The *Fuzzy Space Between*

August 20–21, 2011 was a fairly typical weekend during my time as CEO of USA Canoe/Kayak. I was on the road in Hungary at the Canoeing World Championships. Most of my time time was spent at the competition venue. But I could have been anywhere, as my head was buried in my phone and laptop responding to a never-ending mess of emails from staff, members, directors, and volunteers. It included one back-and-forth with a board member about my interpretation of the word: “bothered” — as in, had I “bothered” to read an email from a constituent?

On this particular weekend, I navigated three “disagreements” and refereed three others… via email. Not too different from most of my other weekends.

Immersed in this toxic virtual existence, I would occasionally look up and catch glimpses and moments of the fastest canoe athletes in the world at one of the sport’s most historic venues. And the fans at this venue with their passion and cheers — I’d never seen anything like it. Then my smart phone would blink to indicate another incoming message.

That entire month was miserable. It filtered outward into other parts of my life. The onslaught of negativity poured in while any good and purposeful work was siphoned away. All parts of my life and well being went into a fog. A fuzzy fog.

It’s hard to believe, now, as I look back. I actually struggled to put my finger on the cause of the problem. If I could just find — and fix — that one thing, then everything would get back on track.

All I wanted was clarity — to be decisive. But instead I was muddled in information overload and decision fatigue.

Problems are rarely singularly rooted

Problems stem from a fuzzy place of uncertainty followed by fire-extinguisher reactions. The solution isn’t the next diet, re-boot, life hack, or some other shiny object.

The solution is not to get mired in the fuzzy space. And especially the fuzzy space that takes hold of the mental turf between:

Systems and Art

Mistakes and Course-Correction

Capacity and Contribution

Wants and Needs

Holding On and Letting Go

By its nature, the *fuzzy space between* is neither static nor predictable. It fluctuates based on your current reality.

It’s important to keep mindful that the *fuzzy space between* does exist. Recognize it. Salute it. Send it on its way. When that happens, the fuzzy space between stuck and free gives up its turf.

Awareness will flow into the space that is now open and you’ll be able to make clear, strong decisions.


As America’s first ever Olympic Gold Medalist in Whitewater Canoe Slalom, I promote strategies and shares stories for living and performing at your best, doing the work that matters and engaging with purpose. My platforms include performance coaching and consulting, professional speaking, videos, and my weekly newsletter, “Sunday Morning Joe.”