The Voice Of Water

Joe Jacobi
3 min readMay 30, 2021
Riu Noguera Pallaresa, Sort, Catalunya (Joe Jacobi Photo)

“So, what are you going to do when you get back home?” asks Bill.

“I’d like to speak to groups and share our story,” I reply.

Bill is the Head Coach of the U.S. Olympic Canoe Slalom Team.

The bus upon which we are riding is a part of a police escort-led convoy navigating the streets of Barcelona enroute to the 1992 Olympic Closing Ceremonies.

“Great!” says Bill. “Norm (Bellingham) wanted to do the same thing after winning the Olympics four years ago in South Korea. I will tell you what I told him.”

Over the past week since our Olympic win in La Seu d’Urgell, in addition to all of the congratulatory messages and good wishes, many people have offered advice about “next steps.” But this conversation feels a little different. I am tuned in.

Bill continues, “When you get home and take the stage, for the next several weeks, you can pretty much say anything you like and people will find your achievement interesting.”

“But then what?” I ask.

“Well, as interest in the Olympics begins to fade away, people who watch and listen to you will think, ‘Hey, Joe, that’s great you won the Olympics. But how does THAT help me?’”

Bill pauses and looks at me to make sure I am looking at him.

“If you can answer this question and show people how winning the Olympics helps them, you can enjoy sharing this story for as long as you like.”

To this day, I have never once forgotten Bill’s words.

And The Pursuit Of Contentment On The River Of Uncertainty — not only success at the Olympic Games, but also more than 40 years on and around rivers — is my testament to this commitment.

The structure of this river journey highlights the nature of many river journeys.

However, what our Olympic performance brings forward is a little more attention to the question, “What works?”

The choice to be an active participant in navigating the river leads us to an evolving three-part foundation:

A Paddler’s Energy
River Strategy
Relationships Bound By Water

These parts are interwoven and build the lens in which to see the river and its purpose from a different perspective.

Everything else? Adaptation in the form of Course Correction and The Practice Of Transition.

The Pursuit Of Contentment On The River Of Uncertainly reinforces a sliding scale of interpretation between the parts of this journey that we get to choose and the parts that we do not get to choose.

Of course, this river journey comes with plenty of friction, obstacles, and resistance that shape the journey.

The idea is not to clear these barriers and then paddle.

The journey of paddling the river IS the process of acknowledging the obstacles as a guiding companion.

Just before going on-air with NBC before a global audience to call the first day of canoeing competition at the 2008 Olympic Games in China, the producer of the Olympic broadcast pulls me aside in the hallway to offer these words:

“The sounds of your sport is unlike any other. Remember, you do not have to say anything and people will hear something magical.”

While The Pursuit Of Contentment On The River Of Uncertainly offers a navigational framework that I use and continue to evolve, my hope is that this series amplifies the wise voice of the river itself.

Moving water is an everlasting medium that always communicates a unique and timeless message…

Provided we find the awareness and patience to listen.

With gratitude, — Joe

The Voice Of Water concludes my Sunday Morning Joe series, The Pursuit Of Contentment On The River Of Uncertainty.

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5 With Joe Performance Coaching

I coach seasoned professionals, who feel stuck in place, to thrive in transition and bring focus to what matters most without compromising their lives.

My personal experiences winning an Olympic Gold Medal, serving as CEO of a national sports organization, and my current “Simple, Slower, and Less” lifestyle in the Catalan Pyrenees help to form accountable and transformative collaborations that see my clients create their next and most impactful chapter.



Joe Jacobi

Olympic Gold Medalist, Performance Coach, & Author helping leaders & teams perform their best without compromising their lives.