Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success before they gave up. – Thomas A. Edison
I was fascinated by a story I read not long ago about Florence Chadwick. In 1952 she attempted to swim the chilly ocean waters between Catalina Island and the California shore. She swam through foggy weather and choppy seas for fifteen hours.
As her muscles began to cramp, her resolve was weakened. She begged to be taken from the water, but her mother, riding in a boat alongside, urged her not to give up. She kept trying but she grew exhausted and stopped swimming. Aids lifted her out of the water and into the boat. They paddled a few more minutes, the mist broke, and she discovered that the shore was less than a half mile away. “All I could see was the fog,” she explained at a news conference. “I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.”
It might be easy for some to criticize Chadwick for giving up when she was so close to the shore. But it does not change the fact that she was in those chilly waters making the effort. What happened to Chadwick is not uncommon to many leaders. If not careful, you can get so caught up in the daily grind of your organization that by the time you realize what is going on you are walking in a fog.
The Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland said, “It takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” But equally as important is who you run with. Are you in a fog? There is a way out, but you will need some help. Here are three things you will need to reach your goals.
A leader in a fog needs wise counsel. One of the most valuable assets a leader has in any organization is the counsel of his or her frontline people. When a leader values the counsel and perspective of those who serve on the frontlines it will be a game-changer in terms of the quality of service you can provide.
Unfortunately for Florence Chadwick, when she swam the cold choppy waters she did not have someone to tell her that her goal was within reach. In like fashion, all a discouraged leader may need is the voice of someone to say, “don’t give up, you are almost there!” If you are in a fog, listen to the counsel of those around you; your goal is closer than you may think.
A leader in a fog needs perseverance. Although she did not reach her goal, Florence Chadwick swam for 15 hours. Can you imagine? All successful leaders have one shared trait in common: resilience. They persevere longer than those who fall short. Julie Andrews said, “Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th.”
The temptation in a fog is to stop striving, avoid uncertainties; to play it safe. The leader who perseveres is not distracted by the fog but remembers the vision and stays the course. If you find yourself in a fog then rest assured that you are not alone. Continue to do what brought you where you are, keep swimming, and don’t give up!
A leader in a fog needs a helping hand. When Florence Chadwick was physically unable to continue in her quest, aides were by her side to lift her up. She had a lifeline. Conversely, when a leader is surrounded by a committed team of people who share a common purpose and goal, it makes a seemingly impossible task possible.
Charlie Chaplin said, “We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery.” What a great thought. When we commit to sharing in the happiness of each other, and have a stake in that happiness, we all win.
Being in a fog is not at all uncommon. These seasons come to all leaders. How long you stay there might be a variable, but how you go through it is a test of your character. As you keep wise counsel close, persevere through the fog, and share a helping hand, you will come through a stronger leader. Don’t give up!
© 2011 Doug Dickerson