New Why’s founders, Michelle and I, have a thing for canoes. This past summer a canoe became a vital member of the New Why staff, and we took it out to Red Feather Lakes, Lake Isabel, and Sloan’s Lake. It was incredibly peaceful and calming to paddle around looking at bald eagles, watching fish jump out of the water, and feeling the hot Colorado sun on our backs.
But my love of canoeing isn’t new. Let me give you some history. When I was a kid my dad would take me out in a canoe at Shawnee Mission Park in eastern Kansas, while he’d fish and I’d pretend to fish. Sometimes I loved it, and sometimes I just wanted to be at home playing Super Mario Brothers on the Nintendo.
Then, the summer when I was eleven years old, I begged my parents to send me off for a month with my best friend to a camp in Minnesota’s northern woods. It was fantastic. I swam in the cold, crystal clear lake. I learned how to shoot a rifle. I rode horses through the woods and saw black bears ambling down the dirt road. I ate wild raspberries. I sang cheesy songs around the campfire. I learned to light a blazing one-match fire. I canoed down the Crow Wing River through four days of pouring rain. I cried when I had to go home. I freaking loved camp.
I loved camp so much that I returned for four years, each year learning more about surviving in the wilderness, pitching a tent by myself in the dark, avoiding bears, naming every part of the horse, and steering a canoe down rivers and through lakes.
My final year at camp, just before my sophomore year of high school, I went on a ten day canoe trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) of Minnesota and Ontario. The BWCAW is one-million acres of interconnected lakes. It’s hard to imagine so much lake if you’ve never been, but it’s truly breathtaking.
There are thousands of islands in the BWCAW, where we’d stop for the night, pitch our tents, and feast on wild blueberries. This trip was one of the best experiences of my childhood, and to this day, more than twenty years later, I think about it all the time.
Cut to early autumn, 2013. Michelle and I took a trip back up to Minnesota’s northern woods because my nostalgia wouldn’t leave me alone until I went back to see if it was as spectacular as I remembered it. We spent a week on a remote lake without cellphone reception, without internet, and with nothing but the crying loons and Twin Peaks on DVD (which, in tandem make for very creepy nights) to distract us from relaxing. While we didn’t have a canoe there, we kayaked around the little lake and took long walks in the gorgeous Paper Birch woods just as the leaves were beginning to change.
During this trip we spent a lot of time talking about our why. Not just in business, but in life and in how the two can come together to be holistically fulfilling. We both wanted more intention, more awareness, more mastery. And here’s where the canoe metaphor comes in.
Canoes represent a slower, more intentional pace. They represent a kind of freedom that doesn’t come with checking your Facebook page fifty times a day or seeing your life through your Instagram feed.
If I were you I’d be asking “WTF, Natalie. Isn’t that your job? Making sure people check Facebook constantly and post every minutiae to Instagram?” Well, yes and no. There are limits to everything.
We love technology. We love building strong websites and helping good businesses get found online. But we also love balance. We love creating websites that free people up to do what they love, rather than bogging them down with frustrating and time-consuming tasks. We love getting better and better at what we do–mastering both the rapids and the placidity.
We love assembling teams of talented people we deeply trust to help us navigate all the complexities of each project that comes our way, and to create the kind of work community that allows everyone time to do what they love outside of work. And we want to empower our clients to step away from their computers, to put down their smartphones, and to enjoy the world–the non-virtual world–as much as they can, because they know they don’t have to worry about what’s going on with their online presence.
It’s our job to plan well, to create solid websites and marketing strategies that don’t fall apart, so that our clients can take a few days off to sit on a dock, watch the sunset, and read Pale Fire.
We’re suspending our cynicism to advocate for more fulfilling lives for everyone we have the pleasure of working with.
What’s your canoe? What’s your new why?