Job Hunting and Skiing the Trees

When I started teaching white water kayaking I was usually given 10 students and an assistant and off we would go on our merry way to find some mellow moving water. As the students gained confidence and skills we progressed to minor rapids. On reaching the top of a rapid we would park our boats and walk down the bank looking at what was to come. My spiel went something like, “ok guys, you are doing really well and this is suitably challenging for you – you are going to have a blast. Now, what I want you to think about is avoiding the obstacles. See that tree over there, stay away from it. That hydraulic is evil and what ever you do keep your boat away from the pour over, it could kill you.” Then we would get back into our boats, I would demonstrate the line and wait in a position of maximum usefulness at the bottom.  They were sent down one by one and inevitably there was carnage.

It took me a long time to figure out why I was massacring my students. They appeared ready, they had plenty of confidence and enough skills and there they were swimming while I was picking up the pieces. I cannot remember what the catalyst to change was; I think I need to thank an old canoe instructor called Ray Goodwin, the remedy was simple though. Just by reconfiguring the talk along the bank to, “ok guys, you are ready and this is going to be a blast. What I want you to do is to look for your line. First of all, do you see that brown tongue of water there, well put your boat on it. Then head for that flume in the middle and finally follow that v down between the rocks. It will be great.”

What a different result. Smiling kids, dry, upright and full of pride. Perhaps you have a similar story, skiing the trees is my favorite. I start by recognizing I am in a forest, then I look for white and link it together. I have enough evidence to recognize what happens when I look at the trees. Being in the forest is a buzz, now that I know I can safely navigate my way through them I love it. Life is so much more fun and exhilarating. Then there is the added bonus that the snow is often better.

I am going to finish with the words of one of my heros, Yvon Chouinard, climber, blacksmith and founder of Patagonia. “I love recessions for business reasons. Number 1, a recession kills the competition. Number 2, your customers stop being silly and stop buying fashion stuff. They buy things they need and things that will last a long time. They don’t mind paying more as long as it is high-quality. What they do is what we should all be doing, which is consuming less and consuming better.”

It is pretty obvious with the current economy we are in a job hunting forest. What do the patches of snow look like for you, how are you going to link them and what is the high quality you are selling to potential employers?

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