The Class IV rapids on the Youghiogheny River flipped me and the raft skyward. When it finally occurred to gravity to reclaim me, the raft and my pals had already moved on without me, and things came down to just me and the river. (You could say I became totally immersed in my work!) I broke my paddle on a large rock and almost did the same with my tailbone. Fortunately for me, my buddies were able to retrieve me from the swift currents and haul me back aboard before the river took me for good.

Three awesome things about water trails:

1. They move.

2. They’re better with a buddy.

3. They can be navigated by almost any kind of vessel.

Tocks Island is a narrow strip of land in the Delaware River, and the site of three memorable stands against the flow:

      1. A highly controversial proposal by the Army Corps of Engineers to dam the last undammed major river of the eastern U.S., flood upwards of 23,000 acres, create a 37 mile-long lake, and drive thousands of people from their homes and livelihoods. After 19 years of planning, investing, acquisitions, legal wrangling, pitched campaigns and hearings, the plan was halted.

2. My Scout troop’s campsite during a paddle trip. As most of our provisions had been delivered to the shore a short distance downstream, we undertook several round trips in the canoes to ferry it all back to the island for the night. Pulling strenuously against the current with the heavy loads took much longer and required much more energy than riding the empty canoe the same distance downstream.

3. That same campsite, when late that night one of the boys walked in his sleep, threading his way among all the tents’ intersecting guy wires and stakes until he stepped barefoot in the river and woke up. It was harder for him to find his way back in the dark fully awake, than it was for him to proceed apace while asleep!

Three life lessons from water trails:

1. A lot of the time it’s fine to go with the flow, but there are times when reversing against it is the only viable (or honorable) option you may have. Realize that it takes both strength and determination to buck the status quo, and advance against majority opinion or ingrained opposition. Prepare, then go for it.

2. It’s better if you’ve got the strength and assistance of a partner or team working with you toward the same goal—no matter what direction you’re heading. Collaborating in almost any venture dramatically increases your chances of success. (No man is an island, and all that…)

3. Real life is not the place for sleepwalking—unless you want to sleep with the fishes! Currents can quickly transport you to your destination or your doom. Keep alert to the trends—both physical and ideological—swirling about you at all times, and paddle accordingly!

MasterPoint: Keep current with the issues and trends within your profession, partner up, and navigate with purpose!