Friday, September 9, 2011

The Point!

Crew teamThe Point

Vacation homes in the Adirondacks are commonly referred to as camps – my family is fortunate to have one and, as you know from some of my previous blogs, we’ve spent a lot of time there this year.  These are not to be confused with day and overnight camps that parents send their kids to.  This is about the second kind of camp.

I went to an overnight camp as a kid and loved it, but that’s a story for another time.  This tale begins at Camp Nazareth (that’s the name of the overnight camp at the end of our lake). Its run by the local Catholic Diocese which has had little success in recent years attracting enough kids.  More often than not, this wonderful facility – it can hold up to 300 kids at any one time - is terribly under used.  Fortunately, it seems that they’ve now discovered ways to attract alternate users like family reunions, corporate retreats and, just this past week, a high school crew team (Google “rowing sport” to learn more about this sport on Wikipedia).  And that crew team caught our attention.

Our family’s camp (we call it “The Point”) is on the water and we can easily see when anyone is on the lake.  While sitting on our dock one morning we were surprised to see this crew team go by.  If you’ve never seen a crew team before, they operate in long narrow boats (like large kayaks) that are referred to as “sculls” – these are two to eight-person boats that are rowed by that many team members, each of whom operates one oar.  In this case, there were two eight-person sculls (one with all men and the other all women) that were practicing.  Mind you, this is not an everyday sight – there are a few motorboats and a lot of canoes and kayaks on our lake, so the sight of these two sculls was a bit of a surprise.  Alongside these two sculls was a small motorboat in which sat the coach who had a megaphone and was giving instructions and commands.  On the first day of what appeared to be one of their initial practice sessions, these two sculls were having what was obviously some beginner’s training.  And here’s another key bit of information:  the team has to row in very close order for the boat to move along smoothly.  If any of the rowers is out of synch (even a little) the boat can very easily (and visibly) miss a beat. And if any of those misses are overly pronounced the boats can stop altogether or even capsize.  So at the beginning of this training the coach definitely wanted to take it slow.

As the week progressed, however, the boats began to move more smoothly, and over time they got smoother and faster.  And since the object of crew is to beat the competition, smooth and fast is definitely better.  In order to get smoother and faster, the individual team members all have to practice at learning not only how to improve their own skills but also how to be in better synch with all the other members of their team.  In crew, as in so many other aspects of life, both are critical (as in one without the other is not worth much).

As we watched this unfold before us, we started to reflect on how the basic lessons being learned out on the lake apply to just about everything we do in life (and here I need to confess that my wife realized this before I did).  Being effective and functional at anything – playing with friends on the school yard, getting along as a family, working with colleagues, participating on a sports team, singing in a choir, building something with others, participating in community events – really is about learning how to improve your own skills while also performing in concert with others.  Learning anything alone is one thing, learning it together and then interacting with others is a whole different thing.  The key to life is learning both, because one without the other is really not worth much.  And here was a live metaphor for this right on the lake in front of us – and just like that my whole professional life flashed before me as I watched this training unfold.

Each of these young athletes was working hard to learn how to be the best they could be, they and their team mates were learning how to interact with each other more effectively, the coaches were seeing the results of their hard work and practice, and those of us on the sidelines were rewarded by seeing how things can and should work when effective instructions, practice and coaching all come together.  We don’t often get to see things so clearly, or watch how the rituals of cause and effect play out so clearly.  Simply put: this was a real lesson about life. And, in part because of where we were, and also because of what we saw and then realized, we were again moved to exclaim “that’s the Point!

My message this week is about finding things you can be passionate about, because they define who and what you are.

Arte Nathan“I know that I have found fulfillment. I have an object in life, a task ... a passion.” 
-George Sand

Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, later Baroness Dudevant (1804 – 1876), best known by her pseudonym George Sand, was a French novelist and memoirist.

Have you found fulfillment?  Not just a momentary or fleeting sense of accomplishment, but a lasting and on-going feeling that “this is it”.  We all do lots of little and mostly disconnected things – chores, work, hobbies – and these achieve short-term goals or complete individual assignments.  But every now and then one big thing comes along that is more about defining our style or purpose, and these make us who and what we are.  Now it could be a car or a job – those certainly say a lot about you.  But to find fulfillment – to know that something is really about the “you” that is truly you – that’s a real find.  And that’s the kind of thing that passion is truly built upon.  Something you love deeply, that you can’t stop thinking about, that you can’t wait to get up and do each day, and that you truly care more about than almost anything else.  That’s the kind of passion that is truly a treasure – and that’s the kind of object in life that you want to be on the lookout for – today and every day.  That’s the Point!

Stay well!

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