Have the waves of life ever caught you off guard?

I’ve talked plenty about how I used to be a lifeguard. Beyond that- I’ve relied on swimming throughout my entire life to recharge or find balance in life. But the water isn’t always predictable- and to me- that’s a wonderful thing.

I love this water analogy because we can all relate- in some way- to feeling overwhelmed by water at some point in our lives. Whether it was a rainstorm, waves in the ocean that seemed smaller from the shore, or the rush of freezing cold water in a swimming pool- just like life- water can catch us off guard. When life gives us big waves- we learn to swim. And when we learn to swim, the waves of life become easier and easier to take on.  The waves make us stronger, more resilient, and even able to enjoy the rush of the water because we understand our own capacity.

Suddenly Submerged

Matt Sweetwood is an incredible businessman with an even more incredible story.

When his wife walked out on him and their five young kids, life felt like a tsunami- but Matt learned the importance of the unexpected in life and used it to build a strong family and successful business. He writes about this story of overcoming the odds in his book The Leader of the Pack, and he sat down with me this week on the podcast to talk about how the big waves in his life ended up being what brought him success in both his personal and professional life. Oftentimes, we try to avoid the waves. Our fear of being submerged takes over and we forget that we can use the wave to propel us forward.

We Need the Waves to PIVOT

This is the most important lesson I’ve learned from the water. We can’t even appreciate calm water if we’ve never experienced rough waters. This is a paradox of life that is true for every single one of us.

Adversity- the waves in life- create moments for us to pivot. Without the waves, the water might be calm, but we also aren’t growing- we aren’t becoming stronger swimmers. We need the waves to become who we are meant to be. We need the adversity to learn to pivot. 

Finding Harmony

One of the things Matt and I talked about was how his own pivots in life taught him to find balance. The better we become at pivoting- the easier it becomes to find harmony in life. We can be strong + kind. We can find time to work + play. We can learn to enjoy the calm + the waves.

“A key principle of a high level leader is one who can tell the truth but do it in a kind way. This is also part of resilience. You build resilience by learning to be tough and say what you mean and mean what you say- but to be able to do it in a way that is transparent and kind. You can be nice to someone 50 times and the one time you treat them badly, that’s what they’ll remember the most.” -Matt Sweetwood

Yin and Yang

Many people believe that leaders need to be tough in order to succeed, and on the other hand, some leaders really lean into being kind- but why choose? This is another paradox of life that really describes the qualities of a high-level leader. The harmony we find in life happens when we learn to pivot between the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the soft and hard, the easy and difficult, the shadow and the light, the yin and yang so to speak. Opposing forces become complementary when they interact when we allow space for both sides. Life becomes more full when we can find MORE LOVE and more appreciation in every dynamic aspect.

Seeing Pivots Clearly

When life has more harmony, it’s much easier to see the pivots coming down the pipeline and preparing for them rather than just being forced into a change at the last minute. It’s easy to “miss your exit” when you aren’t clear or balanced where you’re standing. Just like the movement of the sand and debris on the ocean floor, everything is moving, pivoting all the time. If we lose our footing, we might be dunked by the movement and change.

“The thing that I learned is to not wait too long. Look ahead and see what’s going on and even if you’re not looking ahead, even if things are going well, figure out a way to reinvent the business while your business is going. That’s the key.Self-disruption. It’s so much easier to disrupt your own model than to wait for the market to do it for you or to you. Usually, it’s too late if you wait for the market to do it. Somebody else is way ahead of you or you can’t catch up.” -Matt Sweetwood

If you loved this content- share the love with a friend! And don’t forget to head over to Instagram @AdamDMarkel where I share more insights from this conversation and others. If you’re more of a listener- the podcast was made for you. Let us know how you’re learning to be a better swimmer in the ocean of life.