I was super excited to be invited by a group of 6 kayaking friends to head out on the Bay of Fundy on a gorgeous September morning.
I have my own sea kayak but had only used it in the calmer waters of the local lakes and rivers at that point. The pit in my stomach grew just thinking about being on the open seas - far from shore (and a bathroom) - in my little boat. The water is cold. The wildlife can be big.
Let’s kayak to the whales!
“Oh, we don’t say that”, said Paula, who had been out on the bay many times before. “We don't want to jinx it.”
The day on the bay was eventful. We watched a large group of porpoises frolic around us, saw lots of big seals on and off the rocks, and so many birds. We spotted a few whales quite a distance away while we ate lunch on a small island across from Campobello lighthouse. A thrilling day.
How could it possibly get better?
Towards the end of our day, we paddled toward our final island stop before heading home. Most of the group was well on their way, except Dave. We’d all been lingering, hoping for another glimpse of wildlife before heading home. Dave had held back a little, so I joined him to make our way over to the island together.
I was slightly ahead when we turned towards the island and the others. That’s when I saw something unusual. The water had a slight ripple on it all day - so great conditions for a paddle - but there it was.
“Hey Dave, in a cartoon, when you see a big, circular flat spot on the water like that, a whale comes out of it.”
“Yes, a whale comes out of it”
That’s when the whale surfaced right in front of my kayak. Like, RIGHT THERE! When you are that close to the surface of the water, all you see is the part of the whale that comes out of the water.
My heart stopped. I yelled #%@& (instinctively & loudly) alerting the rest of the paddlers to our situation.
Then the whale surfaced again, RIGHT BESIDE ME. I could have touched it with my paddle. I was completely frozen. It was overwhelming.
I turned around - as much as I could while crammed into my boat - to see the whale surface again behind me, and right in front of Dave.
Turns out it was two whales, according to Dave.
The exact thing that I wanted to happen just happened. And as excited as I was for the experience, it really was terrifying. When I think back on it, my adrenaline starts pumping. (it’s pumping right now, writing this)
Did I get a picture? (everyone asks)
Of course not! My camera wasn’t waterproof, so it was safely tucked away.
Can I still see it in my mind? Every little detail. Unforgettable.
Are Dave and I allowed to reminisce about our close whale encounter with everyone else on that kayaking expedition? Nope. Lol! Something about not sticking with the group. Me bad.
And to think that my fear and insecurities leading up to that paddle excursion almost prevented me from even accepting the invitation.
Yes, as the day got closer, the panicky feelings started bubbling up - was my boat too small for me? Would I feel claustrophobic? What if the weather changes? What if I get a leg cramp? What if I tip and get stuck in my boat? What if I have to pee? What if...?
As we left shore that day, with our trusty guides, I quickly put all those thoughts in check. It was a beautiful day, with a great group of fellow yakkers. I was going to be fine. Get past these feelings now or you’ll miss out on a great adventure.
Going through that process of putting my thoughts in check got me thinking about ALL the times I’ve had to do similar thought work to build and grow my small business.
Whether I'm in my boat or at my desk, I find myself breaking down my fears individually, solving them, and then, which helps me to stop thinking about them.
What if I have to pee while kayaking in the middle of the bay? Well, just go. You can deal with that when you get back to shore. No big deal.
What if I tip out of my boat? I’m kayaking with trained guides who know how to put me back in my boat. Stop worrying about it.
Cramp? Don’t panic. Paddle up to another. Work it out while they keep you stable. Simple.
Am I going to let any of these fears stop me from a paddle adventure? Nope. I’d kick my own butt for letting that happen.
When I started my own business, I had many fears.
What will people think? You can’t please everyone. Follow your gut.
What if I make mistakes? Of course you’ll make mistakes. But learn from them. Try not to make the same mistake twice.
I don’t know how to do everything! Hey, no one knows how to do everything. You figure it out as you go. Document your processes. Build on what you already know.
Don’t let your fears prevent you from doing the things you want to do. Sometimes it’s just thinking through those fears and having that conversation with yourself - make a plan and stop churning. I hate to miss out on experiences because I’ve worked myself up with all the “what ifs”.
What if I was too scared to paddle to the whales that day? What if I was too scared to start my own business?
I don’t want to think about that.
*this photo was taken on a subsequent paddle trip in the Bay of Fundy where the whales came pretty close to us - but no where near as close as my first trip!
The Small Business Guide
Kim Houlahan is a marketing consultant who loves helping small business owners improve their marketing.
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