The young man had done well during his first two years with the company, but he began to feel anxious. He wasn’t sure where his career would take him, if indeed it would take him anywhere. He wondered what he’d be doing after two more years. He questioned the wisdom of remaining in a job that sometimes seemed more like a treadmill than a staircase.
So he knocked on his manager’s office door and was warmly received. He explained why he was frustrated and asked, “What should I do?”
After a long, thoughtful pause, the manager said, “Imagine a winding river – very swift, but very long. It runs for miles and miles, through a steep-walled canyon. Can you hear the roar of the rapids and see the high cliffs above?”
“Sure,” the young man said.
“Then picture yourself in a small boat, running that river,” the manager continued. “You’ve got your hand on the tiller, so you can avoid the rocks and boulders and the canyon walls. But how far downstream can you see?”
“Not far,” the young man replied, “because the river winds through the canyon.”
“Right,” the manager agreed. “You can only see up to the next bend. And when you get there, you can only see to the next one, and so forth. And that’s where you are now, in that small boat. The river is your life. You can’t see the end! You can only see to the next bend. But I’m flying in an airplane high above, and I can see a beautiful, placid lake at the end of that winding river! So relax. Don’t let yourself be anxious. Enjoy the trip and concentrate only on what’s right in front of you. Don’t look back, and don’t worry about what’s around the bend. Just accept absolute responsibility for each day as it comes, and eventually you’ll find yourself floating into that beautiful, placid lake.”
The young man immediately felt a great sense of peace. From that moment on, he accepted absolute responsibility for getting himself just to the next bend in the river. That was over 35 years ago, and the journey has turned out to be much more enjoyable and rewarding than any he could have mapped out for himself. The young man was Joel Weldon, who later became one of the top speakers and trainers in North America.
Here’s what you can do: Remember that a beautiful, placid lake awaits you at the end of your winding river. You’ll reach it by living each day to the best of your ability. Don’t try to figure out your entire future. Just make it to the next bend. Concentrate on the things that are right in front of you and that you CAN do something about TODAY, such as your attitude, ability, creativity, awareness, commitment, values, and sense of humor. And relax. The trip can and should be an enjoyable one!