Owning Your Mistakes with Courage


About a year ago I purchased an 11-foot Odyssey non self-bailing raft for $75 at a yard sale. All it had was a few minor leaks and it came with paddles—a steal of a deal!I had wanted to take this thing out for its virgin voyage for quite some time and about a month ago I finally had the opportunity to traverse Big Eddy with my wife and some friends.

It was a beautiful Sunday, June afternoon when we decided to put in at the Aspen Trailhead on the Deschutes. Seven of us crammed into the tiny raft with the original plan of having four of us run Big Eddy at a time. The adventure started with a safety talk, sharing the do’s and don’tsof whitewater. With the raft over capacity, we sat low in the water, and everyone seemed nervously excited for the adventure.

We ran one small rapid with success right above Big Eddy, a few splashes were had, and the anticipation mounted in preparation for the larger rapid below. We pulled to the side above the rapid and scouted the waves below. I shared with our friends the path we would take down the rapid and the different landmarks we’d watch to avoid areas that may tip our tiny, low-riding vessel. Then, instead of taking turns going down the rapid we all decided to go together. Away we went…

From what I recall things were going as planned heading down the guts of Big Eddy when suddenly the boat went vertical, removing all but two passengers (my wife and myself) out of the raft. At that moment, the decision of whether to pick folks back up or to keep the boat pointed forward needed to be made. My wife and I kept the raft pointed as forward as possible, deciding that it would do little good to get folks back into the raft to only tip over againhad we gone sideways. Our crew swam most of Big Eddy, but everyone was safe with minor bumps and bruises. What I describe as an “epic” experience may becharacterized a little differently from the perspectives of those who swam, but it was a memorable day for everyone.

This is how it goes with leadership. Sometimes, you make decisions and it hits the fan.I felt embarrassed, and I felt ashamed that people could have gotten hurt, but I think it’s vital to remember the things we did well and the things we can change moving forward. Next time, I know that I need to take fewer people or take a bigger raft down the rapid to accommodate the crew. On the other hand, planning for the unforeseen paid off—no one got hurt.

It’s human to beat yourself up when things do not go as planned, but it’s also human to forgive yourself and move forward so that you continue taking the calculated risks you need in order to be successful. Identify those things you can control, take ownership of your mistakes and learn from them, and let go of the things you cannot change (i.e., past mistakes). And…do what you can to prevent navigatingBig Eddy with an undersized, over-capacity raft!

Dr. Ryan Reese is a professional counselor and core faculty member in the Masters of Science Counseling program at OSU Cascades. To learn more about EcoWellness visit www.ecowellnessbend.com. Ryan can be reached at ryan.reese@osucascades.edu.



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