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Leave the Canoe Behind to Increase Personal Effectiveness!A young traveler approached a river while on her journey. From all appearances, it was too deep to ford and too long to get around. After doing a bit of scouting around, she discovered a canoe that was left by another traveler. In haste, she grabbed the canoe and paddled to the other side.

As soon as she landed, she thought: “I’m lucky that I found that canoe! I couldn’t have crossed the river without it. I better take it with me just in case there’s another river along the way.” So she picked up the canoe and carried it with her.

After three days of travel while carrying the canoe, she was exhausted. She happened upon an old traveler who was bewildered by the young woman carrying the canoe.
“Why are you carrying a canoe?,” the old traveler asked.
“A few days ago, I came across a river that I would have been unable to cross without this canoe. I didn’t know whether I would come to another crossing, so I carried it with me.”
“Ah. The next river like that in the direction you’re going is fifteen days away. It would take you less time to build a canoe when you get there than to carry this one with you – it’s time to leave the canoe behind.”

With that, the young traveler dropped the canoe. She immediately saw that what got her here wasn’t needed to get her there.

Are you carrying a canoe that is slowing you down? In the EDSI program, Increasing Personal Effectiveness, we help our partner companies and their teams understand the process of growth and change. One core component of your ability to make a positive impact at work and home is to take an honest look at your strengths and, yes, the areas where you need improvement.*

Focus on How Your Choices Create Your Life
Understand your core values and how they drive your behaviors and choices.
Build your sel-image through self-awareness of your strengths and by identifying areas needing improvement.

Create a strong understanding of how your choices impact your behaviors and images.
Increase self-confidence through becoming more accountable for your thoughts, actions and words, and by eliminating self-limiting thoughts.

Do You Do This?
Number 4 above is where that cumbersome canoe comes in. Do you have the unconscious belief that challenges have to be hard to be valid? If so, you are probably like most people, who then procrastinate on the changes they need to make, and they hit what is often termed, “The Wall of Hard.” This means you know what you need to do, you unconsciously build it up in your mind to be very hard (to create worthiness), and then you procrastinate, because it has become such a big challenge.

Instead, Do This!
When you realize the changes you need to make to improve your personal effectiveness, professional presence (and your life), stop yourself from building them up into an insurmountable professional or personal challenge. Whether it is learning a new skill, making conscious changes to your communication patterns, consistently practicing active listening skills, or even just making it to all your meetings prepared and on time, break this change down into smaller steps, and start to work on the first one.
It’s just like that old joke: “How do you eat an elephant?” The reply? “One bite at a time, of course!”


  1. Increase your self-awareness of those areas that, if addressed, will catapult your life and career.
  2. Stop yourself from building them up into something very hard, subsequently creating a “Wall of Hard.
  3. Break it down into simple steps, and start with the first one.
  4. Be kind to yourself. If you don’t accomplish it right away, just get started again the very next day. You only fail when you quit trying!

Employee Development Systems (EDSI) is a mission-driven company. We know that we can increase engagement, impact, and productivity with our hallmark programs. We invite you to learn more about our programs and connect with us.

*The Canoe fable is courtesy of Charlie Gilkey.


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