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October 13, 2006

I believe that life is to be enjoyed to the fullest for yourself first and to help others second. It seems selfish to take care of yourself first and others second, but you really are handicapped in helping others when you are not happy or in a good position mentally or physically. Living a balanced life seems to be something that is holy grail of successful living for the long term. I have heard all about “living a balanced life” that combines some combination of family, friends, work, play, and “spiritual” (this means different things for different people). I believe the mantra that having lots of fun playing with your friends and family, but being unable to feed yourself or your dependants is not going to result in a happy long term lifestyle. Everyone knows that successful business person that is working all of the time and can’t seem to relax and have a good time enjoying the fruits of their labor. Even more rampant is the person so focused on their careers that they neglect their spouses and children. Then there is the hard working person who neglects their health and can no longer enjoy playing because they are usually sick, don’t feel good, and simply can’t do anything physical and enjoy it anymore. Spiritually there are those who have none (I don’t mean organized church, but simply being part of a bigger picture beyond themselves and circle of influence) and there are also those who become fanatics that alienate themselves and others by pure prejudice of the my way or the highway.

My writing this is as much for my own benefit as for anyone who wants to use it to think about their own lives and how they may be improved.

Work: I believe that the easiest thing to over do is work. The simple fact that work takes the average person 40 hours per week, with most people spending another 20+ hours in commuting, working after hours, etc., means that it takes the biggest chunk of time from your waking hours. It is also seen as “necessary”. Coming to work isn’t “optional” so most people do it religiously. I believe the secret to not “overworking” is to stop calling it work and stop working, start playing. I have spent enough time watching people working in many different types of jobs, at factories, sales people, athletes, restaurants, etc. etc. to know that those who are the happiest with work, are playing at work for the most part. If you work 40 hours/week and can get yourself to consider 50% of what you are doing to be playing then you just cut your work time down by 50% and increased your play time by 20 hours. I play about 90% of the time I am running Jackson Kayak, being an athlete, instructor, or video producer, etc. I like playing board games like Monopoly with my friends and family. Jackson Kayak is the ultimate board game. I have roll the dice and move forward or backwards about 20 times a day and I am playing with real money, real lives, and with real competitors. My friends and family are all part of the game and some of my friends are playing for other teams. I go out of my way to make the activities I do fun. Sometimes there are negative experiences, usually unforeseen obstacles that jump out and scudder plans creating a public failure that require additional time, money, and energy to overcome that try to force you to “work”. Every-time I “work” I now feel irresponsible in that act. My goal is 100% play, zero work. As an owner and president of Jackson Kayak there is no excuse for not considering every aspect play.

Play: Play is something that all animals are born knowing how to do, and it gets trained right out of humans by our schools, parents, and society in general. What is required to play? Ideally a friend or family member, and that is all. Watch to dogs or cats play with nothing but the willingness to do a little rough and tumble. It doesn’t take much to play, except to say, “Let’s stop what we are doing and go play.” It is especially important to do with your kids and spouse, but also with your friends. By playing, I don’t mean watching TV, but doing something that is physically active and mentally stimulating. Soccer or football in the back yard is a family favorite with Emily and Dane and guests. Riding horses is a favorite of Kristine’s. Kayaking is about as good as it gets, combining the physical, mental, outdoor, travel, and spiritual all in one. Like I was discussing in Work, play is something that doesn’t have to be separated from work. Racing your co-workers to get a job done the fastest and/or best, betting small non-monetary wagers on the outcome of important projects, or for friendly competition can all increase your output and increase the fun factor.

Family: Family is the easiest thing to neglect and lose control over. Your parents, spouse, and/or kids are there for the good or the bad and aren’t as fickle as a new friend or your boss. This sets you up for neglecting them because they’ll be the ones to understand when you “don’t have time” to spend with them because you “have too much to do” etc. The time they often get is what is left over, or when you feel they need attention because they aren’t acting how you want them to and you have a negative interaction with them. It is a spiraling effect you get with your personal interactions with family. You are either getting more distant and more negative in your interactions to the point that the ties that bonded you in the first place are broken, or you simply tolerate each other, or you are feeding off each other’s positive energy. It can sneak up on you to the point that you feel like you have nothing in common with your kids or spouse or you can maintain the relationship daily and be comfortable with where you are with it.

Friends: Friends are there voluntarily so it is easy to know how you are doing here. Have friends? The good thing about good friends is that they usually reflect a lot about yourself. If you are positive and helpful, you will have the same kind of friends. If you are negative, cynical, and sarcastic, you will have friends that are the same way. You can tell a lot about a person by the friends that they keep and I recommend that everyone take a step back and see if the people they hang out with are moving them towards the person they want to be or away. Keeping good friends that you care about is simply to care about them and show it.

Spiritual: I believe that it is important to be connected mentally beyond the physical world. The easiest way to do this is to spend some time each day pondering life, its meaning, and how you fit in. There are thousands of religions in the world that all have their own beliefs on what that meaning is and how you fit in. I certainly don’t know the answers to life, the afterlife (or lack thereof), and while I live in the Southeast where there is a strong following of the Christian faith I have no shortage of people willing to give me all of the answers. I certainly wouldn’t think of disagreeing with their beliefs nor would I think less or more of someone because of their religion. Some of my best friends are Jewish, some are Mormons, Buddist, and I consider myself unfortunate that I don’t have any close friends who are Muslim. I think we all should be open and searching for answers to life, and how we fit in. The only thing I will say that I would offer to anyone as “the right way to live” is that those people who make their decisions themselves based on what they believe is the right thing for themselves and others live a life that is spiritual. Those people who make decisions based on what is popular in their circle (their church, friends, etc.) aren’t living a healthy spiritual life.

Balance: Why is balance important. Our lives are like an eco-system; and an eco-system without balance ultimately dies out. Long term, whatever area you are lacking in will begin to affect the other areas negatively. Creating a healthy balance doesn’t mean equal amounts of time, but instead, that each area is treated with the same intensity and care as the others. You may only spend 1 hour a day doing physical play, 10 hours of work, and 2 hours with your family, and spread your spiritual (bigger picture) thoughts and actions throughout the day and still be balanced. You may play for 5 hours, do 2 hours of work, and mix them together and be balanced. That is up to you to determine.

So how do you start with an unbalanced life and balance it? I have to do this all of the time because I get obsessed with a single activity and luckily for me I have a caring wife who let’s me know when I need to refocus and rebalance. Here is what I find that seems to work really well.

Instead of trying to think in terms that are hard to put actions to, simplify what the areas of your life are and how you prioritize them.

What are the most important things to you in order? For me it is:

My Wife
My Kids
My paddling
My friends
My business life
My Place in the Universe

It is important to treat the list in that order, but consider each item on the list when deciding what actions to do next.

For Example: Kristine’s happiness and welfare is number one on my list. If she isn’t happy, I’m not happy, and I don’t intend to live an unhappy life. Does that mean that I spend all of my time following her around to do things for her? No, what she needs to be happy are to spend quality time with me, with her kids, to have a home that she can call her own, whether it is an RV or a log house, and to have horses to ride, be able to travel, etc. These things require additional actions on my part besides sitting next to her and being with her. I need to make enough money for her to have horses (she waited 15 years, happily, before we had the money), and for me to be able to make the money and still be with her and the kids (work from home, etc.).

Since My kids are second on the list, home-schooling was the next plan, and it is also #2 on Kristine’s list, making that decision easy. That way I get to truly raise my own kids in my own way with them at my side the entire time.

My paddling is #3: Does this mean that I will give it up for #1 or #2? Not without a fight, and that fight would not be with Kristine or the kids, they would never want me to give up my paddling, that is selfish and would not give them a happy dad or husband. The “world” wanted me to give up my kayaking. “Stop playing and get a real job” “You will never make a living through kayaking.” Etc. etc. That was my battle. I always knew that I loved kayaking more than any other activity and in order for me to be happy I wanted to be able to paddle a lot. I have little issue with getting enough paddling in!

My friends #4: My friends are world wide and I don’t hang out with the same people every day. What I do to make sure that I have good friends that can count on me is to simply open up my home to all of my friends and do what I can to help them achieve their goals. Most of the time we are just “hanging out” is before or after paddling, or at dinner, or work.

My business life #5: For some getting their business life going is the challenge. For me it is a never ending quest that could swallow me up whole if I let it. Since I truly enjoy every aspect of my business life, it is part of my playtime and I get all wrapped up in playtime! Some would think that meeting with Dave Olson to work on our spreadsheets to forecast our business would be a chore. For me, I can’t wait until he comes to Rock Island because he is the only person I get to play with numbers with, and I love numbers. My challenge with my business life is to keep it from pushing out my family time.

My place in the universe #6: I like to “step back from the canvass of my life” and see where I fit in from a global view from way above the earth. Then I like to go beyond Earth and see where I fit in to the universe. I have found that it works best to get by yourself and spend 15 minutes alone just pondering how you got where you are, where you are going, and what that means to life in the universe. I believe the true goal of a spiritual life is to work towards “leaving the world a better place”. I think that it is immaterial if you believe Jesus is your savior, or you believe that we evolved from matter, what is important is that you treat your position in the universe as one of responsibility to making a positive impact, instead of a negative one. Just remembering that every action affects others, whether you will ever see that person again or not, it will ultimately affect you again. An example is that you smile and treat each person you meet with respect and try to “Make them glad they talked with you” with each interaction. What will happen is that person will ultimately be happier and more likely to treat the next person with properly and it will ultimately create the a better world. Just see how that works in the family situation or the workplace and apply it go the bigger picture. Everyone is either bringing the world mood and trust upwards or downwards, where are you? There are so many things that fall under this category. The environment, world peace, etc. are all worth your time and consideration if you want to feel balanced. My challenge here is remembering to get by myself and really get outside of the details of daily life and really see the general direction I am moving regarding making a positive impact globally and beyond. I can’t say I have ever done anything that has extended beyond earth other than sending a “mouse to space” when I was in 3rd grade. I feel that anything I do regarding the afterlife is done within my circle of influence, and that is not that broad compared to so many people, but it is larger than myself, at least.

OK, so now, actually living a balanced life…

Anyone who is important to you needs to know what your priority list is and how they fit in. My kids know that Kristine is above them and they know that this is good for them. “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”. All of your decisions are easy to make when you have the priority list down and your friends, family, and co-workers all know what that list is.

Step 1: Make your list- and show it to your loved ones to see if they agree with it. Sometimes a little input will help you make it more accurately.

Step 2: Write down what you want to see happen with each your priorities
Spend 2 hours a day with Kristine doing fun things.
Spend at least 1 hour per day playing with the kids (above paddling with them)
Paddle daily for fun, hitting my favorite places, and new ones, continue to get better a freestyle, slalom, creeking, river running, and instruction
Be there for my friends with whatever they need, make new friends, and keep up with old ones.
Create a company that my partner, my staff, my team, my customers, and my family can be proud of in regards to its character, and what it brings to the world and those who depend upon it.
Seek out opportunities to make the world a better place and implement them.

Step 3: Look at your day and decide what you currently do that doesn’t fall under this priority list of what you want to see in your life and eliminate it. Remember that if you decide to “give up” a number of activities that you consider fun, it isn’t “sacrificing” anything. You already decided what is important to you and everything that moves you in that direction is gaining what you really want. The things you no longer do to move in that direction is a blessing, not a sacrifice. People always used to tell me that I was “sacrificing so much to kayak everyday and be broke”. My priority list was being well taken care of and I was happy and moving in the direction that was important to me.

Examples of where to get time:

  1. Eliminating TV is a quick way for many people to reclaim wasted time in a day. With that said, the TV can be a social, family time tool under certain circumstances. It is a way to gather everyone indoors to watch something that everyone can get into and still interact. Unfortunately, it becomes a trap that holds your attention long after any quality social time is over. So be very careful if you leave TV in your daily schedule.
  2. Make every moment of every day a fun and happy one. Remember that two people doing the same activity can be thinking opposite things. One can really enjoy what they are doing while the other is miserable. Which state of mind you are in is up to you. The activity can’t make you upset, you have to decide to feel that way. To do things over and over that you don’t enjoy and make you upset is irresponsible. You aren’t doing anyone any good, especially yourself, to do that activity and be bummed out during it. Everything can be play, or everything can be work. It is up to you to improve your outlook on activities that you are already committed to, and replace those activities if they are just too far off of your personalities tolerance level. (For example, I can do yard work and wish I was doing something else (like making a kayak or kayaking, or playing with my kids), or I can get somebody to do it and make enough money to pay them.) I have tried weeding and I just struggle to make it fun. Same goes with little around the house home improvement activities. I almost blew it big time two nights ago when I came home from kayaking and Kristine, Ruth, Klass, and Lorraine had the whole laundry room out on the deck and they were “remodeling” . My heart sank immediately, and I was grumpy, not wanting to be doing that right then. My face obviously showed my feeling and Kristine was bummed that I was raining on her parade. The rest of the crew was having a great time and I was about to be the weak link. I had to go to my room for a minute, recollect and know that to be fun I just needed to go out there and have a good time and hang some cabinets and goof off with the others. That is what I did and it was a 100% improvement. I poured Kristine a glass of wine and apologized for being a mental midget and all worked out fine. I could have easily brought the whole crew down fast and it would have been a lesser experience for everyone.
  3. Work less: for people like me, it is easy to work more. When you have the opportunity to stop for a moment, take it. New projects shouldn’t be started when you need to be spending time with your family, or your friends.
  4. Involve your friends and family in more of your life, and become more involved with theirs. Waiting for everyone to be “off” at the same time means that you will live a life in the same house, but not together. It is easier to have time with those who are important to you if you involve yourself in their activities and invite them into yours. This allows you to combine your priorities into one activity in many cases.

Step 4: Know where you stand with your priorities: Remember that “When What you think, How you feel, and what you do are all consistent, only then can you truly be happy.”

  1. with family and friends you have to ask them: how are things for you? How am I doing in this relationship? How can I improve our relationship? If you are thinking that what you really need is for the other person to improve their end of the relationship, then you are in for a long ride that will end in disaster. You can’t change your friends or family, you can only show them that they can be comfortable giving 100% of themselves to you because you will always take responsibility in making the relationship work. The quickest way to improve them, is to improve yourself.
  2. With your occupation it is not whether you have apparent results, it is whether you can see that you are moving in the right direction. Are you learning more, are you seeing more opportunities, are you liking what that occupation stands for and do you want to be doing this 20 years from now? I was a failure in every sense of the word for the majority of my kayaking career, being so far in debt, and with no foreseeable financial windfall coming. However, I was always very successful in what was important to me in that occupation. I was able to kayak every day and was moving in the right direction. I was becoming more and more knowledgeable about kayaking and the entire industry. By focusing on the fact that I was a great resource for information on kayaks and kayaking, and was credible because of my kayaking skills, I was proud of my position as a Team member for various kayaking companies, then a rep, designer, instructor, brand manager, competitor, etc. etc. until I was eventually able to piece together a career that had some financial rewards that started off where I could get a credit card and buy a car, and continued to grow. My path was fairly straight from 1979 to 2006 and it all was more kayaking, more knowledge in kayaking, and more opportunities to use my knowledge for the betterment of kayaking. I think this is the best long term and short term approach to a fun career.
  3. With your spiritual self- I believe you simply need to ask around to those who really know you and ask, “Am I a good person?” “Do I do things everyday to support that, or do I take short cuts for personal gain?” This is the best way to see where you are at that moment. Remember the quote about Character, character being the sum total of all of your actions and the picture that they paint of you, “Wealth lost, something lost; health lost, much lost; character lost; all lost.”

My writing this entire thing mostly has to do with me wanting to remind myself of where I am and to get me straightened out again. I don’t stray far from my priorities, but when I do it is often at the expense of Kristine or Emily, or Dane. In this case I have filled my day with Jackson Kayak stuff, taking on new projects and meetings, etc., when I need to spend time with Emily and Kristine. It is funny how sometimes you think that doing something big, like building our new house, counts for something in this category. It doesn’t. One on one time showing you care for someone is irreplaceable. Don’t worry, I am not way out of whack and I am just needing to focus on blocking out more time of the day with my priorities #1 and #2 before I get down to #4. It makes me happy just thinking about it! Don’t worry Jackson Kayak won’t suffer, but instead it will be better because of it, since I will be living a balanced life with a happy wife and kids that are key components in the business themselves. 20 years from now, having an Emily and Dane that love Jackson Kayak instead of treating it like the wedge in between them and their dad will mean that they will more likely run it like they started it themselves instead of flying the coup and wanting to do something else. That will take lots of time with them, and I look forward to each minute.




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Dad scouting with the kids

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Riley telling Rocksey… you go girl

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The Lunt Family and Jackson family having lunch in France

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Dane a happy camper, loving this race

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I love this woman!

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