Sink or Swim

by Pool Builders on 05-08-2014 in Articles

Once, when I was a child, I joined a swim team. At one of our meets on a Saturday the coach was short one kid so he put me in a 50 yd event. I was terrified of it. I had never swam 2 lengths of the pool before and I knew I wasn't able to do it. I implored the coach not to make me swim, but he didn't listen. I complained to my parents and asked them to get me out of the event, but they didn't listen. I walked up and down in front of the bleachers explaining my plight to all that would listen, in hopes that one of them would get me out of the event... which in the end, I ended up swimming.

As well intentioned as those people may have been in thinking doing this to me would make me stronger - it didn't. It terrified me. I was correct about being unable to swim the event and my brother had to jump in to rescue me. It frightened me and for years made me not want to trust people to take care of me. The event didn't strengthen me, it hurt me. I shouldn't have dove in.

If I had never touched the water or gotten off the starting block, they would have scratched me from the event and I would have been better for it.

How often do we take a plunge because someone else pushes us in when we aren't ready and we know that we can't swim? Then we end up hurt and disillusioned, untrusting, and often too frightened to try our dreams again. How often are we too weak to put our foot down and just say no and scratch the event?

I learned two things about life from this event. First, you can't always trust the people around you to know what's best for you. And second, you must learn to trust your own instincts.

You alone know who you are and what you are ready for. Parents, friends, and associates may have their ideas of what you are capable of, but you alone know what's best. You must be willing to trust your own instincts and move at your own pace to live your dreams and be your best self. You can't be worried about whether someone else will think you are too slow or too fast or if that risk is too big or too small. You alone must know.

It's great to get advice and encouragement from people. But when that advice turns into performance pressure you're in for a fall. You can't live out your life or your dreams on someone else's time table. It really doesn't matter what that other person wants or who they are. If you aren't ready yet, you aren't ready yet - and pushing it will only make it fall.

You can't always trust other people to know what's best. They may mean well and they may even have degrees and certificates and credentials of all sorts. But they aren't you and they don't know what's in your heart. And all too often after the crash they'll tell you, guess we shouldn't have done that. Well yes but now I'm hurt and frightened and alone because you've walked off and I still have to figure out how to heal and get my courage back to try again.

Patience is difficult in this high performance world. Everyone wants everything right now, including their dreams and goals. But it doesn't work that way. Living your dreams is a path of development and growth. You learn at every stage and you do indeed grow. But you must trust your own instincts about what you are ready for and you must learn to say no.

Saying no doesn't make you a bad person. It makes you a wise person. If saying yes is going to overtax you, make you scratch the event, make your life less stable, or hurt you by making you do something you aren't ready for - then say no - for the benefit of all. No one actually wants you to fail or fall and you certainly don't want to be hurt. It's not a matter of weakness. It's a matter of prudence.

If I'm not yet ready for an investment, say no. If I'm not yet ready to volunteer at church, say no. If I'm not yet ready to be involved in a club or group, say no. You don't have to do or be it all. You have to discover who you are, what works for you, and do the things that match to you.

Getting thrown in to sink or swim may sound courageous but in reality - it's dumb and more often than not, you're gonna drown. Take the time to know yourself and decide for yourself what's best for you. And learn to trust you. And then when you do try, you'll be less likely to fail.

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