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October 28, 2007

My life is MOSTLY put on the website, as you may already know. I write about my kayaking, because I like to talk about, write about, listen to, watch, and dream about kayaking. I also am very interested in living my own life, and before my last breath, thinking to myself, “I lived the fullest life I could imagine.” Here is the short version of my life at the moment.

I am a husband to my best friend, Kristine. She is not easy to please, and not always impressed with my actions on a small scale, but a big fan on a larger scale. This makes life interesting for me, who is really easy to please on a small scale but harder to impress on a large scale. I am a little bit aloof and need to be brought into the real world from time to time and Kristine helps me do that. She also has my back and supports me to a level that I can’t imagine any man has ever been supported. I guess that is where the “behind every successful man…” (since I am man, I just go with that saying. I am sure it goes both ways.)

I am father to Emily and Dane. Emily is long past being a “kid” and her as a daughter is like having a genius, beautiful, hard working, self confident, accomplished woman in the house, a second one. That is both easy, and rewarding and challenging at the same time. Emily really makes me feel loved and I melt every time she kisses me or hugs me looks at me like a little girl again. Dane is a great combo of hardcore young teen that kicks ass in everything he does and a sensitive, thoughtful young man that out does me everytime with Kristine (“Mom, that outfit looks great on you”, “Try this shirt on mom, I think it is perfect for your eyes.” Mom- that was the best bacon I have ever had.” Etc. etc.) It is hard to keep up with him on that front. He is also one of the best kayakers in the world at any age and in freestyle he doubled my score on the “A” wave at the National Championships. He is incredible as a boater and a showman to boot. This is something that makes me proud. Like all kids his age, he is a natural adventurer. He couldn’t wait to try out his new sleeping bag last night so we camped at the airport instead of getting a hotel.

I am a kayaker. I am spoiling myself with my kayaking, to be sure. Chasing down the best paddling in the world, hitting an average of 30 new rivers each year. I know that I am a real kayaker in it for the right reasons, when I can have a great time on a low water, or even flatwater river, where there aren’t any challenging rapids, or good play, in relative terms. I am truly addicted to the best sport on earth, paddling. I can’t deny that I want to be the best paddler in the world, at everything I do. I want to win competitions, run rapids better, be a better instructor, make better boats, be a better coach, team leader, racer, creeker, you name it. This desire could leave me unfulfilled if I didn’t really think I was better. I respect and am impressed and in awe of many paddlers’ accomplishments and am looking to steal their thunder. It is more a personal goal to be the best, than a public thing. When I look in the mirror as a paddler, I am 100% comfortable with what I have done already and don’t “need” to accomplish anymore. When I get out to the river, or see a competition on a schedule, I am drawn to it and feel like I am prepared to start from the beginning to show up and compete in it. I just love that feeling of being in a pack and having to outperform others to get to the top. Today, I am an expedition kayaker. Truly I just want to accomplish the exploration, safely, and running of new rivers never been done before, in a remote, challenging setting, with great group dynamics.

I am a businessman- I just want to achieve the goals set by me in business. Market-share, quality, profitability, all in the EJ way, and all while doing good for others. MY goal was to create a company where I could make the “right decision” everytime and have it also be right for the bottom line in the business. This, and being in business with my family, my friends, etc. are worth every minute of hard work. I don’t do the right thing everytime, and it seems like I make at least one major mistake each day. It seems like there is no end to the amount of learning and improvements you can make as a leader of a company. Relationships, communication, decisions, priorities, administration, managing, etc. are all areas that hit me each day with a challenge that I rise up to often, and fall short on often. I learn a ton from those I manage, and also from my partner Tony, and Kristine. Kristine is so different from me and her brain works so differently that she approaches just about everything differently than I do. Me being successful enough to pass on my business to my kids when the time comes is a major motivator for me.

Feelings: I have been pretty lucky over the years that my first feeling when confronted by any situation is usually a positive one. This has allowed me to be happy and always be looking for a solution to any problem instead of wallowing in dread or thinking, even for a second, that ultimately anything bad can happen. Being in business, having kids, and managing so many things that could go wrong, not just for me, but for others, has opened a new can of worms for me. That is protecting the downside. Protecting the downside and defense is a foreign concept for me. It is also the root of unhappiness, in my mind. It is hard to be happy and motivated about not losing something and knowing that time and effort is going into simply not losing. The first hints that I could be unhappy in my life, even with everything seemingly going my way, has showed its ugly head more than once in my thoughts and feelings. I took on the role of protecting the downside, making sure that everyone has a job, that families can trust me as a leader, etc. etc. without considering that it was a totally new role for me and that it comes with a different approach mentally. I understand where the saying, “live like you have nothing to lose” comes from. It is the theme of my life. Now, however, it isn’t only me that has something to lose. It is my partner, my employees, my family. I have finally come to grips with the concept of doing both. I also finally understand how people who seem to have it all, are the same people that get depressed, and ruin their lives. It is hard to deal with the idea that you have reached as far as you will ever go. (Don’t worry, that is a state I don’t ever intend to be in. I believe that that state comes to people who got too far too fast and too easily) People who still haven’t made it, (in their own minds) have something to look forward to. This is just a theory I have. I am happy right now, and in the in past month, have made major strides forwards in that area again. It is funny how the happier you are, the happier those around you are. Nick Troutman is a great example of someone, at only 18 years old, that will show you taking being positive and happy to the next level, in a great way. The boy gets fired up, as if he just won the world championships, when a waitress tells him that, “yes, we do have chocolate milk”. I see a lot of me in him, especially from years ago. It is hard to find a good example of that kind of “life is good” person to be able to get your cues from everyday. I am lucky to have him living with us.

Health- I have been a lucky guy when it comes to health, most will say. I won’t disagree, but I also believe my luck came when I first heard the “pop psychology” tapes by Denis Waitley called the Psychology of Winning. In those tapes he slams the concept of people who say, “I always get the winter flu” for example, citing that they live as if the little germs sit outside their window waiting for their annual winter welcome to make them sick. He credits this kind of person with dropping their mental guard and allowing themselves, almost forcing themselves to get sick to complete the “believe and you will achieve” cycle. When I heard that, I immediately decided that the allergies I have had since I can remember (used to get weekly allergy shots for dust and, hog hair) were in my mind and my roommate, Eric van Leer and I started calling each other wimpy if we ever got sick. It became, in my world, as if getting a cold was a sign of being a mental midget, and being afraid to put myself in front of germs was just another way to admit that you’re your body was too wimpy to handle it without it getting sick. I would, and still do literally, go out of my way to drink out of the same cup as my family members, or anyone else for that matter who are sick with the flu or whatever. Doing this voluntarily is like asking a friend to hit you in the stomach while keeping your abs tight to see if you can handle it. You don’t that if you can’t handle it. Being prepared is the ticket. I literally view it as “Come on in little virus and you’ll be squashed like Custer in the valley, no mercy.” Does it always work? I approached that in Africa back in 2003 with Malaria and it really made sense to me that a parasite was a perfect type of disease for my body to destroy upon entry into my body. Well, the parasite kicked my ass with no mercy, and those with me had some great ammunition for teasing me. I also may be the worse right now and still fighting the pattern of getting sick only after a major competition (like the World Championships, Olympics, etc.) I NEVER get sick when I have something important to do, which is almost every day of my life. However, when a very specific event takes months to train for and there is a very specific day that the event is over and I am focused on the finals day and not beyond it, I have woken up the day after the event with the flue, a cold, etc. often enough to realize it is a problem. I learned that just “kicking back and doing nothing after a major event with no truly important goal to be mentally focused on” is a recipe for disaster. Now, my new defense against sickness is simply to set a goal that is mentally committed before the major event is over. Making sure that I am not trying to just trick my mind and leave an opening, I really need to plan the next goal out enough to actually have it on my calendar, and review that goal before the morning after my competition. I didn’t get sick after this year’s worlds, sweet! On a bigger scale, did you know that Elvis Presley died at the same age as his mom, of the same disease, on almost the same day? My mom died of cancer at age 44 (I am 43). To me cancer seems like a disease that can be nipped in the butt with a strong mental approach (kill the cells the day the things try to freak out and multiply). At the same time, it isn’t worth learning the hard way (like malaria). So, at 43, I plan on getting my first full on physical where we do blood tests, and get a full set of results. My goal is, of course, to show a set of results that the doctor says, “wow” that is the healthiest guy I have ever tested. Low cholesterol, etc. etc. Who knows, but I will likely be training prior for the tests somehow, once I know what they will be looking for. My whole family is immune to being sick. When they do get sick, they don’t get much sympathy from me, which may be good or bad, not sure. I know people who almost look forward to being sick because they get attention from mom, for example. I am the opposite, where I offer attention to my kids when they are being proactively good, helpful, or happy. When they get grumpy or sick, they are on their own. If they are hurting and can’t do anything about it, but are handling the pain or anguish to the best of their ability, I am empathetic. I don’t really know about this one, but Kristine has the empathy down to the nth degree.

Well, I am at Guest Appreciation Festival at NOC and Dane is already over at the store putting kayakers in boats. I am going to go catch up with him.

Remember that I write what I believe, and while I am not afraid to put ideas out there they may prove to be out in left field and certainly prove to be wrong later. That is fine; life is about believing in things, but being open to learning and improving your believes as you go. As long as what you believe come from your own experience, reading, or thoughts and not from you mom and dad (“Are you prejudices inherited, or are they your own.”) Some people go their whole lives comfortable in believing what mom and dad told them as kids and will pass that on to their own kids, and so on. Constantly questioning what you believe is a great way to stay fresh and feel you are always growing. It is, of course, possible to turn in a great way of thinking taught by your parents for a not so intelligent way of thinking you come up with on your own. At least you can take credit for you own actions and thoughts