Catching Your Breath

Oct 22, 2021


Why is slowing down so counter-intuitive, especially when we are trying to hurry up? Here’s what I discovered during my windsurfing lessons.

“Ok, bring it in!” I could barely hear Luis’s voice over the wind and crashing surf in my ears, but I saw his unmistakable hand motions (and now, exaggerated arm motions) beckoning me back to shore! I thought for sure Luis was going to ask me to hang up my life vest and hit the hammocks! No, quite the contrary, he said, “Ok, now, you are going to learn your turns!” I thought, “Great, I’m exhausted and a little bruised-up, but totally determined to learn how to wind surf.”

I could fill the sail with wind and dart from shore, but I didn’t know how to return to shore without dumping the sail, making the board turn with my feet, and hoisting the heavy sail back from the salty water. Does this sound like your efforts in your work? Rushing off only to muscle through each tacking (or turning) maneuver?

Luis said, “You are trying to force it rather than being patient-- you are working too hard.” “Luis,” I said, “that is the story of my life!” My own words cut my soul to the quick. Thankfully, my sunglasses hid my welling tears and I bit my lip to stop it from quivering (to no avail).

“Watch me!” Luis said, as he hopped onto the board. The wind whisked him quickly from the beach and with ONE HAND he tipped the clew (or top of the sail) toward the stern and waited. “What is he waiting for?” I wondered, as I watched from the sandy shore. “I don’t wait that long to turn, if you want the board to turn, you make it turn. It’s not about catching your breath; it’s about getting results, right?”

I couldn’t hear the wind that was rustling in Luis’s ears, I couldn’t see the wind either-- but, I could see its effects on the board and the sail. With ONE HAND (one!), Luis allowed the wind to turn the board. He waited patiently, allowed time for the process to take effect, and cooperated with the elements he couldn’t control.

His sound techniques worked every time:

  • Eye the Horizon: It’s tempting to check our feet (or obvious details) rather than the horizon (or broader outlook). As leaders, we must maintain perspective and avoid collisions.
  • Make Adjustments: Wind and wave conditions are constantly changing. As leaders, we must be willing and able to alter course quickly with flexibility and confidence.
  • Save Strength: Maintaining stamina while out in the elements is critical. As leaders, we must minimize wasted time and effort by learning and practicing sound techniques.
  • Be Patient: Leverage the benefits and features of your equipment for greater impact. As leaders, we must calmly anticipate positive outcomes and better results.

My windsurfing trainers (and yes, it took four of them: Luis, Carlos, Kyle and Linus) all had endless tolerance for me as a student and my familiar pattern of mistakes. (Thanks, Guys!) Maintaining perspective, being flexible, conserving energy, and being patient were all in the lesson plan. And, maybe it is about catching your breath in order to get results!

Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. ~Psalms 27:14 (NIV)

by Michelle Sugerman • Leading Synergies, LLC • © All Rights Reserved

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