Swimming Against the Tide

By Gail Z. Martin

When I was at the beach a few weeks ago, I had the chance to take my chair out into the surf and watch the waves come in around me.  I love to feel the water swell up over my feet and legs, and watch it glimmer in the sun as it rushes back out.

As I watched the sun make patterns in the surf, I noticed the small silver fish who were swept in with the water.  I love to see these little minnows swirl around my ankles when I walk in the surf, but I noticed that they were doing something curious.

They were struggling mightily against the tide.  Not only where they fighting the entire power of the ocean, but the tide was struggling to save their lives.  The fish only knew to swim onward, but “onward” would have mean beaching themselves in the sun to die.  And I realized that I know a lot of business owners like those fish.

How many people do you know who are committed to moving “onward” but who aren’t really paying attention to what would happen if they arrived at their supposed destination?

I know people who want to be famous, or who want to build a national franchise, or who want to land a huge national contract.  There’s nothing wrong with those dreams, but it’s important to understand where your version of “onward” is taking you.  Like the minnows, you might succeed in fighting the tide only to end up beached in the sun.

Here are some things to ask yourself, to avoid ending up like those minnows:

  • Why do I want this?  (Is it to impress other people, or for a valid business reason)
  • How will my life have to change to make this happen?  What might be the stress points or ramifications of those changes?
  • Can my support structure handle the stress?  (Your marriage, your family, your employees, and others to who depend on you.)
  • Have I laid a foundation sturdy enough to support  the level of success I’m seeking?  (Many people achieve their goal only to lose what they’ve gained because they didn’t lay a proper foundation capable of sustaining the activities required to maintain success.)
  • What will it take to strengthen my personal and professional support structures to lay a solid foundation for the success I seek?  What can I begin doing immediately to start to make that happen?  How long will it take to achieve?
  • When I achieve my goal, what then?
  • At what point will I be satisfied?  (Warning—if you really believe that “too much is not enough”, you are headed for trouble.  Dream big, but know when you’ve reached a point of sustainability that permits both personal and professional satisfaction.

We Americans love the rebels that swim against the tide.  But before you invest enormous energy in fighting the power of the tides pulling on you, take a few moments to make sure that you’re headed for a healthy destination.  Let go of the compulsion to move “onward” for the sake of moving, and chart your own course and speed.

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