Ways To Not Drown

You are on a sailing ship. You quickly realize that if you go overboard, you’ll drown, because you don’t know how to swim. So you quickly decide you want to get really good at your balance, get your “sea legs,” and be competent around the deck. This “skills-based” approach, you figure, will keep you from accidentally going overboard.

But then one day you accidentally cross a ranking officer on the ship, who starts scowling at you and eyeing the plank. You realize that being competent isn’t enough – you could also be thrown from the ship! So you start running around being obsequious and sycophantic, trying to keep everybody happy. This “politics-based” approach, you figure, will keep you from being thrown overboard.

But then one day a big storm comes up and the ship, which you once thought was so secure that it practically faded into the background as merely your environment, the ship begins to rock and tumble and you realize that competency and politics aren’t enough – the whole ship could go down, and then you’d be in the water and drown anyway. So you start trying to keep the ship afloat by any means necessary, but you quickly realize: everyone on the ship, including you, is already doing that. If the ship sinks, it will be despite the crew’s best efforts, not because those efforts weren’t put forward.

What you’ve truly learned – hopefully – is that there is only one way not to drown.

Learn to swim.

You might be great at your job, but someone just doesn’t like you. You might be bad at your job, but the leadership is bad so you don’t get good feedback. You might be great at your job and everyone likes you, but some random change at a different level reverberates to you and affects you – or maybe your whole company sinks in the storm.

The point is, “security” cannot be vested in our surroundings, only in ourselves. You can only be secure if you can survive, not because you can prevent things from happening to you that would warrant it. So.

Learn to swim.

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