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  • Writer's pictureCoach Knickerbocker

Your Baggage Has Not Been Checked.

While I was traveling this winter I reflected on the difference between airline carriers and baggage fees. Some airlines are awesome, allowing two free checked bags, while others charge as much as $25 for only one.

No bueno.

I must admit that when I had the chance and the inclination, checking the bag was preferable. No trudging through the terminal dragging the rolling bag behind me while negotiating the weight distribution of my carry on bag to rolling suitcase to water bottle to phone with boarding pass on get the picture.

Wouldn't life be awesome if we all could just check the baggage we all carry around with us?

What are you carrying around with you?

What baggage do you have, either in your head or in your body, that you carry with you from relationship to relationship or activity to activity? And how do you think that baggage works against you?

Let's dive in shall we?


We ALL have baggage.

We ALL have memories, beliefs, assumptions, unresolved hurt, and resentments, that accompany us in everything we do.

We ALL have a little voice that beckons from the bags we carry telling us we are not good enough, not strong enough, not young enough.

My question to you is, how does that baggage alter how you experience the many facets of your life? How do they complicate your relationships? That includes not just intimate relationships but how about your relationship with your teammates and coaches?

How do those memories, beliefs, assumptions, unresolved hurt, and resentments interplay with the life you are walking through?

How do you negotiate the weight distribution of all that baggage?

I know.

Your question is, what does this have to do with rowing?

It's coming.

Let's pretend for a moment that you are a blank slate. That you actually have NO baggage or belief system that questions your worth or ability to do whatever it is you want to do. No memories, beliefs, assumptions, unresolved hurt, or resentments that get in your way or color your attitude or approach to everyday life. You are completely free of any thoughts or behaviors that stall you, create conflict with yourself or others, or keep you from reaching your ultimate potential.

You have never been wronged or rejected. You have never lost, literally or figuratively. You have always been confident, clear eyed, and known exactly where you were headed in your life and what your purpose was.

Now imagine that you decide to learn how to row.

You take your confident-completely-comfortable-secure-no-issue self to the local boathouse and engage in a learn to row session.

What challenges do you bump up against?


What have you learned about yourself?


Because there's nothing to learn! Your a blank slate remember?

No discordance. No insecurities. Nada.

No concern about not knowing what to do.

No worry that you are not strong enough or fit enough or capable to do this new thing.

No misunderstanding of the actual coaching because it's gone through some defensive self critical filter in your consciousness.

No realization that you are impatient, afraid of making a mistake or overwhelmed by all of the new information.

None of this fodder for, what I would define as, " an opportunity to learn more about oneself."

Oh sure you get the physical exertion, you get to learn something new technically, you get to meet some new people. But ultimately what are you getting from this specific activity that you couldn't get from any other new activity?

Again, nothing special.

Why is this?


Because in reality it is the fact that we DO have baggage, and all of the other bits I mentioned, that make the rowing (or whatever thing you choose) so constructive. Without the baggage of who we have been in the past and who we are now, without all the crazy, crummy, fantastic thoughts we contain deep down, without all that luggage combining to create our current reality, the thing that draws us in has no meaningful influence. It is just something we do like robots.

Those bags you carry around are getting into the boat with you or walking right beside you into that new job. Celebrate that!

Those resentments, and memories, and insecurities are all present with you from the moment you show up, anywhere, to do anything. Own that!

For the love of all that is holy don't waste these opportunities!

Sure, sometimes they are stronger than other times depending on the situation but there are always going to be instances where those bags suddenly feel very heavy and awkward. That's your moment! That's your chance to look inside!

Instead of ignoring them or avoiding them, why not use the rowing to shine a light on them. Of course not all the time every moment you're in the boat, because as you know I want you to be rowing well, rowing hard, competing and having fun, but when one of your pieces of luggage gets unwieldy, it's time to unpack. We are only limited by this luggage because we don't take advantage of opening up the suitcase and examining what's inside when the moment presents itself.

What is it about the rowing (or pick a thing) that shines this light through the prism of our psyches and reveals those parts of ourselves that we, to some degree, have kept in the dark? These parts of ourselves that we know are there but choose to not look too deeply at? I could wax poetic right here about the rowing and all the ways it's transformational (yes, it certainly can be), but in reality it's not the rowing itself that makes those changes.

It's the rower.

Or the runner, or the Professor, or the dedicated spouse, or apply label here.

YOU are the one that decides how far you're going to go with this thing called living and what, besides getting better at rowing, you're going to take away from it.

YOU are the one who decides how deeply you're going to examine what keeps you where you are, how to get further, how to become better, or how to take away from the sport or the work or the relationship the self knowledge that will help you to heal all of those things that need healing.

This goes for any element in your life. Any moment, person, endeavor, professional experience, can be transformational. It's how you approach it that makes it that way. You can perceive anything as being transformational if you are willing to participate in being transformed. It doesn't have to be rowing, because again, it's not the rowing.

It's YOU!

Any activity can be the prism that changes your flat white light, to multifaceted and multi-colored. It's just how you integrate that activity, and whether you are able to stand outside of yourself just a little and observe yourself while you engage with that thing.

That act of observing oneself can lead to self-reflection, which involves you on a more consequential level and makes whatever activity you choose to engage with in this way deeper, more meaningful, and able to reveal more to you about you than simply the activity itself.

Your work, your relationships, the things you engage in every day, all of it, in some big or small way can be the prism that lightens those bags. You only have to examine yourself, your actions, and your responses in order to glean more from that moment.


If you choose to make rowing the catalyst for your baggage handling, then you my friend have chosen well. Engaging physically creates pathways to the discovery of the self that reveal all types of bags to be unpacked. A physical undertaking or athletic focus will propel you quicker to transformation (in my opinion) than any other pursuit.

But only IF, and I strongly emphasize IF, you engage with that physical pursuit in a conscious and self- reflective way. The combination of physical + mental + emotional engagement in an activity is the most substantial and long lasting approach to baggage handling.

Could it be that when you swim or run or row there are moments that if paid attention to can bring you personal insight and offer the opportunity for a realignment of your self-perception?

I guarantee there are.

Take some time to think about what prism in your life can lighten up those bags for better weight distribution and easier handling.

Then go be a baggage handler!

Row hard, Row Well, Compete, Have Fun!

Coach Knickerbocker

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