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When The Force Turns Against You

The first few paddle strokes against the river current awaken my system. Branches from a low hanging tree extend out and reach down to the river’s surface. Just the first of many obstacles. The puzzle of compounding counter-forces line up to push me back to where I started.

A few light, quick strokes move my kayak up and around the branches which help me to work my way closer to the shore where the current flows with a little less strength.

This counter-intuitive exercise, which paddlers call “attaining” a rapid, makes little sense. More often than not, we’ve been told to go with the flow and not against it, right?

The river current is not overwhelming. But it is relentless. It doesn’t stop. This kind of current could carry you a long distance with little of your own physical output if it weren’t for one thing: that you are paddling upstream against it.

As I slowly begin to move upstream, other shape-shifting obstacles fight to occupy my attention: rocks, logs, and an old car dumped in the river when river dumping was an assumed right. Then there are the expected water characteristics of depth, width, and gradient that religiously adjust and change the constant flow of the current.

Any seasoned outdoor athlete knows that natural obstacles such as these will reveal a path to solve a problem that patiently waits to snag us. Here on the river, we work with them one effective and purposeful paddle stroke at a time.

As in life, sometimes the key to navigating opposing forces is to tap into their energy. This is not the negative energy that I refer to so often in my 5 with Joe programs. But instead, the daily and weekly opposing forces. It’s not a matter of “if” they will engage you, but “when.”

Just like the head-on currents of life you face every day, there is a winning strategy for upstream progress — both on and off the river.

As river currents never flow uniformly, your awareness of subtle changes of river speed and direction will unlock an elegant puzzle of a forward path. As you practice, you learn to “read” the oncoming force by feeling the weaker spots in the current as much as, if not more than, seeing them. Successful attainments in life leverage the weaker spots in the current to your advantage. These life-attainments become easier as you practice and refine your technique.

To leverage a weak spot, you use a combination of your skill, knowledge, and fitness. These elements shape your technique. Life will provide to you daily opportunities to sharpen yourself. Use *The Art Of* Engaging Opposition as an opportunity to practice your technique, even if just a few minutes every day. You’ll build a consistent foundation of prescient knowledge that refines your awareness of challenges waiting for you around life’s bends.

Since life currents continually change like a river, you have to change too. Sometimes this requires short, powerful bursts of high energy while at other times, if it more efficient to use moderate and paced gears. With better awareness and technique, you gain efficiency, which allows you to sustain opposing force for longer durations while providing yourself quick bursts when you need them.

As we head into the river currents of 2016, who doesn’t want to do so with a downstream push? But more realistically your upcoming year will provide to you situations when paddling upstream is a more effective and rewarding course of action. Sometimes, the way to find force alignment is to paddle against it and let it reveal its hidden routes that you only can see by way of daily practice.

With gratitude,


Where the Essence of Joe Jacobi’s Olympic Gold Medal Habits, Mindsets, & Cultures of Excellence Transform Your Performance in Business and in Life

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5 With Joe Performance Coaching

I coach established and experienced professionals, who feel stuck in place, to thrive in transition and bring focus to what matters most without compromising their lives.

My personal experiences winning an Olympic Gold Medal, serving as CEO of a national sports organization, and my current “Simple, Slower, and Less” lifestyle in the Catalan Pyrenees help to form accountable and transformative collaborations that see my clients create their next and most impactful chapter.



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Joe Jacobi

Olympic Gold Medalist, Performance Coach, & Author helping leaders & teams perform their best without compromising their lives. https://www.amazon.com/gp/produc