When the raft flips! What to do when the world turns upside down.

I am a leader, a coach, an observer, and an outdoor enthusiast.  I am willing to take risks for sufficient rewards, and ever aware that many things are beyond my control.  All of these things, and many more too numerous to mention have fueled my passion and helped me become what I love most.  I am a river guide! 

Being a river guide has taught me more about life than nearly any other activity, or course of study, in my life.  There are few lessons that cannot be learned on the river, and there are few instructors that can teach so thoroughly. 

And so it is that several weeks ago I found myself, along with seventeen friends and fellow river enthusiasts floating down the Green River in eastern Utah.  The “Gates of Lodore” section promises everything one could ask for in a river; great waves, technical rapids, jaw dropping scenery, and some great sandy beaches.  We had great food, wonderful weather, and an experienced group of paddlers. 

It was a wonderful trip except for one thing.  Somewhere in the middle of it all I flipped my raft.  I got sucked down, turned around, and ended up with the raft on top of me instead of me on top of the raft.  

It shouldn’t have happened (or so I thought).  The rapid wasn’t that big, I had good paddlers in my boat, and we were headed on a good line.  But in spite of all of this, we got sucked into a hole, and the boat came right over on top of us.  I was underwater and the boat was right on top of me.  

For all of us, there are times when our world turns upside down.  One minute we think everything is great, the sky is sunny, and we are on top of the world.  And then moments later, the cares of the world all seem to be on top of us.   When that time comes, a few lessons from the river may prove helpful.   Here are      steps that kept my mishap from turning into an emergency.  These same steps will help you come out on top when your world turns upside down. 

  1. Plan for a crisis. River guides train for the day they flip a boat.  We intentionally flip a raft just to learn how to bring it back over again.  In life and in business we can plan for problems.  What will I do if I lose a major client?   What will I do if I lose my job?  What adjustments can you make that will help you come out on top before a crisis occurs?
  2. Train for the crisis. Do you need extra training or new skills, to help you when you flip your raft, lose your biggest customer, or face a layoff at work.  Get those new skills now.  They will benefit you before and after a crisis hits. 
  3. Make sure your crew is safe. Once I came up from under the raft, I started counting heads to make sure everyone was safe.   Luckily everyone had come up and was holding on to the raft, just like we told them to do.    We are not always so lucky.   Sometimes people come up far from the raft and we need to find our way to them and make sure they are safe.  In your crisis, the danger may not be as apparent, but you need to make sure that those around you know there is a plan to get all of you to safety.  
  4. Identify people who can help you when a crisis hits. When my raft flipped, the boat in front of me, and the boat behind me went into action.  They pulled us out and had our boat turned around in no time and we were back on the water.
  5. Learn from each crisis and then move on. Once my raft had been righted, and we were all safely aboard.  I reviewed what had gone wrong.   Maybe that hole was a little too big for my raft.  I had the smallest raft and we should have used our extra maneuverability to avoid the obstacle.  I reviewed other options as well.  Then I went back to paddling and guiding.  When you get flipped over, get right back on and start again.  

Life is full of mishaps.  You will find yourself “flipped over” in your career, personal life, and spiritual pursuits.  It is important to understand, however, that with proper planning, training, and preparation, your odds of coming out on top are much better.  Are you prepared for the next crisis? 

Scott Murray is a Coach and Consultant committed to helping individuals and organizations provide outstanding customer service experiences within the service industry through team building and productivity.