Each decision a leader makes creates a future path

My younger brother, Jack, and I took a wonderful trip down the Rio Grande River in early April of 1990. At his home in Springfield, Miss., we loaded his canoe on top of his black Honda Civic and headed southwest. Outside of Fort Worth, Texas we encountered a violent thunderstorm which spit marble- sized hail at us. The storm was so strong that we sought shelter. Early the next morning, we continued across the endless Texas landscape with oil derricks crowding us on both sides.

We proceeded through Midland and on to Big Bend National Park. While we were still miles from the park, we were impressed as the Chisos Mountains rose majestically like a city of stone before us. We arrived after dark and secured the last camping spot in the Basin Campground. We spent the following day hiking the park. The blooming cacti made for some stunning photos. That evening sported a full moon so we explored Tuffs canyon. The scene was magical as the moonlight bathed the landscape as though it were noon.

The next morning we drove to Lajitas where we began our canoe trip. We camped on the Mexican side the first night. After a bountiful breakfast of bacon and eggs, we loaded our canoe. In a matter of a couple of hours, we saw a prominent rise in the terrain. We were approaching the Santa Elena Canyon. The river split this canyon creating a narrow gorge with 1000 feet high walls. Just before we entered the shade of the canyon, we spotted a couple of Mexican fishermen. I waved and practicing my scant Spanish hollered, “Buenas dias.” They returned the salutation although less enthusiastically.

Near the middle of the canyon we encountered an area called the Rock Slide. Years ago a portion of the canyon wall from the Mexican side tumbled into the river partially blocking the stream creating a narrow, dangerous chute. We scouted the area and decided to port our canoe and gear up and over the boulders.

The last evening as we emerged from the canyon, Jack suggested a lunar float. I was wary of a night canoe ride down a river that I had never floated before. After a short while, I badgered and pleaded with Jack to take out and set up camp. He finally conceded. The next morning as I was washing our breakfast utensils at the edge of the river, I noticed some unusual looking holes in the bedrock. I called Jack, who is an archaeologist, and he excitedly identified them as mortar holes used by native Americans to grind grain for food. It was quite a memorable find for us both. The next day we continued on and realized that the river was blocked by driftwood that we could not have negotiated at night.

Sometimes leaders who make decisions based upon cautiousness find unexpected treasures. Each decision we make creates a future path. Some risks that seem exciting and rewarding may be too dangerous to attempt. Some potential failures are not acceptable.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s completely revised, third printing of The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success, visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.