By Eric Jackson
My Life- Chapter 1: 50 Years gone by:
Intermission: Sorry there will be no time for intermission in this story
My Life- Chapter 2: The Next 50 years
Before I can really anticipate my next 50 years I need to take an inventory of the assets i have today.
A wife, Kristine, of 25+ years.. She grounds me where i need to be grounded (there are few areas that I accept being grounded, but at least she points out the ground and says, “don’t forget that there is a ground down there”. She is the person I confide in, plan with, and she accepts my need to always be striving to do something big at all times. She is the beginning and the end of my planning for the next 50 years.
My kids: Emily, Dane, KC, and Nick (I include Nick because he lives with us, and while I can’t claim him as my own, I would be proud to call him my own)- My kids give me a sense of the future. Young people still want to make their mark in the world; look forward to a bright future, where they are better, and can accomplish more than today. I like being around that mentality as it keeps me young. I am on the same program. My kids are a huge asset to me, and will continue to be part of my ongoing life plan.
My friends: I have a long list of friends, some that work with me, and for me, and some that are long time acquaintances, and some that are new to me. Each one brings something to my life, such as a reassurance in what I am doing today, a living memory of things long past that only we share, and the ability to help each other achieve our goals and live our own dreams. I will continue to surround myself with friends who understand me, and want the best for me, as I do for them.
My kayaking: Paddling is more than a sport or hobby, or occupation to me, it has been such a big part of my life for so many years that most of my memories involve kayaking in some way. For 44 years I have been a kayaker, and for 35 years I have been kayaking at a high level. Today it is part of my fitness program, my stay sharp program, my business plan, my recreation plan, my travel program, and my family plan. It is a major asset going into my next 50 years.
My Fishing: a rekindled passion that I am truly enjoying, an obsession that I do by myself because I feel I need to, and that I do with others to share the obsession and to compete as well. Like everything I do, fishing is a game to me as well. There is a score, a winner, and a rematch to be had. Under that scenario, there is also new skills to be learned, knew knowledge and experience to be sought, and innovations to be made to push the frontier forwards. Many of my whitewater friends forget that I am also in the fishing business. My passion doesn’t start with the business, however, it starts with my fishing. My business of it follows my passion and re-enforces the importance of being the fisherman first, and then a maker of fishing stuff next. This next chapter in my life will have many fishing stories in it. I intend to leave my own personal mark on the fishing world over time with innovations.
My Health: Health isn’t something you have full control over, but you certainly have majority ownership of it. Barring catastrophic injury or illness every person has a huge capacity for physical output, endurance, strength, power, speed, flexibility, and skills. Unfortunately most people get suckered by advertising agencies selling creature comforts designed around a sedentary lifestyle. Lazy-Boy chairs and TVs have replaced outdoor games and exercise after work and weekends. The best quote/analogy I ever heard related to your body and health was by Denis Whately in is Psychology of Winning program. He said (I am paraphrasing as I haven’t actually heard his tapes in 30 years) , “Is your body a clunker parked by the curb, rusting away and in dire need of maintenance; or is it a finely tuned racing machine, with every part in top condition ready for the next big event?” That really hit home for me when I was in college and I started looking at people around me and it was clear that some could run and jump over things, could do pull ups, could swim fast, could carry on for long distances, and others were ‘curbed’ and could barely get through the day without crashing and feeling tired. Forget being able to do anything physical, they had allowed their bodies to become useless for just about anything beyond talking, and walking from one place to another to sit down again. That moment of realization that it was “use it or lose it” has carried me for the past 30 years and will continue to carry me to my death. The things I consider important physically, for good health long term and a life that isn’t limited by lack of physical ability are: strength/body weight ratio- pull ups, dips, push ups, jumping, running- ability to move my own body around fast, far, and effortlessly. That means a body weight between 158-165 at all times- anything over 165 is fat. Fat is bad; it is dead weight and unhealthy. VO2 Max: ability of the lungs to burn oxygen- lung capacity- you have to rev your engines hard and often enough to keep it. Only when you tax the system does it respond in kind by upgrading the system. You can have a 4 cylinder motor on an overloaded vehicle, or a 12 cylinder turbo charged racing engine on a lightweight chassis and that depends on how hard and often you rev your engines. I am 1/2 way through my Africa trip right now and part of my routine is to do a time trial from the Hairy Lemon beach to the top of the eddy at Club Wave. The purpose of this time trial is two fold. It both is a measurement of how my conditioning is going as well as part of my conditioning. I do it 2 times/day for the 8.5-9 minute attainment. My best time on this trip so far is 8:26. My first run was 9:37. I am about 5 pounds lighter, my muscle endurance is higher, and my cardio endurance is higher as well. My forward stroke has improved, and my water reading ability has improved. I got sick from something here for the past 4 days and I have been weak, tired, and struggling, but am still doing my best on the time trials. Steve Fisher did it with me the other day and did a good job on it, we essentially raced from the start and we were within a few seconds of each other. I am trying to make up for this past fall/winter where I spent too much time on my computer, too much good food, beer, and wine, and not enough training. I wanted to make sure that on my 50th birthday I was back in top shape. A few months of slacking off and I can go downhill fast. My muscles got tight, my shoulders and neck hurt, my muscles shrank and my belly grew. Extrapolate those physical changes out for any period of time, and it is clear that it is the wrong road to go down. I am not suggesting that everyone should feel that being in great shape is imperative to their happiness, but it is imperative to having physical prowess and the activities that you can do with it.
My Business: Jackson Kayak and my Kayaking Career…
I started Jackson Kayak right before my 40th birthday, and we hand delivered our first kayaks 1 month after my 40th birthday. My personal goals for my business were written down as part of my “I am turning 40, now what?” essay I wrote for myself. I wanted to create the number 1 brand of whitewater kayaks, where my kids could paddle with me, and I would take my competitive career to the next level. The year I started the business through 2007 I had my best run of international competition- winning the Pre-worlds in 2004, World Championships in 2005, World Cup in 2006, and World Championships in 2007. I was 4th in the World Cup in 2008, and 2nd in the World Championships in 2009, 5th in World Cup 2010, and 11th in World Championships 2011, 5th in World Cup 2012, and 8th in World Championships 2013. Jackson Kayak became the number 1 seller of whitewater kayaks in 2006 and still is today. I believe that we now have the longest run as the top brand of any plastic kayak company. I had a secondary goal for Jackson Kayak, which was to enter into the flatwater kayak market, but only if I thought we could maintain our top whitewater position and not be too distracted. We did that in 2007, but not very well. I didn’t delegate properly, and didn’t stick to my core philosophy of creating products for enthusiasts that are sold by enthusiasts and designed by enthusiasts. I also didn’t make money with Jackson Kayak for the first 8 years, stressing the organization and particularly my partner, Tony, who was investing in the business and loaning money to both cover losses and fund growth. It was made clear by Tony that things needed to change and that we couldn’t wait much longer to be profitable. Luckily for me, I had been putting the right “dream team” together since day 1 for Jackson Kayak. I hadn’t empowered everyone properly and didn’t manage each person correctly either, however, I had the right mix and the right talent. Dave Olson, who was my friend and CFO, but who I never gave the chance to really put his talents to work and consequently was always at risk of alienating him, stepped up to the plate and offered to manage operations and take over the CEO position. This was an amazing move for everyone. Dave has specific management skills and expertise that I don’t have that makes him the perfect person to manage our profitability. I knew this all along, deep down, but didn’t act on it. When we worked together at Confluence, I would always say, “I am revenue generation, and you are cost control.” Why I didn’t follow that at JK from the beginning I have no idea. My daily life at Jackson Kayak is structured pretty well where my focus is to propel the brand, make sure the next big things are not overlooked and get attention, and continue to bring in the best talent to allow us to handle our growth. Where I once was the sales manager, marketing manager, R+D manager, product manager, CEO, and President. Now I am President, but Marty is sales manager, James is marketing manager, Tony Lee is R+D manager, Dave is CEO, and we also have a product manager, Damon, and we have Joe Pulliam that holds much of that together along with Dave. Some things have not changed, like David Knight and I still design the whitewater boats together, something that is a labor of love that we both love to do and do well together. Now that I am 50 and the company is 10 years old, and much of my direct management has been taken over, with Dave doing an awesome job as CEO, I am focused on driving projects that will affect our future and are longer term. Sometimes I let daily stuff fall through the cracks, but no more than before. It is not my strongest suit to manage an already running machine. I am better at creating new parts of a machine and setting them off in the right direction. Where is this going? I intend to have some very exciting stuff to share with the world in the next 10 years related to Jackson Kayak. Some of it will be of my creation, much of it will come from the team of people we have striving every day for both improvements and new creations.
My athletic career is also far from over, as I enjoy competing, I enjoy representing sponsors, doing media events, and striving to be the best. I also find that when you are an expert in a field, it makes doing business in that field much easier. That is why I am particularly fond of doing business in whitewater kayaks and fishing kayaks. I would like to see, in the next 10 years, my kids have the opportunity to become national celebrities, by bringing kayaking to the masses. Not for celebrity sake, but for the sake of both kayaking and for my kids futures. While both Emily and Dane are clearly able to support themselves with or without Jackson Kayak, they are so dominant in their fields, but yet there isn’t a mass produced outlet with a revenue stream to tie into. I hope to change that while they are still young, bringing both kayaking and my kids through kayaking into a new arena. Transcending the sport of kayaking and getting kayaking exposed to the mainstream media on a regular basis are things I would like to accomplish in the next 10 years. I really think there is so much amazing content, visuals, and personalities in our sport that it is a matter of putting the package together. Of course if that were to happen, a surge in new kayakers would follow suit, and the “circle of life” would be perpetuated.
Hmm… I guess I am already delving into the next 50 years….
To summarize where I want to be:
Happily Married, and with Kristine achieving and happy…
A good father spending time with my kids doing things that are goal achieving, healthy, and fun.
Kayaking and/or kayak fishing daily- pushing my skills, seeing new places, and having fun while doing it at the top level with my friends and family.
Pushing Jackson Kayak to the next level, with my own unique contributions, while allowing the amazing team we have in place use their own unique contributions.
Get faster on my feet, stronger and more endurance in my boat and out of it. Perhaps add running to my repertoire again, something I haven’t really done since 1993. I ran a 15 K with Kristine last month at a 7:48 pace, and it was a good challenge. I didn’t train for it, but it was a good way to test my current state for legs and lungs. Legs were the weak link. I will start by entering another race with Kristine this year, but train for it and see where I am at. At my 50th birthday at 7:48… at 50 years and six months??? I think I can be at 7:15 for a 15k. That kind of summarizes how I think.. what is something you can’t do now, that you want to be able to do in the future? Is it good for you?
My dad just turned 80 and his “neuro-response” report was that of a 60 year old… sounds good to me. hmm… my goal is to have a “neuro-response” report of a 30 year old. why not… Never heard of such a report or test before until he told me about it. Young mind and body means doing the things a young person does, or should do. Be fit; always expect to be better than before and take steps to being so; always live in the now, but be mindful of the future; if it is good for you, do it, a lot. If it is bad for you don’t do it, or rarely do it, that includes, in particular, doing nothing when you could or should so something. I hate to wait 30 years to take that test and see how it went. I am happy that most of what I wanted to accomplish by my 50th birthday was accomplished, and most importantly that I set the right goals and priorities in the first place. Wife, Kids, Paddling, business. Friends fall under paddling and business for the most part.
See you on the water!