Be a River not a Reservoir


When was the last time you stood on the bank of a river?  What about a lake?

Some of my favorite childhood memories involve water.  In the area of the country where I spent my childhood summers, you would hear people refer to the body of water as the Tennessee River and Kentucky Lake.  Both were technically true because of the dams built along the Tennessee River by the Tennessee Valley Authority.  I remember getting in the boat on early mornings and starting the old 55 horsepower Evinrude motor, and eagerly anticipating getting to our first fishing hole.

As I have grown older, I seem to think back on those times with wonder.  All the memories and lessons learned continue to flood back to my memory.

Recently, I was listening to a podcast with John Maxwell (@johncmaxwell) in which he said, “Be a river, not a reservoir.”  Let that sink in for a moment…

“Be a river, not a reservoir.”  If those were the only words John said, it would have been enough, but he didn’t stop there.

He added a few more words to the phrase… at the beginning.  “I WANT TO be a river, not a reservoir.”  This changes from a directive to a self directive.  What does this mean?  If you desire to add value to people, you approach interactions with everyone around you differently.  This feeling is rooted in the belief that you were blessed by what others have poured into your life and now it is your turn to pay it forward.

2 Main Takeaways

1.  River water is never stagnantWhether you are sitting in one spot or moving, the water is always moving.  If you are wading in a stream while fishing for giant brown trout, the water is rushing through your legs.  To be a river is to appreciate the blessings you have received as well as looking for opportunities to pass them on to others.

2.  Downstream reflects what happens upstreamHave you ever seen a river after a large rain?  It is often muddy due to the runoff.  What if people are illegally dumping upstream?  Of course, the downstream water will have trash floating in it.  To want to be a river, one must believe they can have a positive impact on the water around them, thus guaranteeing better water below them.

What can you do to be a better river?  What have others done to support you downstream?


  1. […] be it at home, the office, at church, or within the community at large.  It’s all about the memories we […]

Register to Receive My FREE E-Book!