One spring when myself and a group of my closest high school friends were all home from college, we decided to do some whitewater rafting on our local Kaweah River below Sequoia National Park. The spring run-off was at its peak and the water was flowing so high and fast that the rafting company was not allowing any other guests on the river. But we were locals and we incessantly pleaded our case until they reluctantly gave in and agreed to let us go.
At certain points the river was running at a class VI. Rapids are categorized in classes from easiest (class I) to un-runnable (class VI). A class VI rapid section is the most difficult and it is generally advised for even the most expert to avoid these sections. It requires great precaution, skill, teamwork and a lot of luck. In these sections it is not a matter of “if” you will flip over, but “when” you will flip over.
Before we approached the first class VI our guide began to explain just what to expect. He explained that they had a crew with safety lines set up ready to rescue each of us when we flipped. He then proceeded to explain the high level of trust we would have to have in him and in each other to steer the boat and to get through this section of rapids.
Our adrenaline was high. We were all adventurous, we were all athletes, and we were all good teammates with a high level of trust between us. We knew we could do this and we shared a common vision of a successful outcome. Once in the gnarly twisting rapids, our guide yelled at the top of his lungs, “Right!” “Left!” “Right!” Left!” and we rowed accordingly with every ounce of our energy and with the commitment of soldiers going to battle. We got into an incredible rhythm and sync. It was truly surreal.
We trusted each other completely, we took the challenge head on, we followed the instructions of our leader implicitly and we came out on the other side of this section without flipping over! The guides who were lined up along the edge to rescue us, cheered and celebrated our victory in disbelief. We celebrated with high fives and hugs and our guide collapsed from exhaustion and enormous satisfaction.
During my athletic career, I had some tremendous experiences with teams and the power of trust, but this was truly the best illustration of just what can be accomplished when teamwork and trust are laser-focused on a common goal.
Together we met a great challenge and together we beat the odds. We were only successful because of the level of trust manifested; we were in the same boat, rowing in the same direction and we shared the same vision of of a successful outcome.
Had just one of us taken our eyes off the desired outcome and instead focused fearfully towards the looming hole we were trying to avoid, we would have all certainly ended up swimming separately and desperately for the rescue ropes. And if one of us chose not to do our share of the paddling or even deliberately paddled out of sync with the others, the river would have laughed at the ease in which it tossed us into the ice cold twisting water.
No team on the court, on the field, in the boardroom, or in the home can be successful without a full commitment to teamwork and unconditional trust.
Take every opportunity SHOW UP as a great teammate for you and for others. Deliberately TEAM UP with people who share a common vision of your desired outcome and who will paddle hard through turbulent water with you to get there.
These are the best friends you could ever ask for and they make every adventure in life worth living.