A Path Less Taken
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A Path Less Taken

Photo by Taylor R on Unsplash

Pausing Time and Getting Unstuck — Lessons from a Day of Kayaking

Being in a State of Flow

In his TED Talk, just before he closes, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the author of the well-known book about flow, displays a slide which summarizes what’s he’s found to be typical of achieving a flow state, the contents of which are shown below:

  1. Completely involved in what we are doing — focused, concentrated.
  • We are not being interrupted
  • We are not context-switching (closely related to the preceding point)
  • We can maintain our focus until we finish the task we’re working on, or we reach a point where we’re ready to pause what we’re doing

Getting Unstuck

Let’s return to the narrative about kayaking for a moment. Another unique aspect of this river is that there is a lengthy section where there are lots of fallen trees. If it were not for some helpful volunteers who cut sections of those trees away, the river becomes completely impassable, and even then, it may be necessary to navigate a narrow section that has been cleared, or even get out of the water and “portage” the kayak past the blockage. And even when it appears there is significant clearance for a single kayak to get through, it can be difficult to discern how well-submerged a particular section of a tree trunk might be. Let’s return to the world of work to consider a couple of ramifications.

Photo by Emil Totev on Unsplash

Removing Impediments

It’s not that uncommon for something to slow down, or even stop, forward progress on something we’re working on. Some people just have a knack for recognizing when this is occurring, and also for being proactive about taking steps to addressing the situation, so that work can continue. And in situations where there is a pain point that is affecting multiple people, or even multiple teams, it’s hard to over-emphasize how important it is promptly take action to address the situation.

Recognizing That It’s Okay to Start Over

On numerous occasions while kayaking, I did not correctly discern the best passage to take when navigating through sections of the river where there were fallen trees. As a result, there were occasions where the hull of the kayak got lodged on a submerged section of the tree, and the only option for me at that point was to exert force on the log to gain reverse momentum, or paddle backward vigorously, and then try a different passage.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this metaphorical journey up-river that we have taken together. And with that, let’s close with the often-quoted phrase that “it’s about the journey, not the destination.”



This collection is for anyone who is looking for Lean-Agile content on a range of topics, with a particular focus on techniques that help with coaching and facilitation.

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Philip Rogers

I’m an Agile practitioner at TextNow — I love to work with Agile teams to help them collaborate and deliver, and have fun while doing it.