky to see the heights early on and to understand the best view wasn't always from the top. Kayaking for me has been a tramp through the foothills, with a good view now and then. I know others pushing and shoving their way to the top, but they don't know any better. They will!

Alex said...

Very nice post Dick and it really hits close to home for me in many respects. I'm currently in the middle of climbing both the corporate and kayaking mountains and I struggle at times to stay grounded. From a work standpoint, I enjoy excelling and being recognized for good performance but I also have no desire to be a "boss" which means I'll have some tough decisions to make fairly soon.

As far as kayaking goes, I paddle and practice mostly alone but my obsession with skill development probably isn't completely selfless. I'm not sure if my natural competitiveness will allow me to settle for being merely a "good" kayaker as opposed to "very good" or even "great". I also have trouble finding a comfort zone in our sport. In sea kayaking, my comfort level and ambitions make me want to seek environments than most of my sea kayaking peers are uncomfortable with while in whitewater, I am constantly being pushed to run harder/scarier stuff than I am comfortable with. As far as certification goes, I am in general pretty anti-authority/establishment which makes me shy away from the whole process but on the other hand not having certifications closes many doors for me in terms of doing another thing I love which is teaching. Also, I'm still torn between whitewater playboating, sea kayaking, Greenland style rolling, and racing so I think I still have a long way to go to discover my identity as a kayaker.

Silbs said...

I enjoyed Michael's and alex's comments. I think you both demonstrated the thinking of men who are aware of what they are about. Alex, being younger, is in that enviable place where more possibilities exist. My post not withstanding, that is the time in life of the warrior, when one has the endurance and ability to try out things. Michael has clearly been on that path and has great clarity about what he is about. I appreciate the willingness you all have to share and show a bit of yourself. I suspect there are other readers hungering to learn more about this...and who will mentor them?...DS