Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you ever been whitewater rafting?

A few weeks ago I went to Millinocket, Maine and rafted on the Penobscot River.

When I signed up I didn’t know this river had class 5 rapids. I found out when I got there.

The scariest thing about it is that on this river rafting trip you have to face the first class 5 rapid immediately after you put the boat in the water. So you have no time to prepare or learn before you hit the big rapid.

I was terrified when I stepped into the boat!

The rafting guide told us that at least one of us would fall out of the boat that day. There were 13 of us on the trip.  I was convinced it was me because I only weigh 123 pounds.

Luckily, I figured out how to not fall out of the boat and still enjoy the adventure.

Here is the key for today: How do you avoid falling out of the raft while you are on the river?

Is it by holding on tight? That’s part of it but that’s not the most important thing.

Do you avoid it by listening to your guide’s intructions?

Yes, but the biggest thing is this:

The people who stop paddling or who only paddle lightly and who don’t dig their paddle because they are afraid to lean towards the water are the ones who fall out. 

On the other hand, the ones who dig their paddle in deep, lean towards the water, and put their whole body into the stroke are the ones who stay in the boat.

Just like so many things in life this is counterintuitive.

By trying to stay safe you are actually in more danger than you realize for yourself and for others.

So what happened during that first rapid?

So we walked down to the landing.

I could feel adrenaline pumping in my whole body.

There was a saying that the guide kept repeating “Don’t mistake adrenaline for fear.”

We put the boat in and I decided to take the advice to dig in my paddle.

Those who don’t paddle or paddle lightly will fall in.

I paddled hard and leaned into even though it felt scary.

I dug my paddle in deep.

And guess what?

I didn’t fall in.

This is a great metaphor for English learning.

Here are some other situations where this applies:

In a restaurant: You are in an restaurant and you order your food in English. You successfully complete your order but then you have a question. Maybe you don’t like mushrooms and you want to know if there are mushrooms in the meal. What do you do? You feel scared to ask that question. Do you “dig in your paddle” or do you “skim the surface” and maybe not ask, or do you ask but not make eye contact?

So the point is this:

 In risky sitautions in life we have a choice.

We can dig in our paddle, face fear straight on and perhaps get a better outcome or we can stay safe, cower, lean back and maybe get a bad outcome  in the end.

I think that digging in our paddle is an honorable way to live, learn a language, and build a life that you love.

We want to encourage our listeners to think about this metaphor every time they have the choice.

What questions do you have about today’s episode?

Let us know in the comments below.

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