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The Butterfly Effect - Guest post from founder Richard Jones

August 31st, 2021

In essence, the Butterfly effect can be summed up in the idea that small, almost minuscule, imperceptible events can have positive or negative consequences on events far in the future, as in the flap of a butterfly wing somewhere in the Amazon jungle that effects weather patterns that ultimately result in a devastating typhoon that hits Japan months later, or life-saving rains that bring an end to a drought to the same region.

Small actions can have far reaching consequences. Consider:

During the 1961 Cuban missile crises, a nuclear-armed soviet submarine – B-59 lay submerged off the coast of Cuba. Through lack of communication with Russia, the sub’s captain Valentin Savitsky, decided, on his own to launch a nuclear torpedo at the American aircraft carrier above him that was raining depth charges on his vessel. To launch, all three senior officers on the vessel had to agree with the action. One-man, Russian Navy officer Vasili Arkhipov vetoed the action. He has been called the man who saved the world. He exercised his veto power to halt the launch. The consequences of a nuclear war, had it broken out are unimaginable, yet, it came down to one man, with one vote. The Butterfly effect.

I think about the reality of the Butterfly effect in my life that put me on a course to do what I did in regards to founding World Wide River Expeditions and the tremendous positive effect it has had on virtually every guide who ever walked through the doors of the Moab warehouse or who have in any way been associated with the company.

I have heard often from the guides who I worked with from 1971-2000 of the incredible impact the river experience has had in their lives. Likewise, Steve and Nicki Hazlett who have guided the company since acquiring the entity in 2000 and nurturing it to the present day have also frequently commented about the positive impact the total river experience has had on the employees under their watch.

I think I can speak with authority in saying that no guide, from 1971 through 2021 – 50 years now, has not, in some form or another been deeply impacted, in a very positive way by their experience working as a river guide for the company either in Moab or Salmon, Idaho. Among other things, guides and associates have learned,

  1. The value of hard work
  2. The value of teamwork
  3. How to interact, and get along with others
  4. Taking responsibility for one’s decisions
  5. Recognizing that decisions and choices have consequences
  6. Leadership skills at an elevated level
  7. Respect for the world in which they live
  8. Appreciation for the beauties of the world
  9. Acquiring positive, exciting, and adventurous memories that will last them a lifetime
  10. And perhaps best of all – for some, finding their life’s eternal companion
  11. Gratitude for the privilege of working in one of the choicest environments on planet Earth
  12. Gaining self-awareness of their personal worth and potential as a human being
  13. Growth in life’s perspective and gaining down-to-earth experiences that will assist and help them throughout the rest of their lives.
  14. Learning the lesson embodied in the statement, “Yes, I can do hard things.” And not only do they survive, but they willingly come back for more of the same, only this time, stronger, and more determined, more resolute, and showing greater leadership skills.
  15. Discovering one’s self, who I really am, realizing that I’m capable of so much more than I ever thought possible.
  16. The list goes on – each guide could add to this list according their own personal experiences.

I think of Steve who was hired, but just barely, and what would the company be without him. I was in Houston/Dallas doing convention shows and in speaking to my office manager Bonnie, she said, “I just hired another guide, but he’s so skinny, I’m not sure he’s up to the job.”

And several years later, Both Steve and I were at BYU interviewing potential guides when Nicki came for an interview. With her, as we all know, the rest is history.

So, what was the impetus for the creation of the company that has resulted in so much good. What was the Butterfly effect in my life that set everything in motion?

It’s mind-boggling to try and imagine how varied and different the outcome would be for every guide that has ever worked for Worldwide River Expeditions if the company never came to fruition. Only the individual guide will know the depth of the change that would have occurred in their life, had they not guided for the company.

I’ve scrutinized my life looking for the Butterfly effect that I could say was responsible for setting the whole river experience in motion and I think I’ve found it.

It was a seven-year-old boy in Phoenix, Arizona in 1950 that went to the cotton fields to pick cotton.

Any guide, any employee who has ever been associated with World Wide River Expedition, who was influenced by their experience as a guide on the Colorado, Green, of Salmon Rivers can attribute the positive effects of these experiences to a small boy who answered an advertisement, from the Murphy School District in 1950, to meet at the school on a particular Saturday morning, to be bussed to the nearby cotton fields to pick cotton.

On learning of the opportunity to make a couple of dollars, I opted to go pick cotton, as did my brother and a friend. We had to bring our own lunch and Gunny sacks to hold the cotton and we were paid by the pound for our work. I was good for two Gunny sacks full of cotton, and then my energy and lack of enthusiasm for the work waned. I think I made $1.50 ($16.50 in 2021) for my day’s effort.

It wasn’t the money that I earned that day, that was important, but the realization that if I worked, I could earn money, and that excited me, even as a 7-year-old, for it gave me money to buy comic books – 10 cents each, candy bars at 5 cents each and movies for 10 cents each.

In 1950, my parents moved the family from Phoenix back to South Salt Lake City where they were from. Work was scarce for a 10-year-old boy, but I did secure a job as a Newsy, hawking newspapers on the city streets in Salt Lake. Papers sold for a dime and newsies got to keep 50%, or a nickel for each paper sold. If I sold all 25 of my papers, I came home with $2.50 in my pocket. ($27.60 in 2021) Again, the lesson learned was that if I worked, I could earn money.

I advanced from selling newspapers on Salt Lake street corners to having my own paper route. All through Jr. High School, I delivered papers, by bike, throughout my neighborhood, which gave me plenty of spending money, especially to buy clothes which were important in Jr. High School.

In my local church, I attended Scouts. At one troop meeting, in 1958, a representative from the Great Salt Lake Council of scouting came to our scout meeting and announced that the council was offering one week river trips on the Colorado River through Glen Canyon, now Lake Powell at a cost of only $50.00 per person. We needed only to bring our own clothes and a sleeping bag.

Of the twenty boys in my troop, I was the only one that had any interest in going on the trip. In addition to lack of interest, I’m sure the cost of the trip - $50 was more than most boys or their parents could afford. Fifty dollars in 1958 is the equivalent of $552.00 in 2021. The boys didn’t have the money and neither did the parents. I know mine didn’t.

But I had a paper route, which easily allowed me to pay my own way.

That first trip through Glen Canyon was a wonder to behold. I was hooked. In high school, I organized trips for my classmates and took several trips each summer from 1959-1961.

Following my mission – 1962 – 1965, I attended the U and BYU, but could never find my niche for a profession, all the while I continued to work as a river guide during the summer. Finally, in 1971 I bagged school altogether, hung my shingle out and stated to all the world that I’m now a professional river runner and open for business.

The rest is history, and 50 years have now passed, and thanks to Steve and Nicki, World Wide River Expedition is better and stronger than ever, but it all began with a seven-year-old boy answering the call to go pick cotton, which became the Butterfly Effect for many.

We all have a Butterfly effect in our lives. What was yours!