Book Review: Collaborating With the River of Life

“To slalom on the river of life is a simple choice but not an easy one,” says Joe Jacobi in his newly published book, Slalom: 6 River Classes About How to Confront Obstacles, Advance Amid Uncertainty, & Bring Focus to What Matters Most.

“It is bold and requires patience and persistence. But when we choose to slalom better, to advance our ability to pivot and adapt, we uncover a hidden invitation to collaborate with the river’s flow, to stop fighting against it,” Jacobi continues.

I love the idea of collaborating with life’s oft-tumultuous river. It’s an intriguing idea–and yet no surprise–coming from Jacobi, an Olympic Gold Medalist and Performance Coach known widely for his expertise in collaboration.

In fact, I had the rich benefit of Jacobi’s collaborative one-on-one coaching last year to help me resurrect client passion. Prior, we had also collaborated on an article for Lever’s Talent Innovation blog, where we focused on strategies to help build high-performance teams. So, when I heard he was publishing his first book, I expressed desire to be an early adopter, that I would consume the book with voracity.

Last night, I read the first chapter, or as Jacobi describes it, “Class 1,” because he uses six classes of rapids to guide our river journey to “apply unique, river-based reflections to the pursuits of flow and simplicity.”

He explains early on that the book’s message is not about grit and resilience, as applied to success at the highest levels of sport per se. Instead, says Jacobi, “The core message of Slalom positions an unlikely collaboration with uncertainty to built better choices, get unstuck, respond to change, find flow, and live simply.”

I know this is a message from which I can gain value. Even in my recent years’ aspirations to find flow amid an uncertain economy and culture, undulations in business, disruptions and sea changes in lifestyle and other waves of complexity, that flow can sometimes elude me.

While I’ve readily deployed a certain level of resilience and tenacity amid the storms of life and work, a continually tenacious attitude can be exhausting—not only to me but also to those in my sphere. Therefore, at this intersection of resilience and realization, I believe the opportunity for collaborative peace resides.

I’ve been working deliberately and with a certain level of surrender in recent months to enable a calmer, more peace-filled flow in my life. But this is not without its obstacles and challenges. While I now happen to live on an island, I realize I am not an island of one, and the reverberating impacts of my actions, as well as others’ actions toward and even around me, impact flow. Sometimes this impact is accelerative to our goals and desires; other times, it creates a disruptive and negative outcome–a level of chaos, even.

Whatever the case, fear is often at the root of the more unsettling responses to change and uncertainty. And, as I dive into Jacobi’s book, I’m calmed by his words, by his wisdom and by his promotion of a “beautiful and thoughtful model to manage energy, build strategy, and foster relationships while navigating and collaborating with uncertainty.”

I’m looking forward to joining into Joe Jacobi’s classroom discussions to help reinforce an existing model, and perhaps even, construct a new model to better collaborate with the river of life.

– By Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter

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