Monday, July 25, 2016

Pursuing Happiness Below the Rim

By: Jim Verdonik

Jim Verdonik
Founder of Innovate Capital Law
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(The post is from as article that was first published on July 1, 2016 by Triangle Business Journal)

As we enter the height of the Political Tension Season (PTS) (sounds like a disease doesn't it?), I like to remind myself and others that what seems so very important today often turns out to be insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

This article is my attempt to take a deep breath and try to live my life with some balance and perspective based on common values that stand up over time.

Every July 4th I write about incorporating American values into our businesses.  Usually, I start with something from the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.  But are these old documents still relevant to American values?

I recently rafted the Grand Canyon to find out.

What better way to learn whether Americans still value the unalienable rights that Nature and Nature's God endowed us with and that were self-evident to Jefferson's generation of Americans than spending a week with thirty follow Americans and a Swiss ferryboat captain on two insignificant pieces of rubber running the rapids that carved 277 miles of canyon through mile-deep rock? 

Let’s talk about our entrepreneurial river guides (Greg, Andy, Sally and Cowboy) who shared their grand home with 28 Greenhorns.  Because they had a simple business plan (go down the river), they didn’t waste time on meetings about strategic direction.  Rafts can't go up rapids and can't climb canyon walls.  Starting the journey was a 277 mile commitment.  America started with commitments by the people who signed the Declaration of Independence, who faced hangman's nooses if they lost the War for Independence.

Like America's Founders, our guides gave us few rules: maintain basic sanitation practices, load and unload the rafts and don’t block their vision when running rapids.  Except for these basic rules, we were free to pursue our happiness any way we wanted. 

So, what happens when modern Americans are given this much Freedom?  Is it chaos or paradise?  Who knows what someone else might do, but here’s how one group of Americans used their Freedom to pursue their happiness.

  • GAKs.  People inflicted Gratuitous Acts of Kindness on one another too numerous to count.
  • Volunteering.  Twice each day we lined up to load and unload rafts handing bags and other items from person to person.  More people volunteered for bag line duty than were needed.  One happy camper declared that the bag line was her favorite part of the trip.

  • Group Culture and Acceptance.  One large family and their friends constituted most of our group.  The family adopted the rest of us and their family culture became the prevailing culture of the expedition.

  • Adventure Creates Happiness.  Running rapids, walking under waterfalls and hiking up canyon trails provided the challenges we miss in our day jobs.

  • Sophistication is Skin Deep.  Despite having no children on the trip, we held massive shadow puppet shows on the canyon walls, taught a Swiss ferryboat captain how to play Simon Says and held races assembling and disassembling camping equipment.  (Beer helps)
  • Nature and Nature's God Makes Politics Insignificant.  Watching planets and stars in the night sky from a mile deep canyon stimulated the closest thing to political debate when we vowed to “Make Pluto Great Again.”

Of course, when we emerge from the canyon and rejoin life “Above the Rim,” we find a more complicated world.  But we can improve that world, if we apply the lessons we learn about how Americans behaved in 1776 and still do today when given the opportunity.

If Sally, Cowboy, Andy and Greg can pursue their happiness every day "Below the Rim," we have only ourselves to blame if we don’t promote the pursuit of happiness by ourselves and the people we live and work with. 

What is stopping you from making your business GRAND like the Canyon?

Happy July 4th to us all, including the Swiss Ferryboat captain!