Are Waves Dragging You Under?

Photo courtesy of Kevin Dooley via Flickr.com

“My life is like a stroll on the beach…as near to the edge as I can go” – Thoreau

A few days ago I ventured down to my family’s cottage on the beach of Lake Michigan. The cottage is a 100 year old wooden structure perched on a sand dune and we have to winterize it every winter from the raging winds, ferocious waves, and cold. The autumn wind burned my face and the lake looked ominously angry as it usually does in November.

 If you aren’t familiar with the Great Lakes, perhaps you are picturing a small puddle lake with houses dotted around the parameter. Most people are surprised to learn that the Great Lakes consist of 5 lakes and hold some of the largest area of fresh water in the world. The lakes are massive in size and if you sit on our beach and look west, you won’t see Chicago across the way as many think. Lake Michigan takes numerous lives every year due to its unexpected and sneaky riptides. The waves can reach 25 feet in height and the churning waters are no match for large ships. Remember the Edmund Fitzgerald? Lake Michigan swallowed it up and boasts about taking other ships as well.

November is the most dangerous month for massive storms and waves on the lake. Lake Michigan stays relatively warm this time of year when the cold air temperatures hit. This forces the warm air close to the lake to rise and the cold air to drop. Bam! The opposing forces kick up the winds and the energy creates waves as the air blows over the water surface.

The lake water is darker this time of year as the sand churns continuously in the waves. I always feel powerless and small watching the waves. The constant tug of the water and the fierce wind reminds me of who is boss. It reminds me that life is like a furious wave and we all face our own waves every day.

Are you caught in the waves?

  • Waves blow you off course and before you realize it, you are drifting alone
  • An undertow can’t be easily seen but it will creep up and pull you under. Ever have that feeling when with deadlines and work piles?
  • You need to stay on top of the waves to see your end goal and reach it safely
  • Remember that waves don’t make themselves, other forces create them. Manage outer forces and you can handle any waves that come your way
  • Waves aren’t always destructive. They can serve an important purpose. They take out the old and bring in the new. Storms have delivered us more beach from time to time while preserving the shoreline. Teams need a shake up once in a while to bring everyone back on track
  • Waves don’t have rules and they churn forward and backward as well as side to side. This is the type of conflict that you want to avoid in teams because there is no one managing the process or outcome
  • Always wear a life jacket in strong waters. Safeguards like strategies, plans, goals, and strong teams are your backups and provide safety
  • Waves can move and destroy the heaviest rocks over time. Likewise, your leadership, infrastructure, or culture can erode over time
  • Sometimes you just have to stop fighting the force and ride the wave. You never know what may come of it until you work with it, instead of against it

 I welcome you to brave the November winds and waves on the Great Lakes some year. You will leave in awe of Mother Nature and maybe even give more thought about how you can ride the waves or use them for change. Where are the most powerful waves that you have experienced? I would love to hear! What waves are dragging you under this week?