By Eric Jackson
My mind is not super complex, but it is quite self-driven. I have learned that it needs to be occupied in the right ways to keep me from going on tangents that are bad for me or others. To be more specific, if I am not trying to break new personal ground on a mission that is long term, and I feel is worthy of my time and effort, I feel like I am wasting my life away. I thrive on missions with a score sheet where I can compete on an open field, against worthy opponents, who are also in the game to win, but have fun. So far my personal missions in life have been R/C Planes, Swimming, Whitewater Kayaking, and Jackson Kayak. My relationships are different and not “missions”, but simply teaming up with people I really care about to share in my missions and I share in theirs. Whitewater Kayaking is my longest ongoing mission with over 35 years of full-time level commitment, and Jackson Kayak with over 12 years being second.
In 2015 I began working on my new mission, professional fishing.
With so much going on, how can I possibly need or want a “new Mission”?
Why? This is what most people, including my family, think on the front end as a gut reaction. Aren’t I already challenged enough? The reason is simple… I fell in love with tournament fishing. After carefully looking at the sport, the people, the organizations (FLW/BASS) I concluded that this was a healthy, robust, fun, challenging, and potentially rewarding endeavor for the right people. My obsession for both fishing and winning are a perfect match for entering this arena and having it be fun and rewarding, regardless of my results. For many people evaluating this mission, especially whitewater kayakers who don’t like fishing, it may seem like a terrible next step in my life. For fishermen who see my position in the Whitewater World, many wonder, “why start at the bottom in our area of expertise, when you are at the top of the game in your own area?” For everyone else, it is a mixed bag of wonderment, or a simple shrug of, “who cares what EJ does..” For me it is simply a way to become the expert in the field of freshwater fishing with real life experience, versus going to school to learn the “theories”. Add in the competing in a public arena where I will win/lose/draw and strive to become a consistent winner and I have a worthy endeavor to be a part of! This is how I did it in whitewater, and this is how I want to do it in fishing. Make sense?
My attraction to this new endeavor isn’t an abandonment of whitewater kayaking. My whitewater kayaking will continue to be a big part of what I do, who I am. I am turning my competitive nature towards tournament bass fishing, and fishing in general. My whitewater kayaking will be less competitive, but still very prominent. I will still do whitewater kayaking competitions, of course, because they are always super fun. I can focus some more energy in other areas of whitewater again. In 2016 I have 2 new books coming out, as well as lots of other media related stuff that are fun for me and allow me to share my expertise with the world in ways other than competitions.
Look for me on the FLW Walmart Bass Tour as well as the Southern BASS Opens in my bass boat, and I will also be doing some kayak fishing tournaments and plenty of filming out of my fishing kayak. My Coosa HD, Big Rig, and Kraken will all be getting plenty of use. Steve Fisher, Hobie, and I are planning a big expedition in our Krakens this year.
Here is a 30 second piece Steve Fisher did that sums up the kayaking fishing experience for me..
On the whitewater side, you’ll find me on rivers near you, competing in a few events, teaching kayaking occasionally, doing a few cool trips (like the Zambezi trip I just got off of), and sharing my kayaking knowledge with the world in the form of books, videos, and blogs.
Kristine and EJ The Kids Kayaking Fishing The business
My priorities are basically the same as they have always been- Kristine, Kids, Kayaking/Fishing, Business in that order. Jackson Kayak was born out of those priorities. The business has grown far beyond the few original folks who launched this business… It now has many individuals and families that it supports, while they work hard to make the business work and the business is grander in scope than ever before. That doesn’t change who I am or will be, any more than it should change anyone else. The business really has benefited from priorities where they belong in so many people. My family has grown into the business and the business has grown as a result of my family as well. It is a win/win situation for everyone. My wife and kids have a place that they can put their hard work and time into, where they are experts in the field. I can pursue my kayaking and fishing and it is a direct link to the business and puts me in the right audience with the right skills and knowledge to sell our product to the right people.
Keeping this on the radar at all times is important, I believe. Happiness can come easily, but given the speed and intensity that things changes, interactions with others are not always what you might expect, etc.. having a plan for being happy and expecting to be happy, no matter what is needed. The first thing I find is that when I smile at people, they generally smile back. If I look at the sternly waiting for them to offer a smile, it never happens. I have found that this applies with my family, friends, and strangers. I feel happy when people smile at me, so I smile at them first- very selfish of me, but it seems to work out. In 2016, I will continue to work on more time smiling and being happy, and less time in a state of unhealthy stress, which usually only comes to me when I am not taking care of my priorities!
While I would consider my 2015 to be healthy for the most part, I suffered a shoulder injury in August that halted my kayaking this fall. The Zambezi trip was my first big trip back on the horse and by the end of the trip my shoulder was ready for just about anything. Fishing isn’t as active as whitewater kayaking, so I have to substitute some workouts into my schedule when I am not paddling. I plan, also, on doing push-ups, etc., on my fishing boat, during tournaments and training, to keep the focus on staying strong. I am sure that will raise some eyebrows. Otherwise, generally speaking, I am still in great health and will work to keep that the best I can.
For me, a successful 2016 will consist of:
- I have a quality relationship with Kristine all year and we grow closer, not further apart.
- My kids and I enjoy a strong/stronger relationship, and I help them continue to grow in their abilities to lead the kind of life they want to.
- I have a good time fishing the FLW and BASS Opens this year and feel like I am learning the ropes and moving in the direction I want to move as a professional fisherman (results, skills, relationships, and overall self-sustainability).
- I get the kayaking in that I want to, with the people I want to kayak with, and continue to develop great kayaks for the marketplace.
- Jackson Kayak/Orion Coolers (part of JK), moves in the positive direction in the areas that matter, (profitability, culture, growth)
I will be doing my New Year’s Resolutions in the next couple of days, but this will serve as a starting point for me for guidance.
See you on the River, or Lake!
Here is my year end video from 2015…