kicking against the tide

Memorial Day provided a snorkeling trip for my family at the gorgeous John Pennekamp Park and Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary. What an awesome experience, we had a blast! The coral reef was fabulous and the fish were beyond description.

Unfortunately, the weather was a little bad and it wasn’t the best of days by South Florida standards. It rained on us a little and we got wet (jk). Seriously, the wind was really strong and it created a strong current. The tide required that we swim pretty hard to stay in the area where we needed to be. Later, the Captain of the boat told us that if we could make it through these conditions, we could snorkel anywhere.

Here’s the point. We swam hard to get up current and then would stop to enjoy the scenery. It only took a few seconds of looking around at the ocean floor, and all of the ground that we had gained was lost, we had to swim back against the wind and current so we could enjoy the view some more. The beauty of the sea life could only be enjoyed in short stints. If we got too distracted, we would only have to work harder.

What a dead-on analogy to being a leader! It takes a lot of effort and energy to get to where you need to be. There is a strong head wind. The tide is against you. You have to kick hard just to stay steady. You get tired and feel like floating back to the boat. Once you get to your goal, you really want to look around and enjoy the scenery. You’ve earned a rest. You pause a minute just to feel good about what has been accomplished. You take a deep breath or two and then it hits you, you are back where you started.

The visual imagery isn’t very encouraging here. Sounds a little depressing to think that we can’t even celebrate victories or get some well deserved rest. That is not what I am trying to say. An important part of leading is the ability to recognize progress, to rejoice when something goes well. If you don’t take time to do that, you won’t last very long as a leader. But if you spend too much time admiring where you are, you won’t be there any longer. (That was dangerously close to being a Yogism!)

The key –as usual- is balance. Know when to kick and know when to look around. Learn how to recognize seasons of fighting the tide and the seasons of rest and celebration. Don’t ever become so wrapped up in the scenery that you wind up in trouble.

On Monday, some of the wimpier snorkelers got tired and went back to the boat. No way, we paid our money and we were staying out as long as they would let us.

Never pass up a chance to swim in the ocean. It is awesome. But be aware of rip tides, high waves, jellyfish – don’t laugh, they really sting. Never pass up a chance to influence someone for the good, to impact the life of another person. Be aware of the challenges, the weariness and the temptation to quit. But the rewards are certainly worth the work.

At least there were no sharks – not that we knew of! (cue theme music from Jaws!)

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