There’s a true story about a swimmer, Florence Chadwick, that I want to relay to you here. It’s called “The Fog,” courtesy of Don Meyer, who tells it more eloquently than I could ever do.
It goes like this:
Florence Chadwick loved to swim.
She was born in San Diego, California, on November 9, 1918. She grew up on the beach and began competing as a swimmer at the age of six.
After four years of defeats, her uncle entered her in a contest at the age of 10 in a two and a half-mile rough water night swim, where she came in fourth.
One year later, at age 11, Chadwick won first place in a six-mile race across the choppy waters at the San Diego Bay Channel. When she was 13, she came in second at the U.S. National Championships. For the next 19 years, she continued as a competitive swimmer.
She was the first woman to swim across the English Channel both ways. She even swam across the straits of Gibraltar.
In 1962 after a career of swimming accomplishments, Chadwick was admitted to the San Diego Hall of Champions and into the Breitbard Hall of Fame.
But, it wasn’t easy!
On July 4, 1952, Chadwick was 34 years old when she attempted to become the first woman to swim the 21 miles across the Catalina Channel, from Catalina Island to Palos Verde on the California coast.
That day’s weather was challenging because the ocean was ice-cold, and the fog was so thick she could barely see to support boats that followed her. The tides and the currents were against her, and to make matters worse, sharks were in the area. But at daybreak, she decided to go forward anyway, expecting the fog to lift any time.
Hour after hour, she swam; the fog had never lifted.
Her mother and trainer followed her in one of the support boats encouraging her to keep going. While Americans watched on television, other support crew members fired rifles at the sharks to drive them away. She kept going and going.
At about the 15-hour point, she began to doubt her ability to finish the swim. She told her mother she didn’t think she could make it. Unfortunately, at 15 hours and 55 minutes, she had to stop, and with huge disappointment, she asked her support crew to take her out of the water.
Because of the fog, she could not see the coastline, so she had no idea where she was. She soon found out, however, that she was less than a mile from the coast.
She could have definitely reached it if she had just stayed in the water a few minutes longer. Later she told a reporter, “Look, I’m not excusing myself, but if I could have seen the land, I know I could have made it.”
The fog clouded her view of the coastline and her goal. It felt to her like she was getting absolutely nowhere.
Two months later, she tried again. And though the fog was just as dense, this time, she kept going. Her time was 13 hours and 47 minutes, breaking a 27-year-old record by more than two hours and becoming the first woman ever to complete the swim!
You see, we all encounter moments of fog. Sometimes we can’t see where we’re heading, can’t see the land or the coastline. Yes, we’re headed to land, but we just can’t see it.
Like Chadwick, we can be doing really well in our business or career but then encounter a challenge that can either make or break us.
It all depends on how you deal with the challenge when it arises. For some, doubt creeps in. We start doubting our ability, expertise, intentions, credibility and even our competence and confidence to go after our goals.
We can be on the brink of success but give up because we can’t see the finish line from where we stand.
Something happens as we get closer to success, as I’ve mentioned previously in snakes and ladders. The closer we get to success, the more snakes begin to show up in the form of challenges.
However, these challenges aren’t bad. They are there to strengthen us for what we’re supposed to do and what we’ll be doing going forward.
How we face those challenges means the difference between success and failure.
Now, there are times we need to have trust and faith and stand firm in our goals. We need to see success in our mind’s eye before we can start seeing it in real, tangible terms.
Other times we need a supporter – a guide, coach, or mentor to encourage and guide us along our journey.
Surprisingly, most people have an accountant, physician, lawyer and even physical trainer for fitness but not a mentor for their life, career or business. Indeed, when faced with challenges, having a mentor cheering you on may just help you cross the finish line.
Our past successes provide springboards to higher levels. It usually doesn’t matter how small they are.
Make a list of all your past successes and victories. Acknowledge and recognise each as the critical milestone it is in your life.
The more successes you can document, the more you can start to feel and believe that you can achieve more going forward.
Think of it this way: In 1954, Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile. Up to that point, nobody had run the mile within four minutes, but soon after Roger broke it, thousands of athletes ran that same mile within four minutes and even slashed 17 seconds off the time.
What happens is, the more we can see something happening, the more we can see it in real terms. We get a higher level of belief that it can be done. In essence, the more you can develop and grow your belief around your goals and direction, the more you’ll actually succeed.
Another lesson we can learn from Chadwick’s story: Persistence, endurance and consistency in life and business delivers results.
For example, in sales, many people give up at the first ask, meaning that they go to a potential client and ask them for business. And if the client says no, they feel rejected, and they walk away. They don’t come back and ask again, “Are you ready for the sale?”
They may not be ready for the sale right away, but if you don’t keep asking, then the answer will always be no.
The more consistent and persistent you are in pursuing your goals, the more likely you’ll achieve them.
Consistency and ultimately success requires habits and routines.
What habits and routines do you currently have? Are they pushing you forward or holding you back? Out of those habits and routines, which ones do you need to stop immediately?
There’s equally habits and routines that we need to do more often because they have brought us to higher levels of success. They may be health-related for instance, or even our mindset. Identify these habits and routines and do more of them.
You see, you’ve got a destination to get to, that’s your purpose. That’s where you want to get to, that’s where you want to end up. Just like Chadwick, it can be hard when you can’t see the coastline. When you can’t see land, you must have absolute faith and belief in what you want to achieve.
So many people just give up on their dreams and goals. They don’t follow through because they encounter challenges. But, those challenges are there to strengthen you and offer lessons for the road ahead.
There are things we know deep down within ourselves that we need to do, we must do. But, what’s stopping you and holding you back?
Ultimately, this is the fundamental question: Do you want to stay where you are or do you want to achieve at a much higher level?
It’s by achieving at a much higher level that you get closer to your dream and purpose. Taking those small stepping stones brings you closer to your dream.
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Excellent as always Paul! A fantastic piece.