Last week our family enjoyed an incredible week in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. We hiked, rock climbed, rode an alpine coaster, and finished off just about every day soaking in the warmth and minerals of the hot springs pool.
But as fun and memorable as all these activities were, one other family adventure was the pinnacle of the week for us: whitewater rafting. Gary and I love whitewater rafting and have done so many times. But these days, we are in the season of introducing our kids to the outdoor pursuits that we love. What kept scoring points for this whitewater trip as my all time favorite can be attributed to two things:
1. The Company
Whitewater Rafting, LLC left no detail to the imagination. Every time I have rafted before, the decision to wear a wetsuit has also been a decision to not only wear the lingering river organisms still fighting for their lives within the fabric of the wetsuit, but also to wear the hygiene and smells of the many people who have worn the wetsuit before you! Although I’m sure the company does not have every wetsuit dry-cleaned in between wears, it was clear that they made a concerted attempt to disinfect and dry the wetsuits after each use. Score points for thinking of my comfort and reducing the “ick” factor!
Not only were the wetsuit options a pleasant surprise, but also the DVD of 25 pictures from our trip that cost about $10 more than the one or two pictures we have purchased on previous rafting trips. It’s a nice deal to be able to have ownership of the entire package of pictures so we can share them with others. Score points for a bundle of tangible memories to take home!
2. The Guide
We’ve always had great rafting guides, but Ben left an unforgettable impression on us. It started with our life-jacket fittings. As he knelt down next to Garrison to talk him into the little kid life-jacket that he needed to wear, I saw trust begin between the two. He affirmed Garrison’s excitement and gave steady encouragement when he sensed the preschooler’s hesitation. Score points for engaging and caring for kids.
The remarkable guiding continued on the river. Our family group in the raft had my parents in-law who had never rafted, our 9 year old daughter Lanie, whose only rafting trip was on a milk run down the Arkansas River in Buena Vista two years ago, Gary and I who have each rafted 5-6 times and our three year old, Garrison. With that huge range of rafting experiences, Ben somehow crafted a trip that everyone loved and enjoyed. He narrated about the canyon scenery around us and about local folklore. He also played concierge and gave us the highlights of what to do and where to eat in Glenwood Springs. Probably most important, he kept Garrison dry while delighting Lanie, Gary and Papa up front with the full force of every rapid he could invite on board to drench them. Or, maybe it was just Garrison, Nana and I who delighted in watching them get drenched! Score points for expertise and raft steering!
And the little extras kept coming. Once we got passed some nice class 3 rapids, Ben gave Garrison a little paddle so he could help paddle the raft through light rapids. When we were floating in calmer waters, he talked about his story as a river guide and a ski instructor—how he fell in love with skiing years ago and how much he loves guiding people on the slopes and in the water. He told us, “Everyday is a different day on the river.” And the last little extra was giving Lanie the chance to ride on top of the helm of the raft just in front of the first row. She rode the last mile or so of the trip with her legs dangling off the front edge and loved it. Score points for even thinking of the extras!
From Whitewaters to Leadership
I love finding great examples of leadership and influence tucked into quiet places in the world and within the character of unassuming people. And, I walked away from our family rafting trip feeling as if I’d found a gem of inspiration for how to lead and do business well.
Pursue a spirit of excellence. Now, I’m not a business person, but I am in the business of leading, guiding and ministering to people. The hard and exceptional work that Whitewater Rafting, LLC did for our family and will do for every other customer this summer, offered me a fresh reminder of how important it is for organizations and churches to really pursue a spirit of excellence in every detail if they want to transform lives. Remember, I said “pursue” excellence not “arrive” at perfection. There is always room for improvement and necessary change. And, by letting that spirit of excellence linger in the air around our pursuits, it will get breathed in and lived out by all those in proximity.
One guide can make all the difference. If there is a truth that I wish I would allow to anchor every opportunity for influence, it is that one guide can really be the change-agent. We don’t usually know until after a personal encounter with someone whether we left an imprint or not. We don’t usually hear until long after that we truly made a difference for someone. So, it’s important, like Ben, to see each day as a “new day on the river” and make the most of the opportunities to lead and guide that come our way.
I figure if my children continue to love the thrill of trying new things and show less anxiety when taking a risk, Ben and Whitewater Rafting, LLC, played an important role in growing their adventurous spirits! Score points for a good day’s work on the river.