WordFood - how we feed or starve our realtionships

- Julia Hubbel

Julia’s ability to get this group of type-A executives to engage in true networking was incredible. She is truly skilled at motivating the group to engage and interact with each other, and her openness and honesty really come through.

— Shelley Stewart, Jr.,
Senior Vice President of Operational Excellence and Chief Procurement Officer, Tyco

July 21, 2014

WordFood Silence is Priceless

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 6:48 pm

The water was sparkling in the Colorado sun, the temperature hovering around the mid-nineties. Eleven of us were scattered around the guides of Renaissance on our second weekend of kayaking lessons near Glenwood Springs, moving down the river in a rough circle. Some of us had been together on our first weekend in and around Denver, just building basic skills, being terrified of the slightest ruffle in the river. Here were Class II waters, not much more, but to most of us it was still BIG WATER given our experience levels. All of us had just taken a dip without our kayaks and were mostly at ease going over a rapid, and our guides urged us along.

As with many groups of sports enthusiasts, this one had its hotdog. Guy in his midthirties or so, eager to show off how he could roll (most of us couldn’t), he hit rocks, hot rodded the river, and mainly used his upper body to power around. He grabbed the instructor’s attention for feedback. They’re in every group. Maybe you’ve seen one, even been one. They are sometimes talented, sometimes not, but they almost always are demanding and loud and perhaps a little in your face. That’s all right.

Well, that is. Unless.

It was all fine until the last rapid. As we approached, this particular paddler was in front of me, and I informed him of my position to him in the water. Our guide up ahead told me to move to the left to enter what would be the biggest water of the day. I did just that, and suddenly the current swept both of us into the big wave at about the same time.

I kept paddling. Suddenly this guy is screaming obscenities at me: F–! God damn! F–! At the top of his lungs, a long ugly stream of them. We were right next to each other in the wave. I recall saying at conversation level that we were fine, just focus, you’re doing fine. Didn’t shout or yell, didn’t get upset or offended – I normally might have when attacked like that. We both got through the rapids just fine, I headed down the river a spell and went into an eddy on the left and he ended up on the right.

Two people tipped and the guides minded them until they were back in their  boats. One guide checked on me and asked me why I’d been cursing so loudly. I laughed and explained that it most certainly hadn’t been my contribution to the conversation.

Once we got onshore about fifteen minutes later, this man was stripping off his skirt when I approached him. He looked up and said, “That got scary back there.” To that I said, “You did great. You’ve got a lot of skills on the water.” He went on to explain that he couldn’t paddle because there was no room (funny, I had plenty of water) and other comments, but they went by. Like the river. I smiled and wished him a great day for the next morning.

One thing I’ve learned about hotdogs is that when it comes to crunch time they often panic. Getting angry, screaming back, getting in a fight won’t make things better. My first time on the river a few weeks back I spent a great deal of time with the kayak over my head, trying to remember how to get back upright. Very humbling.  This guy didn’t need my opinion to learn what his limitations are. The river will teach him just fine- as long as he doesn’t take anyone else with him. Simple truth is that the worst that could have happened that day in such easy rapids is that we’d have both tipped, and been rescued right away.

The other thing was that watching this hotdog struggle focused me on something I hadn’t remembered- a year’s worth of salsa lessons back in 1999. When I quit trying to force my way down the river with upper body strength like he did and used the smooth motion and snap of my hips, the river and I connected. Magic.  I have him to thank for that lesson. That’s why the rapids weren’t scary.

Like so many sports, kayaking has already taught me a lot about letting go, and let the river do what it does. It’ll humble both of us plenty more times. What’s important is to let him process things in his time.

So in his angry WordFood he had something wonderful to offer. It was up to me to find out what it was.

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