We’ve been talking lately about making the right choices, focus, and accountability. (If you haven’t yet read these, please do.) In a Cubicle Warrior first, I am going to write an article my friend Painless suggested. And it’s all about Big Rocks.But first, let me give you some history.

My shoulders are aching writing this. I just got cleaned up from an after-work kayak trip but I’m still battered and bruised from rafting this past weekend at the US National Whitewater Park. Fingers are pretty torn up with scabs, blisters, and friction burn from being dragged down an Olympic whitewater sluice but that’s OK. I had a great time with some excellent people and made some awesome memories.

The day started with us all wandering around the park and checking out the activities. While we initially thought we would be able to spend the entire day doing all of the activities they had we quickly realized that by virtue of the park set up, you could not. Some (rafting, rock climbing) had to be scheduled for a time slot early in the day. Others like the gigantic zip line could be done after you paid your dues and waited in line. (Speaking of zip lines and painless, here’s a brief article he wrote a while back. He described the experience appropriately.) We were going to have to marshal our resources, decided what experiences we wanted most, and prioritize accordingly.


Our first event was the easy family rafting adventure. You get placed in a larger boat with 5 of your closest friends and a guide takes you over the river. We cajoled the guide into making the journey a little more exciting and sure enough before long several of us found ourselves bouncing down simulated class IV rapids. Good times!

Zip Line

We had lunch and then waited in line for the mega zip. It was just as Painless had described in his article, no further commentary necessary.

Rodeo Rafting

Rodeo Rafting was the chief challenge of the day. This takes place on a smaller, much less stable raft than the regular rafting adventure only fitting 4 people instead of 6 from earlier in the morning. In Physics-speak, the center of gravity to base width ratio is far greater in the rodeo model creating a shorter, more powerful moment arm. Physics or no physics, the results are the same; your butt is flung out of the boat, often violently upon hitting the slightest ripple. In the case of running this toy boat in class IV simulated rapids you quickly find yourself under an avalanche of bodies and paddles if you have the misfortune of not being on the ‘high side’ of the raft. Our helmets and PFDs certainly earned their keep that day! The phrase at the end of the day was ‘if you’re not bleeding, you were not rafting!’ A little gory but fun.

Big Rocks

At one point of the day someone asked about the Cross Bay Swim and this is what Painless had asked me to write about. I said that by some age most people have encountered a number of challenges that were very hard and showed them who their true selves were. Whether those challenges were emotional, mental, or physical, sooner or later you have endured enough of these things that when presented with any other challenge you can say to yourself ‘after dealing with that last one, nothing can be as difficult as that was ever again.’ And I meant it.

Some people have devastating personal relationships that, for whatever reason end tragically. For the rest of their life they are steeled emotionally against anything else that will come their way, tempered in that ordeal. Others endure trials of a spiritual or intellectual nature. While I can certainly say I’ve had my share of those experiences, the cross bay swim is now my own personal challenge that I will measure all other challenges by. It wasn’t the most difficult thing I have ever endured but it did take a measured act of self destruction to complete.

You see, I was exhausted after the first 3 miles of swimming from the rough seas. My technique disappeared even in the relatively gentle seas of the last 2.25 miles and I could feel my shoulder muscles and rotator cuff tearing with each stroke. Also, after being in the water for that long my wetsuit began to use the salt and sand collected in a sawing motion across my chest and back. Each stroke drew more blood. Not so much fun in salt water. Still, I had a tangible, identifiable, objective goal – the finish line on the horizon. I had accountability to my kayakers, friends, and family. I had focused like a laser on training for the event and there was no way I wasn’t going to complete the swim.

The obvious question to ask is why to subject yourself to these kinds of challenges. Wouldn’t it be smarter and safer spending your energy girding yourself for the unexpected challenges that life is going to throw at you anyway?

I can see that point, and I don’t want to go all Neitche here and say ‘that which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger’ but I see these Challenges, these Big Rocks if you will, as milestones and monuments that you can point to when your mettle is tested and say ‘hey, that last challenge I did was awfully hard, but I came through that. I bet I can come through this, too.’

That’s a nice message to have burned into your psyche for those unexpected, unavoidable rough seas ahead.

Another counter would be George Carlin’s quip ‘What are you gonna do? Eat at Wendy’s and read People magazine until the end of time?’ I dislike fastfood and hate People magazine (they’ve yet to feature me 🙂 ) so I may as well swim long distances, travel the world, write this blog, and go crazy Rodeo Rafting with my friends.

Returning to the weekend wrap up, we started the day with an easy rafting trip. It was easy for me having experience with whitewater and no fear of being tipped but it was very challenging and gripping for those among us with out that experience. If you’re scared of swimming, whitewater rafting at any level can be incredibly daunting. Still, those same people who were wary of falling in to the drink in the morning were able to take that experience and build on it to survive and even enjoy the afternoon crazy Rodeo experience where the motto is ‘it’s not if your’re going to fall out, it’s when and how many time.’

So why not choose a big rock and go after it? It doesn’t have to be the biggest rock in the world, and you don’t have to be the only one who ever scaled it, but it should be trying for you.

Have you ever chased a Big Rock challenge? How did it prep you for future unknowns? What are you doing today?

Comments (4)

The best steel is forged in the Hottest fires.

I like to think that how you handle each “rock” or situation that is presented to you defines you in some way. You will either bend to the will of the current, or you will fight it with all your might and swim, whether you have the free hands to do so or not. Will power, and the strength to never give up is what I use to get me through the difficult rocks in my river. Much like CW not giving up on the CBS when the waves pointed your body vertically in the water. Never stopping or thinking you can just give up even when sea creatures were nibling at your toes.

True test of a Hero, not giving up when the times are difficult and painful.

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