If we focus on the possible negative, we get sucked into it.
Lessons. Everywhere, lessons present themselves. And they remind us that we are always students. Lifelong learners. If we pay attention.
My latest education has come over the past few weeks courtesy of my new twelve-foot ocean kayak.
Previously, I had paddled in the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, the Florida Keys, and in North Florida inlets. Let’s say my first week of ocean kayaking has gifted me some wonderful lessons.
- Perspective. I spend time on the beach observing surfers and paddle boarders. I notice smooth water, small waves, and storm-tossed breakers. The appreciation for the conditions, though, changed when I walked my kayak into the ocean for the first time. The waves took on a very different perspective atop of (and soon tossed from) my kayak seat.
- Lesson. Until we dive into a project, we do not have a full appreciation of what to expect. A new job might look perfect—until we report to work. Perhaps it’s criticizing a co-worker, government action, or the stance of a group different from ours. Until we get into that water, we really don’t understand that perspective.
- Respect and Fear. I have always had a deep respect for the ocean. That is different from the fear I felt the first time I paddled beyond the breakers. I could feel myself tense up—which in turn led to poor body mechanics. Instead of attacking the waves, I stopped paddling–and eventually ended up in the water with the boat on top of me. (With a broken seat back and lost sunglasses, thank you very much!)
- Lesson. Fear can lead to counter-productive actions. We start to focus on the thing we do NOT want to do. I once heard a race car driver’s advice on how NOT to hit the racetrack wall. Simply, he said, do NOT look at the wall. If we focus on the possible negative, we get sucked into it. My first day on the kayak I focused on the waves and not being tossed rather than focusing on the shore and gliding to a stop. I tensed up and face planted in the water.
- Adrift. The first time I got beyond the breakers and to (relatively) smoother, less undulating water, I looked back and saw that I was further from shore than I had thought. The voice in my head cried, “What the hell are you doing out here? Way out here?”
- Lesson. When we attempt something new, when we stretch ourselves, we might feel adrift. Like we have no anchor. We find ourselves treading unfamiliar waters. Some people quit. Some figure out how to persevere. Some look for reassurance and guidance. In my case, I looked a little north and spied surfers and paddle boarders. I felt better knowing others were close by. They wouldn’t paddle my boat but just knowing others were in similar waters gave me a feeling of security. When you feel lost and adrift, look around for those who may be in similar waters. Collegiality can be a powerful motivator.
- Coaching. I sought out a neighbor with experience to help me with kayaking technique. From posture, to paddle stroke, to entering and leaving the surf, he has provided needed guidance. Simple ideas take root due to his repetition
- Lesson. There is no need to be an island. Reach out for coaching. A fresh set of eyes and a different perspective can help move you to a new level. (And do not forget gratitude. Bruce found a twelve-pack of his favorite beverage on his patio later that week.)
- Daily Discipline. Each day I go out, I see improvement. I paddle further; spill less frequently; unload, load, and strap the kayak to the cart with more skill. I now look at how the waves break on a particular day before lunging into the surf. I am more aware. I still have a long way to paddle—and I have come a long way, as well.
- Lesson. Whether you want to call it locus of control or self-efficacy, when you fall short, get up, fall again, get up again…ad nauseum….you learn, you grow, and move closer to a goal. If we fail to notice that we fail to notice—we hinder our movement forward.
Video recommendation for the week.
Sometimes laughing is the best way to soothe a bruised ego. With that in mind, my bride sent me this video link. Even kayakers have a blooper reel.
Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.
For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.
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