Sometimes the things we seek are not what we find, but isn’t this the reality of many of life’s lessons? My annual excursion to the Moloka'i Hoe is principally a product fact finding mission, where freed from promoting KIALOA, I focus on observing and listening. As a paddle designer, I am always looking for ways to improve our products. I store away the little sound bites I hear in conversations, which I will later use for inspiration. In many ways, KIALOA Paddles are designed by you and we are the hands which executes your desires.
As much as I wanted to be inspired about paddles, my Moloka'i Hoe take away ended up being about people. An open mind doesn’t choose inspiration. Inspiration simply happens. As it turns out, a series of three events got me thinking; What makes a good teammate?
Event 1: I was escorting with Leeward Kai Canoe Club. The were paddling in Kamanu Composites' prototype canoe, Koloa. The guys were on fire the first 3 hours of the race, chasing swell after swell in a great display of canoe surfing prowess. I was extremely proud and happy for designer Keizo Gates. And... then came the wall. Al cramped badly in the legs and had to sit out a change. Luke threw up on the escort boat. They looked miserable. But, they soldiered on, and never once did I hear a negative comment from the crew. Everyone on the Leeward Kai was hurting bad, but they stuck together, and rather than being disappointed, seemed happy about crossing the channel as a team.
Event 2: We were chitchating in the airport check-in line when I asked “Auntie” if she had children. “Three girls and one boy. But my son died. He was a Marine.” She went on to tell me that her son had survived a horrific incident in an Abrams Tank. Unable to cope with the stress of what he had experienced, he took his life when he returned to the US. “But before he killed himself, he got a call from the wife of one of his crewmates. She worried her husband was going to kill himself. So, my son went and talked with him.” I was blown away. A young man in the gravest personal pain, travelled to help his crewmate and then killed himself.
Event 3: In the days following the Molokai Hoe, I watched a TED Talk by Simon Sinek on leadership. In the video, Sinek said, when Marines are asked why they are willing to put themselves at risk to help a fellow soldier, they all say the same thing. “Because they would have done it for me.” To fact check this, I called my nephew Kevin, a Marine Captain who served in Afghanistan and Kuwait. He told me this was an accurate statement.
What makes a good teammate? Selflessness. It is about being concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than with one's own. When we select paddlers for a crew we pour over time trials and other physical qualities. But, maybe like the Marines, we should be encouraging and looking for people who paddle for the team rather than for personal gain.
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