Paddling your own canoe

Seth Godin is a powerhouse.

  • entrepreneur and founder of dozens of companies
  • best selling author
  • American Way Magazine’s “America’s Greatest Marketer”
  • blogger
  • canoe paddler

Canoe paddler?

In an interview with George Stroumboulopoulos of CBC, Godin reminisces about a time at camp in Algonquin Park.

“There are these 16 foot handmade cedar stripped canoes…and if you’re 10 years old, you’ve never piloted something that big yourself…and this guy got me in the boat and I learned how to do it by myself. And that’s what changed my life. This notion, that I, even at the age of ten, could decide where to head and could be on my own.”

The memory is a metaphor for what he believes is true in today’s day and age: if you want to do something, go for it, do it yourself. He claims we’re on the verge of a new age, one that takes the place of the industrial age credo that has lasted for over 80+ years: get a job…do what you’re told…retire.

This message has been so hard wired in that our schools, systems, taxes, retirement-they all support and maintain this notion of doing what we’re told. (For more on how education plays a role in this , see Sir Ken Robinson’s captivating talk on Changing Education Paradigms below).

And we’re petrified to stray from the outline because we’re conditioned to want stability.

Godin quickly points out that stability is relative. When 20,000 workers at Ford Motor Company lose their jobs from one day to the next, even after living a life of doing what they’re told, stability loses strength in this sense.

So, what’s the alternative?

“Pick yourself.”

Have a book? Publish it yourself. Want to sing? Get yourself on Youtube. Have a restaurant idea? Want to start a movement?

Do it.

The times where a company or label are necessary to get you off the ground are essentially over. “The shift is that YOU can make an impact if you want to.” Due to things like internet and “revolutionary connection engines” there’s a space and forum for people to share something that sets them apart and makes them valuable.

Is there guaranteed success when following your path and doing what makes you happy? No.

But, you do have choices.

Hailing that inner ten-year old to paddle your own big canoe…is one.

Changing Education Paradigms

                                                                                                   photo credit

  1. jwebster said:

    As a person who grew up canoeing I completely agree with this metaphor. I remember learning the tools from my Dad (how to paddle, flip the canoe and get back in, etc.) and then by the time I was 12 or so I would go out by myself to explore the edges of the land and the centre of the lake. It was a feeling of open freedom…one that is rarely felt. But the basics only get you so far and before you know it you grow bigger and your technique changes and with that the direction and the speed in which you get to where you’re going changes too. Sounds like life.

    When I was 22 and in grad school I had a professor who berated the class for thinking that we were ‘educated’. He posted a list (everyday) of 10 things that we had to know how to do before we could say we knew anything about life. Handle a canoe by yourself was number, and at the time, was the only thing on the list I had done.

  2. Thanks for sharing that, Jonathan…makes me want to be Canadian all the more.

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