challenges make us stronger, hard times makes us rethink what is truly important, and struggling to survive helps create a humble outlook that reminds us that there is no such thing as invincibility.   Balance is always at risk of being lost when a feeling of desperation sets in.

My life is always right on the edge of that situation.   You could look from the outside and see a long series of successes, with little to no failure, and a life of luxury of free time.     You could also look and see a life that is dangerously perched on a peak with the winds of fate blowing ferociously in every direction, trying to knock me off that peak.   Both would be accurate.  

Anyone who has played poker with me knows that in every game I’ll be going “All In” and likely more than once.   My life can best be described as playing out a long poker hand, where I went “All In” about 30 years ago.    The situations are always different, but many of the theme remain the same.

Marriage with Kristine- there is no such thing as a zero effort, free ride marriage.   It is a long term effort to get it right for yourself and your partner and for me, a daily challenge, one that makes life fun and interesting, but a challenge all the same.    There is no holding back- all in, or leave the table.

A financial plan that keeps me afloat-  My ability to generate income has steadily increased over the past 30 years.  It started with cars being repossessed, evictions, years of below poverty level income in the early part of our marriage and Emily/Dane’s life and has grown to having my dream house a nice car, and some of the outward trappings of “success” in the past 5 years.     Yet the struggle is no less, in fact, instead of having a few hundred dollars that need to come in during the week to feed my family, hundreds of thousands of dollars need to come in to feed my entire staff’s families, and without that, my family doesn’t eat either.   With Jackson Kayak being a new company, and the challenges of the business of making a profitable kayak company taking everything I have, it is an all in proposition, no matter how you look at it.   If JK doesn’t work out,  EJ is back to square one.   There is no “backup plan”.    I am fine with that, because I believe a backup plan is the first sign of failure.    it is certainly a sign of lack of commitment.    Some people say it is smart living.   I say it is mediocrity in the making.    The “don’t quit your day job” approach means you’ll never quit your day job, and your “dream job” isn’t happening,  I figure.

Athletics:  It is a funny and strangely attractive part of my life that is so misunderstood by most people.   Being the World Champion, as an example of my athletics is on a line so fine and a balance so difficult that I amaze myself sometimes that I still on it.   i used to have a saying that “if your average score is double your next competitor, you have a 50% chance of winning any event.”   That concept is true today and has always been.   While I am 4 time and current World Champion- I have competed in 8 World Championships.   In 1995 I was the reigning world champion but got 13th and hurt myself in my finals ride, I thought I would win.   in 1997 I got second place, and nobody remembers who got second, and i thought i would win.  In 1999 I got 9th place and was killing it up until I got eliminated in Semi-finals with two bad rides and everyone thought i would win.   In 2003 i won round after round until a bad ride that knocked me out into 4th place, when I, and most people figured I would win..    Since then, I have won them all, but…   In 2007 I couldn’t get my act together and Nick won every round until the finals when i won.   That was luck on my side that time.   So tempermental, so unpredictable, such a hard thing to hang your hat on, but so fun if you can do it and not actually care more about winning than just being there.     My business depends on my success and the success of my team.   My boats have to be the best, and if they are the best and we can’t win in them, who is going to notice them?   Without advertising or sales reps,  the business, and the livelihood of many people, depend on our athletic success too.    Some would argue that, like the guy who bought the All-Star yesterday.  He would say  “I bought this boat because it is the best, and my friend turned me on to it.”   But if you trace it all back to the beginning of its life cycle- you have to reach critical mass with the boat before word of mouth does any good.   That requires that alot of people want to try it, and soon after it comes out, and then it has to be a great product.   Showing what it can do in competition is part of that plan.   Winning those competitions is the only way that competitions do anything for the boats.   Whew!  that is a lot of pressure, or is it?   it isn’t reality, but perception of reality.   If I truly had to manipulate all of that at the same time it would be too much.  Luckily for me, I have a great team of athletes that I have coached and trained, (and changed their diapers in some cases) that carry the ball for me when I don’t.   In fact, without a doubt my biggest competition is within my own team now.   The 2009 World Championships are coming up.    I am preparing for them, and thinking about them alot.  So is the rest of the world of freestyle paddlers.   Who will win?   Does it matter?  I think so.  

Family time: relaxation time:  A family that plays together stays together.   Because my entire family is part of the Jackson Kayak program, it is hard to seperate play and work with them and I hold them to a standard that is too high for it to be healthy sometimes.   Dane is only 15 and a boy in ever sense of the word, yet, he is so influential as a paddler and is in position to be “working” almost 100% of the time.  When he doesn’t “work” I sometimes get mad at him and expect him to be on call 24/7, same with Emily.    At the same time  I have 24/7 to spend with them and many opportunties for quality time and since we share our passion for paddling, I usually get good time each day with them.    Each of them are athletes with their own goals and it is tough to assure that everyone is taken care of.  Kristine is the best at that, especially since I am in the mix with them.   i haven’t finished math with Dane even though he has asked me for the past 3 days to help him with 4 questions he can’t do.    That would be an example where I put other things ahead of the kids and important things get pushed aside.    I’ll have to remember to do math today.

All of these circles intersect for me.    Family, Krsitine, Paddling, and Business, and personal survival.    I would say that the overlap is greater in the circles of my life than in most.   That is what allows me to go all-in and get away with it.    i can watch all of my life while looking in one direction, for the most part.   Breaking it all down seems too incredibly unstable  of a platform to depend on.    Putting it all together the foundation seems much more solid, and it is worth the risk.    In fact, the risk may be less than the most conservative approaches of the world, espeically in today’s world.

See you on the river.