Every moment of everyone’s life is important to their lives and shapes who they become, what they accomplish, and how they affect others. Moments add up to days, days to weeks, weeks to months, and months to years. Summarizing a year for me is a tough one as it is such a bare bones account of what really happened. There were so many moments, each one with emotions, decisions, laughter, crying, feeling invincible, feeling like a failure, proud, or embarrassed, lazy or charging. All of these moments add up to the year that will be known as 2009, or the last year of the first decade of the new millennium.
When my life is being defined as an athlete, this year was a success, but not my best year. I ended my reign as World Champion Which I held for 6 of the 10 years in the past decade, and the last four years of it. Second place, however, isn’t a bad slip and I can still say I am quite proud of my results in 2009 as an athlete. I won the semi-finals and was second in the finals in the biggest kayaking event of the year, and the biggest world championships there has ever been. Losing to my son-in-law isn’t so bad either, since he is my protégé’ and one of my training partners, and family. We have gone head to head enough times to know that it could just have easily been the other way around with him in second and me in first. It wasn’t however, and he earned his title on that day.
When my life is being defined as a business man 2009 was a mix of success and failures. Jackson Kayak didn’t achieve our goals in 2009, getting a slow start in the first ½ of the year with economy woes, older product that most people had already, and below projected profits. When faced with a challenge like that, however, we took the bull by the horns and ramped up R+D creating the new Star series first, which became Jackson Kayak’s fastest selling kayak in our 6 year history, and winning top 5 placings in the Men’s Kayak class, as well as top 2 in women, top 2 in junior men and top 2 in C1, and 2nd and 3rd in Junior women. This boat has been a statement from the word “go” that we make the boats that are worth having. We followed up that in designing the 2010 Fun series, and now finishing up the Villain. Three new series in a short time in answer to the economy being slow, and kayakers ready for something new and better and more fun. We have also been working hard in creating a rec and touring and fishing product line that we are getting off the ground in 2010. 2009 was a strong development year for that and I am lucky to have a great team of people that are making that work.
Like all businesses, they make a profit and survive using the profits to pay for new product, improvements on equipment, and covering all of the expenses of doing business, or they lose money and eventually go out of business. There is no such thing as a good company that loses money. It is like a great boat that is sinking. 2009 was our most challenging year in our history in terms of doing everything we can to make money when so many challenges are trying to thwart that goal. Luckily for me and Jackson Kayak, I treat every challenge as a game to be won, and work until I can find a way to meet our goals no matter what the external situations. This is true for my team at Jackson Kayak as well. We are all treating the bad economy as a challenge to overcome, and to make Jackson Kayak more profitable each year, with 2010 to be our best year ever. This isn’t easy, but it is certainly more fun than having a team that gives up and goes home with their tails between their legs. I am prepared for a tough year, with each challenge to be met head on in order to succeed. Not much different than being an athlete.
My family life in 2009 was full of changes and is quite different than any other year. In April my daughter, Emily, got married to Nick in Mexico. It wasn’t a surprise and I was quite fired up to have them get married. [nggallery id=50]
However, it meant that Emily and Nick both moved out of the house, leaving Kristine, Dane, KC, and I. I still get to paddle and play with Emly and Dane everyday, however. KC was the big change for me. KC went from being a baby that couldn’t even crawl, to a walking machine that can use sign language to get what he wants and takes up more time in a day than I remembered a kid taking up. I truly went from having 4 adults and one teen in the house to 2 adults, 1 teen, and one very active toddler that still doesn’t sleep through the night. Like my other kids, I am very lucky that KC is as good of a kid and as fun as any kid his age can be. He is happy, energetic, easy to please, and full of spirit. Kristine really enjoys having another baby in the house and I can see why she was so excited to try to have another one. My time with Kristine has been great all year. She is very helpful in the business, and takes good care of me all of the time. We play backgammon each night before bed, and I bring her coffee in bed each morning. What happens in between those times changes each day and really depends if we are on tour in the RV, or at home at the ranch.
Some highlights from 2009 that I would like to share…
Playing pinball and ping pong with the kids
My trip to Napa for Mother’s Day with Kristine. (sorry no photos)
Finally getting on Raven’s Fork
135 new freestyle kayaking events organized in 2009 by World Kayak
What is in store for 2010? I have made New Year’s resolutions, and they mostly include things like… be all you can be, never letting the lure of creature comforts get in the way of real life experiences. Ever notice that your memories a year later are rarely doing things like sitting in a new sofa and watching TV, etc.. While every moment it is easy to feel like, “boy I am tired after all of that work, what I really want is to sit down and do nothing.” Imagine if we did that during games we play, just forfeit in the middle of the game because it is the impulse or sudden realization that you have to push yourself a little to finish. Nothing would ever get done. Games have a finish line and a wonderful way of helping us complete them. Life doesn’t have that, unless you create games out of life and make your own acceptable finish lines. I fight that impulse like everyone else and when I get to the ranch I tend to want to sit and enjoy some down time after work. After a month of that, it occurs to me that I am getting out of shape, and settling into a life of nothing gained nothing lost beyond the business. That might be enough for some people, but I get bored and de-motivated when I am not challenging myself in other fun ways. So I am making plans for being in great shape, my athletics for 2010, and for making sure that kayaking in general is healthy and growing. I am planning on getting the Villain out to some new creeks and rivers I have never run. I want to keep my average of 30 new rivers/creeks/ year going, which means seeing new places again, and with my family. My challenge as a businessman is larger in 2010 than ever before and I want to meet and exceed our goals there. This stretches me as a person to do things well, that I have never done before. With 50 people depending on me, plus their families, I don’t take that challenge lightly. We are hiring new people, training them, and growing our business in a time that most companies are scaling back, laying off, and withering. In order for us to do that and be around in 2011, we’ll need to sell a lot of boats. You, the kayaker, will need to purchase a new Jackson Kayak from your local shop, and the local shop will have to make enough money on their boats to actually pay their bill to us, and then, we’ll have to manage that revenue properly to turn it into a profit. Our biggest unknown will be how many kayaks do we sell. We created an all new whitewater lineup of the best boats we have ever made, but without you going to the dealer and purchasing them in 2010, there may not be a 2011 for Jackson Kayak. That is just the way these things work. We created our new Super Linear versions to offer a lower priced version of our new designs too, in case price is an issue. I believe that most paddlers are willing to buy a new boat this year if the boat will improve their paddling enjoyment. I am betting the house on that one. As you can see, every day is a game that the outcome is unknown for me. This is the dictionary definition of an Adventure. And that, my friends, is what I live for, and believe in, an Adventure. Let 2010 begin!