Immediately following Christmas, the New Year arrives like the “Pass Go” block in Monopoly. We are done with the current year’s work, the current year’s resolutions, and are about to enter an entirely fresh Calendar. I am not sure if anyone truly feels that they got everything done in the year that they want to, and I don’t know anyone that doesn’t have at least some excitement for what a new year can bring.

I like to approach it like this.

I always dig up my previous year’s “New Year’s Resolutions”, usually with my wife, Kristine. Lost in my bottom drawer, or in the RV, rarely reviewed except on random occurrences when I stumble on it, I either jumped right into my resolutions or they were put off for the next year. Typically they are:

1. Spend quality time with Kristine each day.
2. Spend quality time with my kids each day.
3. Get in the best shape of my life.
4. Do all I can do to assure the success of JK for myself, partner, staff, and customers.
5. Win the ….. competition (usually the Worlds, or such event for the year)
6. Have some down time each day. (I always forget that one!)

I have yet to get to the end of a year and not feel like I couldn’t have improved 1-3. I always manage to put in full effort for Jackson Kayak, even if we don’t achieve all of our goals each year. My competitions have been hugely successful until 2008 where I was 5th in the World Cup instead of winning. As for down time, I have tried it, but I get bored in a matter of minutes, unless I am doing active stuff with my wife, kids, or friends.

Seeing this pattern, especially having very similar New Year’s Resolutions each year, I always have to ask myself if I am growing as a person, or doing the same things year in and year out. Have I tapped out my potential? Have I become stale and unmotivated to try new things? Sometimes, when I look at my calendar for the up coming year, it looks quite similar to the current year’s calendar. Is that good or bad? How do you break new ground, running over the same ground? These are the questions that I think I must ask myself, in order to assure that I’ll never have regrets in life. No “What if”, or “If only I had…” Those are two beginnings to sentences that I should never say, if a good life is what I am leading, I figure. That seems like a lot of pressure each time I start this process. Who am I, who do I want to be, what do I want to do? The pressure goes away as soon as the answers flood back to me quickly and without too much inner conflict.

1. I am a husband, father, kayaker, and a piece of the kayak business puzzle.
2. I want to spend time with my wife, kids, go kayaking (and do it really well, in all of the best places), and make a positive difference in the kayaking world with my efforts in business. Oh yea, since I have been 15 years old, I have wanted to always be able to physically do anything anyone else can do in my arena. So I want to be in good shape.

Whew, that makes my New Year’s Resolutions easy to fill out again this year.

1. Spend quality time each day with Kristine, and the kids.

2. Kayak every day I feel like it (that is about 300 days/year), and do it well… heck, I want to win the 2009 World Championships in Thun Switzerland. Here we go again. Step one is already completed in that as the current World Champion, I get an automatic invite to this world championships, so at least I know I can count on competing there.

3. With Jackson Kayak, so many people depend on us to do a great job, for their own livelihood, that there is quite a load of pressure to do it right, and I am reminded daily. That is usually the way with a career. Perform or you are finished. This makes balancing your life more difficult as our loved ones are more tolerant of low performance in our relationships. We can ignore our loved ones for weeks and not lose them, so it is tempting to do so. I have never had a problem working enough. I have also never finished a year and put on my New Year’s Resolutions, “Work More”. That would not be a good idea.

4. Stay in great shape. This is easy as long as I am paddling. I tend to paddle hard, until my body says stop, and that is for a few hard hours of playboating, or all day in river running. This fall I had to lift weights to fill the void caused by the drought of the southeast.

So, that brings me back to another year, just like this one? That is a great question for me to keep asking myself. What is different if the main subjects are identical? Shouldn’t there be new things on the list to create a fulfilling life? That would depend on how I live my life, I have decided.

#4 is something that is a no brainer, so we don’t have to worry about that. There is never a good reason to allow your physical self to deteriorate. Your brain may be the driver, but your body is the car. Want to be a Mini-Cooper S or an old jalopy by the corner that may or may not start in the morning? (OK so some people want to be a Porsche or a Ferrari, but I want to be a Mini-Cooper S. (fast, light, nimble, dependable, easy on gas, and I am not afraid to scratch it). Yes, I could also be a Landcruiser, but that really isn’t important. I just want a great car for my brain to drive.

#3 is a no-brainer for me as Jackson Kayak is a living being that is evolving like crazy. The Quality and Quantity of our staff is increasing dramatically, while our company keeps challenging me ways I never imagined. I am constantly working hard to keep my abilities in synch with what is required of me to lead the company. Luckily for me, that includes getting a lot of help from some great people. Still, the 2004 Eric Jackson couldn’t lead the 2009 Jackson Kayak successfully. I welcome this challenge as it is my mental stimulus that forces so many character flaws to the surface for evaluation. I can either fix them or fail. That is the toughest part. The knowledge base that is required to continue to move Jackson Kayak from a 735 square foot factory, to a 92,000 square foot factory and getting close to growing out of it is something I can keep up with, especially with my factory team being so good. I don’t imagine that I’ll get bored with JK any time soon. I can put that on my New Year’s list, and I hope one day Emily, Dane, KC, and Nick will have it on their lists too!

#2- Paddling when and where I want and to win the worlds… This one is actually a little trickier than I imagined it would be. I try really hard to paddle when and where I want. However, I also balance the business needs in and end up creating a schedule that is very tight with little down time. There are times when I just want to go off and run rivers in the middle of nowhere for a month or so, but when would that be, I ask as I look at my calendar. Do I really want to skip the Reno River Festival, and the Colorado events? Do I want to miss the Ottawa this year? What about the World Championship… No way! I am not missing that, as I have more fun at those events than just about anything. Ok, so I have been going away for a month or 5 or 6 weeks each winter. New Zealand, Australia, Costa Rica, Zambia, Uganda, Mexico, etc. are all winter get away trips, with a purpose, of course. You have seen many of these trips on videos. This year, I have decided to stay in the USA (most likely) for the entire winter to train at Rock Island and paddle the Southeast USA. I have not been let down so far as we have gotten over 9” of rain here this month and the average is only 4.77”! Rock Island has been going off the hook, while the rest of TN and surrounding states are also having a great winter. I might have chosen wisely. Like a farmer, you make a plan and hope for the best when it comes to weather. As for winning the World Championships, every worlds seems harder to win as the competition gets tougher each year. The Europeans are stronger than ever (A Slovakian won the 2008 World Cup this year in the Men’s Kayak class!). I’ll just train to be the best at all of the moves, try to get some more new moves under my belt and then do it on competition day. That challenge alone keeps my blood pumping every day. The opportunity to be the best, become the best, and then try to prove yourself over and over again is something I live for.

#1- Spend time with my wife and kids… Easy- just do it. No excuses. Stop working and sit with them and talk with them. Organize games, outings, and alone time every day. It is not complicated, it just takes daily focus. Kristine just walked in the door, just now, and I am off for a movie night with her, yippiee!

EJ