About five years ago I suddenly found myself in the middle of a deep financial crisis. I had worked as an investment project manager for three years by that time and was both emotionally and physically exhausted by the ongoing projects. I had a feeling that my job turned into an endless string of tasks to deal with and little results to achieve, but I could not get the satisfaction from my successful completion of tasks anymore. This was the time when I decided that I would have to find an inspirational activity outside the range of my professional interests.
My summer holiday was looming on the horizon and I was persuaded by two friends of mine to join them in their tour to the mountains with the opportunity to experience white-water rafting. And two weeks later there was I in a life jacket and a helmet, listening to the instructor carefully. The rush of adrenaline, the nerves and the fear of failure, the taste of victory were magnificent. We went down a narrow, absolutely wild mountain river and managed to preserve the balance of the raft, reaching our destination successfully. I felt such a sense of achievement that I thought I had lost the ability to feel a long time before.
When I was sitting with my friends by the fire that evening, I suddenly realized that this rafting-experience was a perfect allegory of my business activities. In my work, I was subconsciously afraid of difficulties and have been choosing only the safe and still water to go. The white water of investing into less popular branches of our fast changing economy seemed too dangerous. The still water floating was certainly effective, as by taking no risks I usually lost nothing, but was there enough to gain? On the other hand, the example of our rafting instructor proved that with a clear guidance and a unified vision, even the most unprofessional people can work as a successful team, especially if they are given the possibility to feel the adrenaline and the taste of victory.
This experience changed my management style completely. I developed an ability to make decisions fast and became less risk-cautious without becoming totally reckless. I still go rafting at least three time a year and sometimes use the opportunity to take my project team with me to give them the feeling of being united by the necessity and determination to conquer the unconquerable.