Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | February 10, 2012

Paddling Makes Perfect

In his best-selling book entitled Outliers: The Story of Success, author Malcolm Gladwell examines the factors that contribute to success. Gladwell argues that success in any given field has less to do with talent and is instead the product of practice — lots of it. He makes a compelling case that highly successful people have invested no less than 10,000-hours of practice in their respective fields. At 20 hours a week, that translates into ten years of practicing specific tasks. This is a good reminder that success does not happen overnight but instead over time. Those who master a particular talent or rise to the top of their respective profession “don’t just work harder or even much harder than everyone else.” According to Gladwell, “They work much, much harder.”

Paddling down Houston’s Buffalo Bayou.

With that said, I had Gladwell on the brain today as Jonathan took me to Buffalo Bayou to do another training run in preparation for the grueling 260-mile Texas Water Safari in June, billed as the world’s toughest canoe race. After completing the Texas Winter 100K Race last month, it was clear that I am in desperate need of practice — lots of it. So, Jonathan commandeered my calendar and filled in the white space with practice runs. But, these are not just “let’s paddle down the river” recreational kind of outings. These are practice runs with deliberate and clear objectives and goals, like helping me to refine my paddling technique and tweaking the way we paddle as a team. On our next practice run Jonathan wants for us to switch places in the boat so that I can have a better understanding of how to paddle and steer the canoe from the stern. I like that idea.

I am glad to have our training dates on my calendar. I need, we need, these regular training times in order to become a more efficient tandem team. We plan to do one of our training sessions on the San Marcos River under the tutelage of one of the best paddling instructors in the state. I am excited about that. Training is not necessarily easy and not always fun, but it’s part of the price you have to pay in order to get better at something. So, little by little, I will chip away at Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule and might actually become a better paddler before I am too old to continue getting into a canoe. Someone who has followed our canoeing adventures on my blog recently commented to me, “You sure must love canoeing.” I smiled and replied, “Not really, but I do love my son and that’s why I get into a canoe.” And that’s also why I am committed to our training regimen.

I honestly do want to get better at paddling a canoe because, as Jonathan reminds me, how we paddle impacts both of us. I’m glad that Jonathan introduced our family to the world of marathon canoe racing because it has brought us all together in a new way. My oldest daughter Niki serves as our team captain and does an amazing job of handling logistical support at checkpoints along the race routes. My wife Cheryl and youngest daughter Gina love cheering us on. Even our dog Biscuit enjoys our canoe outings and always barks out a little encouragement, I think. So, as much as I am enjoying this new adventure, the best thing about it is doing it as a family. I like the thought of us spending 10,000-hours together over the coming years. That makes all of the practice and all of the races worth the effort.


  1. I love that you are experiencing the joy of physically training for something that is so beyond your current comfort level!! Training for something physically challenging teaches me so much more about life and about God’s word. The Isenbergers have definitely embraced it as a family as well… Evidenced by our Team Isenberger t-shirts! You never know who you will inspire to Go Beyond physically and in godliness! Way to go Garcia’s!

    • Thanks for your encouragement and example, Kelly.

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