The other day I went on an eight day, seven night canoe trip with three other men through a section of the Okefenokee Swamp. I had never been on a canoe trip beyond a paddle in the local lake, so I was excited about spending some time doing manly things with other manly men in a manly environment. The swamp is home to snakes, alligators, wild mammals and amazing bird and other wildlife.

I wasn't disappointed. Everything that this type of adventure offers hit us full force, face-on impacting out lives and saturating our thirst for manly excitement and bonding. Perhaps I will share more about that trip someday, but this post isn't about the actual trip, it is about the beginning – the beginning of all things, in a way.

The four of arrived at our launch point and soon had our gear packed in the two canoes full to the top leaving barely enough room for each of us to sit – one in front and one in the rear of each canoe. We had to take everything we needed for the next eight day – food, tent, water, coolers, etc. we had gotten to the launch point later than we had expected and had to talk the ranger into letting us launch late, knowing that we would be pushing the end of daylight before we arrived at our camping platform hours away in the middle of the swamp. Once he saw us safely in the canoes and ready to shove off, her got in his truck and left. We were off!

What awaited us was to be the adventure we all had anticipated for months now. Days of gliding through still dark water, observing wild life, and risking health and hygiene for the sake of doing it! We had miles to go and only days to accomplish it in – the adventure was upon us. Paddles in hand…

Then I discovered one small problem. Although I understood the concept of steering a canoe in open water, I didn't know how. As the lead canoe launched into the swamp, my partner for the week began providing momentum for our travel from the front seat of the craft, while I sat in the back with the duel task of paddling and guiding our boat by using my paddle as a rudder, as well. We zigged. We zagged - and quickly lagged behind.

Point – If you are going to paddle a boat to an adventure, learn to paddle.

The lesson is simple enough, but how often do we get it wrong? Life is a journey – vocations, relationships, self actualization and countless other adventures await us, and how often do we impatiently launch into one thing or another with out taking the time to allow ourselves the learning we need to be able to successfully navigate the trip.

I’m not suggesting we have to be an expert before we try anything new. I am suggesting that some adventures need a mix of experience, maturity and competency before we jump into them. I’ll leave the specific applications of this ‘point’ to your own thought processes. I’ll also state that the greatest lesson I've ever learned is that if I’m going to navigate this vessel of my ‘self’ through life, I needed to spend some time learning the art of doing just that.

In the swamp that day, I had three experienced men who helped me learn what I needed to know – enough to get the boat straight and roughly on course. They never let me forget it, but we did make our first platform just after dark.