“You never paddle the same river twice.”
My uncle–the adventurer extraordinaire Anton Carag, Jr.–was in the middle of briefing our family about kayaking and white-water rafting when I stopped to write what he had just said. I had a feeling there was a deeper lesson in there somewhere.
Fast forward to today. I was busy developing a workshop that I’m giving next week to some students from the De La Salle-College of St. Benilde. As I was working on the talk outline, I realized that public speaking and teaching are both a lot like kayaking and white-water rafting.
1) Every river experience is different, just as every speaking opportunity is different.
If you’re someone who teaches and speaks on a regular basis, it’s easy to lose your passion and just go through the motions. And when I lose my passion, I often end up preparing less and I’m tempted to simply “wing it.” But just as every river explorer has to enter the river alert, focused, and ready, a teacher and speaker needs to enter every teaching space with the same attitude.
2) Preparation will be your best friend.
Practicing the fall
Before we started kayaking, we were given life vests and helmets to wear. After we put on our gear, Tito Anton briefed us on safety measures, then we were placed on kayaks near the river bed where we each had to practice falling.
To tell you the truth, I was relieved at this exercise. For starters, getting dunked into the river helped me get used to the cold water temperature, and it helped me simulate the experience and realize that it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.
In the same way, preparing and practicing a talk or a lesson can help lessen fears and help you prepare for possible obstacles. Am I boring myself in this portion of the talk? Then chances are my audience will start yawning, too. Do I need to insert a video or an activity to keep them engaged? Practicing and simulating helps me anticipate possible roadblocks and adjust as needed.
3) When you hit obstacles, you have to keep digging.
The river has a lot of rapids and boulders that can cause the raft or kayak to stop, fly, or flip. My first instinct would just be to stop paddling and grab on to whatever I can until the obstacles pass.
However, we were taught that when those rapids come, all the more we need to paddle harder. Or sometimes they would call out, “Dig!” because the intensity of the paddling that was required looks a lot like digging.
In the same way, it’s easy to just trail off and change the topic when you hit roadblocks in teaching or speaking. Your students or audience look like they’re tuning out, their eyes glaze over, and blank looks or confused faces stare back at you.
Instead of getting discouraged or resorting to rushing through the material, all the more we need to seize the opportunity to keep digging. It could mean asking questions to try to untangle what’s confusing the audience, or it could mean thinking of metaphors or analogies that will help the audience grasp your point better. Of course, the best time to do this would be during the preparation process, but in case you encounter obstacles in the middle of the action, don’t stop and don’t give up. Just keep on digging.
4) Speaking and teaching can make you nervous and anxious, but it can be fun and exciting. Although you won’t get to experience that until you put yourself out there.
If you read my blog last week, you know that I wasn’t very excited at the thought of white-water rafting. I’m not a fan of open water, much less raging rapids. But now that I’ve tried it, I can say that I’m really glad I did. I had a lot of fun and I enjoyed going through the adventure with my family. It was definitely an experience to remember.
The Happy Survivors!
In the same way, I’ve often found myself absolutely dreading upcoming talks and workshops. But I’ve pushed myself to keep on doing it because, for starters, I’ve been blessed to be able to learn from teachers, mentors, experiences, and books, and my heart is to share the knowledge to help others. And I can’t help but feel joy when a student tells me that they learned a lot (or something like that). It makes every moment of anxiety and every hour spent preparing worth it. Besides, I’ve also learned that feeling nervous is normal. It helps keep me grounded, too!
5) You’ll want to pray all the way.
I’ve realized that it’s all the same with kayaking, white-water rafting, teaching, and speaking: the Lord will be my strength through and through. I stake my confidence on Him more than anything, because my skills and preparation could possibly fall short, but He never will. :)
Are you a teacher/speaker/adventurer? Is there anything else you can add to this list?
Special thanks to Tito Anton Carag and his awesome team from Adventures & Expeditions Philippines, Inc. (AEPI). If you’d like to know more about having your own Cagayan Valley adventure (kayaking/caving/rafting/watching the circadian flight of bats), you can contact AEPI at (078) 844-1298, 0917- 532-7480, or email@example.com. We had a great time taking in the beautiful sights, eating the delicious food, and experiencing the life-changing adventures! We flew to Tuguegarao via Cebu Pacific Air, but our flight home was canceled due to bad weather, so we took a 10-hour bus ride back to Manila via G.V. Florida Bus Transport. Despite the long trip, the ride was very comfortable. Their buses are new, the restroom was clean, and we got to recline and watch movies on-board. If you’re looking to save money, it’s a great alternative. Here are some other photos from the trip:
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