Friday, June 5, 2009

What have your learned from your mistakes?

By the time I was 18, I considered myself pretty comfortable around the water. I was a lifeguard, a water skier, a scuba diver and a sailor. So when the opportunity came to go white water kayaking I felt I was up to the challenge.

The venue of choice for our kayak adventure was the heritage listed St. Croix River, which separates Canada and the US on the Maine/New Brunswick border. On the day we arrived the white water would have rated class 5 and looked pretty sporty!

As we prepared to take on the rapids one of the other paddling crew gave me some encouragement by saying a log will always find it's way down the river so just consider yourself a log and you’ll do fine! (I didn’t even consider the fact that a log spins the whole way through the water and tends to hit rocks!)

I set off from shore with great enthusiasm and pointed my kayak down the rips thinking 'be the log'. I got lucky with the first rips but the second rips were ugly and soon I was upside down in all sorts of trouble. It became a struggle for survival and an equipment yard sale as I bailed from my kayak. I had been caught in a pretty big hydraulic and was struggling to get free as I got pushed under water. Thankfully I got myself out of the danger zone and got to shore!

As I sat on shore trying not to be sick and tending to my wounded body (and pride), I wondered what went wrong. I had made a huge mistake and it could have cost me my life. I had underestimated the river and over estimated my skill! Up until this point in my life so many things had come naturally to me but on this day I realized that taking on bigger challenges requires more work and preparation to succeed.

I could have easily given up on kayaking after such a dramatic failure but I did the opposite, I spent more time learning from others and gaining valuable experience. Since that time I have successfully paddled white water on some of the world’s great rivers including the Kicking Horse in Canada, the Zambezi River in Africa and the Paquari River in Costa Rica.

The lesson I learned that day has impacted all aspects of my life as I now fully apply myself to new challenges and refuse to ever ‘be the log’ again. With whitewater if you stop paddling you are at the mercy of where the river wants to take you, but if you decide where you want to go and paddle hard you can control the path you take. A great lesson in life!

So think back on some of the mistakes you’ve made in your life, what did you learn?

“Some of the best lessons we ever learn are learned from past mistakes. The error of the past is the wisdom and success of the future.”– Dale E. Turner

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About Bill Starr
Bill Starr is an avid 'life lister' and a founding partner and CEO of My Life List™ (, an award winning goal achievement website that uses a proven methodology and the power of social networking to help people achieve their goals and inspire others.

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