I saw the dark clouds forming just south of where we were. I heard the rumble in the distance and knew that any minute now the winds would pick up and the storm would start to move our way. We were about 5 miles from where we had launched the boat. The four of us had been scouting out the shoreline looking for waves. At this very moment as the storm slowly approached us we were not on board our vessel. We were all four sitting in the ocean on our surfboards about 200 yards from the boat. We had been in this spot for a couple of hours. We had made sure we anchored the boat securely before we disembarked. All four of us grabbed our boards and got lost in the waves and the serenity of being all alone surfing this somewhat remote location. The reality was the spot was not really remote at all. All anyone had to do to get where we were was to enter the state park gates, drive a half mile to the beach parking lot, and then walk a mile up the shoreline to the point. Arriving by boat, never setting foot on land, made the entire surf experience so much richer. On this day, we pushed our limits too far. Each of us had many years of experience on the water and studying weather patterns. We knew that waiting too long for this storm with a boat as our only escape route was risky. However, the reward of fun waves, with no one else out was just so tempting.
We all gave each other the look that meant ok boys we have pushed this too long we better get going. It was at that time we realized that the boat had been slowly drifting away. None of us are sure how long it had been since the anchor gave way, but we all knew the boat was a lot further away than where we had left it. We all four began to paddle as fast as we could toward the boat. The winds were picking up, the seas were getting rough and the sky just a bit darker. It felt like to me we would never catch our vessel. Lucky for us the anchor was dragging the sea floor. My friend Sean reached the boat first, from there he was able to start the engine, retrieve the anchor and turn back to pick the rest of us up. We were exhausted, cold, and now on a race to outrun the lightning that was accompanying the storm. As we pushed forward in a head sea the waves pushed over the bow. It became apparent that our plan to reach the boat ramp safely might be out of the question. In a moment of sheer desperation to protect ourselves we decided to beach the boat and take cover in the dunes. I remember crouching behind a big sand dune with no other structures in sight. This was it, a sand dune, driving rain, lighting, and no choice but to wait it out.
I decided to share this story with you guys this week because I was reminded of this event last week while sitting in a work meeting. The analogy of the storm brewing really just hit me. Before the meeting began I had sensed the dark clouds, rumbling, and the turbulence. As I sat in this meeting I had this contemplative thought; How do we as leaders (formal or informal leader) remain positive when the seas get rough? I will be the first to confess, I fail at this often. I have to be vigilant about my thoughts. For me both professionally and personally negativity is not an option. The entire reason my friends and I choose to tempt fate that day on the boat was because we believed the reward (the waves) out weighed the consequences (getting struck by lightning or boat capsizing). We were wrong. We each knew that when we finally did arrive back at the dock safely. We were boneheads. I have exhibited the same bonehead thinking in my professional life. I have decided the reward of pointing out where others have not delivered on their obligations out weighed the consequences of adding more discord. I became part of the problem. I am sure I do not have to tell you guys I was wrong in those situations too. We all see this in our daily lives. With the stresses of life, the demands of the complex work we do, and the focus on self we can all fall into this trap. For me learning from these bonehead decisions has allowed me to become a more thoughtful and influential leader.
I was introduced almost 18 years ago to a simple instruction guide on how to both professionally and personally carry myself. I like it because it is simple. I am not responsible for my thoughts. I am 100% accountable the actions that follow those thoughts. I hope this will help someone out there who might be struggling with how remain positive when the seas of life get rough.
- When you see discord look to bring harmony
- When you see hate bring love
- When someone has injured you – pardon them
- When there is doubt offer faith
- Where there is despair bring hope
- In the darkness be a light
- Seek first to understand before being understood
Thank you for following CultureInfusion your support and input means so much to Bill and I. Wishing you all fair winds and following seas.