The Canal Dunking – The Perils of Shortcuts in Business

55 miles all told. Kemble to Cheltenham along the beautiful tracks and lanes of the Cotswolds and Severn Valley. It was a gorgeous sunny September Friday; I’d just disembarked from my train at Kemble and began cycling home. This was well before lockdown and COVID 19 when the world was very different.

I reckoned on 6 hours including a leisurely lunch at a favourite pub of mine en route. The village of Saul, to be exact. My bike was behaving well, I was dressed in shorts and teeshirt as it was warm and I wore a cycling helmet – it would be rude not to.

As I thanked the guvnor of the pub for his excellent hospitality, I paused briefly to scan my map. The official cycle route took me away towards the river on the country lanes – I’d cycled that route before, and it was long and quite arduous. In front of me lay the Sharpness Canal. A water cutting designed to save the big ships time on their journey to the City of Gloucester from the Severn Estuary, back in the days when Gloucester was a thriving port city.

The towpath looked highly cyclable and would save me an hour on my journey. Gloucester Rugby was playing at home that evening, kick-off at 7.45 pm, so I was keen to get back to watch the match live on BT Sport.

I took the shortcut along the canal.

It was tricky in places but very passable until I met walkers coming the other way. Slowing down allowed me to get passed them, but I hadn’t factored in the dog. The canine jumped up at me, took my eye away from the narrow path. The next thing I remembered was careering down the steep embankment towards the canal. It’s those moments when your life flashes before you and the next moment I was in the drink, head below the murky water.

Dirty, scammy, lime diseased water. Yuk. I clambered to the side just about standing. My next task was to climb out. Rather tricky when you have to climb vertical iron ramparts intended to hold back the banks when massive ships passed through the canal. Not meant for swimmers to escape the water.

With a heave and a grunt my legs catapulting my frame upwards, I managed to reach the bank. Scraping through brambles and nettles, I flopped onto the towpath.

I was scratched to ribbons, blood oozed along my wet arms and legs, a nasty graze dribbled blood from my chin, and my ego was thoroughly deflated. But I was alive.

Do you take shortcuts in business? Beware if you do. Have you:

  • Skimmed a book rather than read it correctly.
  • Deleted emails without looking at them properly.
  • Cut down on your sales meeting preparation because you didn’t have time.
  • Rushed into your prospecting calls without thorough research.
  • Omitted essential revision before taking the exam, preferring to wing it.
  • Believing the board presentation would go fine and not preparing for the expected rigorous questioning which caught you unbalanced.
  • Not bothering with any prospecting because your order book was full and pipeline healthy. It came back to haunt you later in November – no new customers.

Taking shortcuts is tempting, but often fatal. Or at least you could end up with self-harming arms and legs and a shattered ego, like me.

I still don’t recall the walker and her dog. They’d either long gone, or it was an illusion brought on by the cider from that friendly hospitable barman. Whatever was the cause, I’m not taking shortcuts anymore.