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Rookie Mistakes and Where to Find Them

February 12, 2016

We recently saw this great AMA with a third generation river rafter, and we thought he had the best advice for rookie guides.

When asked what were some rookie mistakes he saw most often, the veteran rafter said, “Overconfidence. Be humble your first year or two, and try to learn as much as you can.”

We totally agree, overconfidence is often the downfall for any rookie.Abraham Lincoln knew that well; the 16th president was known for his hat, his beard, and his humility, often carrying lessons into his policy from the most unexpected sources.

When 23-year old Lincoln first ran for office, he described himself as “Young and unknown to many,” and even after ascending to presidency, he never let his title or ego get in the way of his decision making. In fact, he often deferred to those with more expertise, even when he disagreed with them. He didn’t let overconfidence distract from the issues at hand, and while rafting is a bit different from running the country, overconfidence is an issue we see often for new raft guides (and rafters!).

Overconfidence makes our decisions for us.

When staring down any situation, we draw on our experience and expertise to make the best possible decision. However, when we’re ‘experts’ in our fields, the decision making isn’t the problem - it’s the assumption that the decision is final.

While most of the time your experience and gut-feeling about something will lead you through, don’t be unyielding. That’s the danger. If we’re cruising down the Pigeon River and successfully clear a rapid, that doesn’t mean we’ll be able to do it in the same way on the next trip. Overconfidence, the fact that we’ve been down the same river a hundred times, could lead a newbie to ignore some signs that things may not be quite right. Even worse, we may be staring directly at the information that tells us the situation is abnormal - a large branch in the river, low water flow - and we ignore it because we think we’re right.

As Heraclitus so eloquently summed up, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” We’ll extrapolate and say “The wise man never steps in the same river twice, for he knows it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

Assess each situation with clear eyes, and read it how it is, not how we want it to be. Ignoring what is in front of us and simply going on past success can be physically dangerous, especially when rafting. Any close calls on the river, either from the rafter or the guide, really come from arrogance and feeling like you know everything. Some rafters may feel like they don’t need to follow every suggestion or safety regulation, and we’re here to tell you that you absolutely do.

The guaranteed way to have the best trip is to come in with a good attitude and the willingness to learn, and this really applies to any situation. Each day is an opportunity to learn, and often the greatest lessons come from the most unlikely sources. We’re not saying you need to appoint all of your political opponents to your cabinet like Lincoln did, but keeping an open mind and your confidence in check will make your trip the best one ever.

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