The last two nights I have drifted off to sleep listening to the gentle roar of the waves some 90 feet below as they crash upon the soft sandy beach. The noise is soothing, comforting and consistent. While there are certainly the occasional crescendo from that 7th or 8th set wave where the perfect collision of water advancing and water retreating meet to form yet another barrel into a shore break, it is for the most part as steady as a brain surgeon wielding a scalpel. This sound is so comforting to some that they purchase entire CD’s of recordings from beaches around the world…the unmistakable crash of North Shore or the tropical soothing sounds from the Maldives. All in all though it is a consistent and measurable whoosh and whish, whoosh and whish, like that of nature’s metronome.
It is however consistently noisy though. No break, no reprieve, no mute button. It is there, constant, present, and unending. This noise too is present in our lives. It may take different forms and have it’s peaks and valleys, but it is there nonetheless. The demands of work or school, the constant connectivity of our time, feeds, tweets, connections, requests, likes, posts, emails, read-receipts, meeting invites, the list could continue.
The most surprising thing that happened the first time I popped up on a surfboard in Santa Cruz many years ago (other than the fact that I was indeed surfing after many failed attempts – ala Bill Murray from What About Bob except that it was “I’m Surfing! I Surf!”) was that once you drop in, stand up, and lean forward to allow the wave to gently propel you forward, the churn and bubble of the ocean wave somehow takes a back seat to the breeze of walking on water and all is silent. Now I’m not certain if it is more the euphoria that comes with that first experience or the surprise of actually making it happen, but I can remember that being the most blissful and silent experiences I have ever had at the ocean, certainly much better than being bounced along the bottom or tossed like a rag doll from the top of the lip when you didn’t paddle quite effectively enough.
The noise, while ever present, can be outpaced. As leaders it is critical for us to continue to sharpen our skills, to get out in front of the noise that would fill our ears with those things that, while important, tend to distract or keep us from working on that which is most important. We must be able to read the waves to determine our set that we want to establish our ride on, to provide that model for our people of what it means to harness the power of the noise for our benefit rather than get washed up in the churn and be left with sand in uncomfortable places.
Tides rise and fall, storms come and go, reefs and sandbars continue to grow and shift, but the inevitable wave will always be there ready for someone to turn, paddle hard, and drop in for one helluva ride.