What You Learn in a Low Tide

“Just because the Tide is low doesn’t mean there is less water in the ocean” – Seth Godin

In my most recent leadership blog, I shared a message about surviving the storm. That post was shared on March 5th, before all of this COVID madness hit us. Little did I know the lesson would be so relevant today as we find ourselves in unchartered waters navigating one of the worst social, economic, and medical crises of our time. Truly a surreal moment for all of us.

In that article, I shared how relieved I felt to have reached the safety of the harbor. Most times the harbor is a safe place. But, in the crisis we now face, the harbor doesn’t feel so safe. Metaphorically speaking, it seems the tide is out, and we find ourselves in a much different predicament than the storm we’ve been navigating.

With no water in the harbor, the dangers that lurk below the surface are all around us. Sunken ships once 20 feet below now tower above the water. Pilings, rocks, and other debris are now clear obstacles we previously never concerned ourselves with – obstacles that prove increasingly difficult to navigate.

With the COVID crisis, we find ourselves in a very similar situation both personally and professionally. Personally, we are now absent the social and personal interactions that are so important to us as humans. The “tide” is out, and our own houses and apartments, once our safe harbors, have become the “rocks, pilings, and other debris” confining our interactions with others.

In business, we face a similar situation. The metaphorical waters that once provided so much for us – goods, services, and customers to buy them – are being quickly drained before our eyes. Layoffs, recessions, cancelled orders, shuttered businesses are now the “sunken ships” all around us, and we find ourselves dead in the water, and in some cases, grounded in the mud.

However, as Seth Godin’s quote reminds us, it’s important to keep in mind that what we are dealing with is much like a tide – it comes and goes. Personally, our lives will soon return to some sense of normalcy, and we will resume to the interactions that were so important to us. Professionally, our business will resume, and we will see our customers return and begin buying our products and services soon.

What we will learn from this is even more important – a deeper, more profound understanding/awareness of the underlying obstacles “in the harbor”. We will gain the awareness that when the tide has taken out the water where we are, it has lifted up and elevated the water somewhere else. In the future, perhaps we will have a greater appreciation for where our opportunities are in challenging times, versus the tendency to focus on what’s been taken away.

Personally, we are learning that the relationships right in front of us are so much more important – our own families. Hopefully, we have rekindled that connection in profound ways. Further, the isolation is helping us recognize how important those friendships and relationships outside of our immediate families are to us, as well. When they return, we will treasure them even more.

Professionally, we are learning how our business and our clients will react in situations like this. We now know the obstacles that were once “under the surface”, and we are learning how to navigate them. We are developing new ways of selling and delivering our offerings, and in many cases, these are amazing new techniques we can apply going forward. And if we are smart, we’ve learned where the water goes when the tide is out and found new buyers for our services that we might not have discovered otherwise.

There are silver linings in every situation. The trick is both to recognize and embrace them while the tide is out, so when it returns, you are much better “captains” than before!

NOTE: I want to thank Casey Peebles for suggesting this metaphor and acknowledge a fellow blogger – Paul Hebert, whose blog post https://fistfuloftalent.com/2020/04/low-tide-in-the-management-harbor.html inspired this post. It’s worth a read.

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