Row, Row, Row your Boat

Amy House

Image of a hand holding a clock

I had never really thought about that childhood song or the power of the oar until recently.  I remember several rafting and canoeing trips, but I had never really thought about the lessons learned from those experiences and how they might overlap with business and life.  I would like to share with you some lessons I have recently fully learned.

Ways to use an Oar

If you ever have the opportunity to row a boat, canoe or raft, there are three ways you can use your paddle.

** Keep it in the boat.

Literally…you don’t even have to row.  You can just sit in the boat and not row.  The boat will move with any current flowing in the body of water your boat happens to be in.  However, you have no control or direction.  You are at the mercy of the current.  

I think back to my own prior career and even current business.  It is very tempting to not row.  Less work.  But you never get where you want to go.  In fact, it feels very powerless to be at the mercy of the current.  That current can be a bad boss or a challenging economy.  This type of use (or no use) of an oar isn’t recommended.  

** Sort of paddle but sometimes drag your oar in the water.

I remember my dad getting so frustrated on canoe trips.  He would say that if I wasn’t actually going to keep on paddling to pull my oar in.  I would paddle and get distracted and slowly stop paddling but my oar would slightly drag in the water.  When you let your oar drag, you slow down the boat.  Even if you are in the boat with other people who are paddling, you will still slow down the boat or even make it start to turn.  

While I don’t recommend just letting the current guide your boat and not use your oar at all, it is just as irresponsible to actually slow down forward momentum by “braking” with your oar.

** Use the oar like it is supposed to be used!

Paddle.  You don’t have to paddle fast.  Just paddle.  I used to hear the old analogy that you have to keep peddling a bike uphill or it will roll backwards.  That isn’t true.  If you stop peddling a bike while going uphill, you will put your feet down and just stop.  When you stop paddling, you keep moving but you don’t have control over the direction. At least, when you paddle with your oar, you have more control.  

Yes…there are times the “waters” of business and life are more powerful.  Our paddling doesn’t necessarily prevent us from moving with the current in those cases.  However, paddling in powerful waters will allow you to help guide your boat around obstacles.

I think I like this analogy and the lessons that can be applied is because in business and life…we must move forward.  In fact, we are always moving forward.  The question is are we moving forward to where we want to go or are we just going with the “flow”.  Or we could even be paddling a little but dragging our oar and that is almost more disastrous than not paddling!  We could be accidently slowing down our forward moving AND causing our “boat” to steer off course.

For me the lessons are…

** Keep rowing.  Don’t worry about speed. Just keep rowing.

** Don’t complain if you don’t get where you want to go because you aren’t paddling.

** Don’t complain if you aren’t paddling consistently and dragging your oar.  You aren’t a victim.  Your choices are causing the disruption.

** Be careful who you allow in your boat.  If you are a paddler, make sure everyone else is a paddler too!  It is very frustrating to paddle and watch others slow down the boat by dragging their oars.


Oh…and one last thing…

HOLD ON TO YOUR OAR.  Once you have left shore, you need the oar.  If you let it go and it floats away, then you really are “trying to get upstream without a paddle.”