Rapids vs Swirlies
Picture is compliments of one of Tom's young congregants
Anyone who knows me understands that I am a whitewater fanatic.
It all started when my dad took me on a 2 week expedition on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon when I was a teenager. Later when I moved our family to CO I was trained and certified as a river guide and we spent many happy summers floating rivers in and around the state.
20 years after my first trip I was invited on another. This time with my cousin, rowing my own private raft.
It was an epic 280 miles over 21 days. I learned so much it actually inspired me to start our own rafting business on the Arkansas river which we ran for 10 years.
Fast forward another 20 years. I received a call from an Episcopal Pastor (Tom) with a private permit. He was looking for an experienced raft guide to row gear down for him and his kayaking buddies.
So I made the arrangements and we were set for me to return to the Grand a 3rd time in August of 2020.
Then something crazy happened.
COVID hit hard and everything started closing, even the National Parks
There were doubts on whether our late summer trip would in fact be delayed or canceled.
Fortunately, the Grand Canyon implemented protocols that allowed the park to open back up and the trip was confirmed.
Once on the river, I noticed 3 things different from the last time I was there.
Now on a big river like the Grand, everybody does the research on the major rapids because they are notoriously dangerous. You could flip your boat or get injured. Being prepared, scouting, setting up safe recovery zones etc. All makes sense. It would be irresponsible to do otherwise.
But eddies and swirlies - who pays attention to those? After all, we just made it through Lava Falls! What more could wrong?
River current is a fascinating thing to study. Typically it moves side to side but at the same time, it also moves up and down creating winding rivers that alternate with deep and then shallow channels.
A lazy river changes once 3 things happen to form a rapid. 1. Constriction, 2. Gradient drop, 3. Rocks
The rocks form holes, and at the end of the rapid large swirlies and whirlpools can occur. In some cases the force of the water moving back upstream is so powerful it can capture and/or flip a fully loaded raft with thousands of pounds of gear and food. At a minimum, the end of rapid swirls can knock you off course and throw you into an eddy that takes you back upstream whereby you have to row hard to bet back into the current and back down through the swirls in order to keep going downstream.
As I was thinking about the impact of COVID since Jan 2020 I could not help but think of the swirlies. We all make our business plans and because of experience, there are predictable obstacles that we can plan for. It would be otherwise irresponsible.
But who could have known that a virus could have such an effect on every business, family, the world over!
As I think of resilient response I can point to those businesses who not only survived but thrived growing 100% or more through the pandemic.
But, for every business succeeding, there were many more that did not make it.
Some factors were out of the owner’s control. For instance, in WA state a mandate was issued that limited camps to a maximum of 10 people. This essentially shut down an entire industry for a year.
Others were simply afraid and went directly to a retrenchment strategy.
Some businesses were hit hard with COVID moving through the rank and file and killing their productivity along the way.
Although I consider myself a pretty healthy guy I personally went from a half-day of Mountain biking to 6 days on the COVID wing of the local hospital in less than 2 weeks.
Another “swirly” to navigate!
Although I am now technically back, the road to full recovery I am told will be much longer than I could have ever anticipated.
I am so thankful for the many medical staff, hospital staff, church members, and community.
As we all attempt to be more resilient I wonder if there are things we can be doing together to prepare for all the swirlies ahead. Here are a few questions that might help.
If you would like to chat about your business or if you would like access to a free planning webinar you can access that here with no opt-in required.
Dwight Grant is a seasoned businessman with over 30 years of leadership experience. He lives in CO where he enjoys whitewater rafting, mountain biking and spending time with family.