Caught in a Rip Current
On the edge of panic, I struggled against the rip current that pushed me away from the sandy beach. My 5’ wife and 6’1” son watched.
A wave knocked Dale, my wife, into the surf. She retreated. Mark was rescued by friends, from a rip current, on a previous vacation.
Outward flowing ocean water – a rip current – flows faster than swimmers swim. About 100 people a year drown and 80% of beach lifeguard rescues, in the United States, are caused by these perilous flows. Swimmers usually drown due to exhaustion.
There were no lifeguards on our slice of paradise, that sunny day.
I remember the feeling of the sand giving way under my feet. Then, it was gone. Dale and Mark saw my head disappear and reappear between breaking waves.
Later, she told me, “The time between appearances got longer and longer and your head sank lower and lower.”
I know what to do when caught in fast outward flowing currents, but, at that moment, it seemed stupid. The warm sand of that North Carolina beach kept slipping away. I had to swim for it.
Thankfully, I heard my son yelling in the distance, “Swim that way.” He pointed to a path parallel, not toward the beach, where he stood.
He knew what I knew, but refused to acknowledge. Rip currents are usually just a few yards wide, at most. I did what didn’t feel right, swam sideways.
Wasted effort became useful. I was out.
Sobered and embarrassed, I plopped in a beach chair, heart pounding.
Three words changed everything, “Swim that way.”
- Watch for wasted effort.
- Show compassion on struggling people.
- Explain what’s important.
- Say what’s obvious.
- Point the way – sometimes the sideway.
Everything you ever wanted to know about rip currents.
When is sideways better than straight ahead?
Sideways is better than straightforward when our gut instincts are leading us in the wrong direction or causing us to concentrate our efforts in a useless direction.
You make an important point Dan about the need sometimes to state the obvious. Especially when people are panicking, they cannot see that they are headed in the wrong direction, or in no direction at all. Stated in a loving way, it is often like a lightbulb or a beacon of hope when people are drowning or faltering.
Love the metaphor. Reminds me of the “instruction” session right before white water rafting. It sounds inane and obvious while your are on dry land, but not always so darn clear what to do while your flying off into the river.
You are so right. Just telling people what you see…telling them what you see them doing…can be a light bulb moment.
I’m often thankful I said what was obvious to me. Better to say it and risk looking stupid than remain silent.
Martina I have found by studying people all my life the other DANGER time besides when folks are very fearful is when things are going GREAT!!!
I have read about businesses so fully bloated with their success they do not see what is coming up!!! The Swiss and the watch industry. Kodak, examples over and over where the intoxicant…success…distracted the focus.
So for me resentments, anything causing me to not be focused on what is happening right in front of me is frought with bad possibilities.
Think that is why the AA Big Book with its design for living says resentments are our number one offenders.
Cool when I discovered re-sensing could be positive or negative. It is anything I am playing over and over in my head while the train is coming right at me.
Anyway just stuff I thought was cool, thought I would pass it along for u to ponder.
SP back to the present
the intuitive path is not always the best path.. trust your gut, but if its your only source (of information) you are more vulnerable than you might believe….
Glad you survived 🙂
Your suggestion runs counter to what many think…but, I think it’s important for us to get.
Your comment “If it’s your only source” is so important. Test your assumptions.
I’m glad I survived too… My wife can’t decide whether to be thankful or mad. 🙂
they build us, by keep our egos right-sized ..Wives that is! 😀
The way is a great undiscovered adventure!!!
Usually ideas from outsiders are GOLD!!
Your son outside but closeby had your answer you could not come up with cause you were in your situation. You know all understandably feared up!!
Hope everyone heeds the lesson revealed in your story.
When needing a paradigm shift……listen to outsiders!!! They are not all feared up and blinded by familiarity.
Great post, thanks Dan have a great weekend. Go Heels!!
SP back to now!
It took me years as a leader to learn the lesson you add.
The trouble with outsiders is they are outsiders… they are too young, too old, too this or that…. but, along with you, I’ve learned that outsiders are essential to paradigm shifts.
Always learn something here, everytime, very grateful.
Also found it very useful to always think of myself as a human being, if others feel I am a Leader that is their call.
When a paradigm shift is needed, outside help can be very usefull.
I agree with you 100%, for I am an interim problem solver myself.
Hard lesson and definitely not intuitive, sort of like turn toward the skid, not away from it. Added to tool chest. Thanks, Dan.
I love skidding… 🙂 Of course, it can go too far.
I have been there you had my heart beeping for sure.
another great message thank you
Glad you listened, otherwise we would have had to miss all this great stuff. LOL
A good word is a beautiful thing.
Such a compelling post! I was recently in a similar figurative position. It’s hard to take the extra time to take a parallel path when you are pressed for time (ok, a little panicked) and really want to get to your objective. However, the more we try to swim against the current, the greater the resistance. Thanks for the reminder.
I remember when I was 12, went to take bath in a canal which was 1 km way from my home. A group of friends excited me to go to have bath in summer days. After reaching there, they climbed on the bridge and jumped into the water. Other side of the canal,some boys were already enjoying swimming. When I saw them, I also took off my clothes and jumped into the fast running deep water. I started drowning as I did no know swimming. My head peeped up the water and drowned. I tried to shout but failed. This process continued till I went other side of the bridge where other boys were swimming. I was not in a position to shout and was helpless. One boy saw me and took me out pulling my hairs. When my parents came to know this, They beat me.
I still remember those scary moment. And since then I swore that I will never come to this canal to swim in the running water. I still surprise and laugh at me that how I jumped into the running water knowing that I did not know swimming.
I feel sometime, we are helpless in the situation. We can try many things but that do not work. I do believe that we should not leave making effort. It is rightly said ” A drowning man grabs a weed to save his life”. But when there is no weed, then what to do. Sometimes, not making effort could be better exercise. The person caught in the heavy cyclone is helpless. So, he should leave himself to cyclone, who knows, cyclone can save the person.
Horray Ajay, you are a great storyteller!!!!
Many sincere thanks for what you shared.
Just between you and me I got a whole lot more out of that than the theoretical stuff I can’t understand.
Hope I get to read more of your stories.
SP simply back to my present
The lesson- Avoid going into unknown ocean or river unless you know swimming. Even if you know swimming, ask for help of outsiders, listen to them and do whatever efforts are required for the survival. Relate this to business. Venture into the areas best known to you and look for the survival strategies when things go beyond your control.
I liked the relevance of your story with what leaders should do when a paradigm shift is needed to change the business style and its operations. Outsiders, business consultants or own customers, need to be hired or listened for their expert outlook and experience based unbiased solutions. Swimming sideways and not against the current is a wise, easy step but unpredictable.
I got survived at Varanasi sea at the age of 35 while performing a religious ceremony with other family members when ripple current was experienced and only with the outside help [which was called for] I came out of that big jolt. It’s a freak of seconds and everyone around is helpless to render immediate help. Do what comes to your mind instantly and never hesitate to look for quick solutions with outside experts’ help.
I too have experienced the trap of the rip current/tide. Swimming off the coast of southern California, no life guards on duty, with a young couple. I’d never swum in the ocean, and was unaware of the dangers. The breakers were 3 metres, I swam through them, out to ‘flatter’ waters, only to get caught in a whirlpool and rip tide. The whirlpool completely confused me, I swam down, thinking I was reaching for the skies. Fortunately, the husband of my friend had been a lifeguard in the White Russian Army…with his knowledge, expertise and willingness to risk his own person, he showed me the way out of my predicament. On hands and knees, vomiting up sea water, my perspective on life and leadership changed forever. This young man, in spite of putting his own life in danger, demonstrated by action what it is to be a leader, to put others first and support them. His rescue actions, which didn’t seem logical at the time, were exactly the right actions.
I too was once caught in a riptide. My much taller and stronger father, who swam almost as poorly and I, did something that sometimes leaders also have to do – he waded to me and pulled me to safety. Your insights help greatly. Keep up the great work.
Glad to hear you got out of the rip current safely. Living along Lake Michigan, we hear far too many horror stories.
Scary moment Dan, but kudos to you for having the awareness to listen and be patient. Patience is the word that jumps out at me from your piece. I speak here of my experience handling emergencies and dangerous situations when I was in the Air Force.
Leaders sometimes want to “make a decision,” “do something,” and “go with their gut” when hard times hit. This may be good, but even in the midst of turbulence, being patient, within yourself, and calm is also crucial.
So that good decisions can be made and effective actions taken.
Like swimming sideways…
Kinda scary Dan! glad you lived to tell that tale. I’m learning on my journey that the thing that seems to go against the natural reaction is the correct thing to be doing. So, here’s to those swimming sideways and reaching their goals!
As I read your story I think of the many times I nearly drowned either in the water or in other spheres of life. What do I take from this that has not been said?
We do best when we bring our 3 intelligences to bear on a situation: our head, our heart and our gut. This is not always easy, especially in a crisis. What I have learned is that listening helps. In this instance you listened to your son who was better positioned to see what the best path forward might be and his intelligence spoke to your learning about what to do in a rip tide. Your listening to a trusted source of intelligence, your son, enabled you to listen to your own knowledge about what to do in this instance.
The question is: How do we discern what sources of intelligence to listen to in any given situation and how do we develop our ability to do that?