Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

Running the Rapids

homeSlideshow9Last summer, I had the opportunity to participate in a regional chamber of commerce activity at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte.  At the conclusion of a meeting, four of us chamber execs braved the challenge and took on the whitewater course.     The center, set on the banks of the Catawba River, is Charlotte’s newest national attraction.  The Class III/IV rapids were designed to test the skill level of healthy outdoor enthusiasts.

Let’s just set the record straight.  The four chamber of commerce executives who climbed into that raft were not about to be accused of being healthy outdoor enthusiasts possessing a high degree of skill when it comes to fighting rapids.  In addition, our guide that afternoon, a young fellow named Danny, knew he had a raft full of “desk riders” strapping on their vests, armed with our mighty oars.    Danny, it turns out, was a bit of a Sadist from the moment we left the load in.  He took delight in heading straight for the most turbulent rapids and positioning our craft against the rush of water which enveloped our small raft.  If you’ve ever seen the movie Forrest Gump with Lt. Dan strapped high in the crow’s nest of the shrimping boat, taking on the onslaught of hurricane winds, you have a great mental picture of Danny.  He took great pride as members of our rubber raft were thrown in all different directions, spitting water, and rowing as if our lives depended on it.

As I look back, that experience speaks much to how we approach the challenges of our occupations.  For many years I have addressed members of our chamber of commerce at a quarterly new member orientation.  On those occasions I have likened my role at the chamber to that of a ship captain who gets his orders from the Board of Directors as to the next destination.  I plot the course and steam away, with activities on board to keep everyone (our members) entertained.ship

It is our hope, at the end of the journey, the passengers would have enjoyed the cruise so much, they make a return trip again and again.  In reality, my role is much more like the rafting excursion.  Our environment has changed dramatically over the last decade with new challenges and opportunities facing our growing region.  While we plot a course toward a planned destination, we are often met with swirling whitewater rapids. If we don’t adjust quickly, they can capsize our craft or jettison our passengers.

We must execute quick decisions, adjusting to smooth clear waters as well as running rapids.  A small lapse of attention or team members paddling out of sync could spell rough times for the organization or business.   We can pilot through the turbulent rapids, working together as a team and adjusting to the chaotic conditions which face our organizations or we can paddle through a river of doubt facing the swirling waters of constant change.  The choice is ours.


March 13, 2009 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , | Leave a comment