Nothing but water. Well, water and fog. That’s all you see from the vantage point of your little kayak.
The cold spray of the ocean mists your face, reminding you of your thirst. The birds above, invisible to you but occasionally squawking, remind you of your hunger. You’ve been out to sea for far too long.
And you’ve gone much too far.
Your morning started the same as all the others.
You arrive to the pier a little past dawn, unmount the kayak from the roof of your car, and make your way to the sand. You stretch, limbering up for the morning cardio, and wade into the ocean. By the time the sun rises you’re well past the surf break.
But today, there was no sunrise.
There was just fog.
You’ve dealt with fog in the past, staying close to the shore so as to make out the light from buildings and such. Yet, for some reason, today the thought slips your mind. So you make your way out, further and further, towards the direction of the neighboring pier.
Or, at least where you imagine that pier to be.
All the while, a creeping sensation makes its way up your spine.
After some time, you check your watch. A couple more minutes and I should be there. And then it hits you. The awareness that you had lacked. You have no idea where there is. The fog has thickened with each passing paddle and with it, your ability to navigate has diminished greatly.
Ok, whatever you do, don’t panic, you think to yourself in a panic. You turn, facing what you hope is the beach. If I can get to shore I can realign myself.
You put everything you have into paddling; part sweat, part mist, you are sufficiently soaked. Yet for all that water, you find your bottles empty and your mouth dry. Your snacks are long since eaten and your stomach starts to ask for attention.
Don’t panic, don’t panic, don’t panic. You’re not sure what to do. Let’s assume that I’m lost… somewhere in between piers… in the ocean… Ok… what should my next move be?
Try Your Hand at Fishing
The water ebbs underneath the kayak. Fish! Maybe I can catch some fish! Wait. What am I going to do with a fish? Bite into it like a seal? Won’t I get sick? Ehhh… I’ll figure it out when I get there. Barehanded, you reach down as far as you can, searching for fish.
Nearly falling out of the kayak, you return your hand back to the safety of the boat. Cold and wet, you open your palm to find… nothing.
Ok, scratch that. I have a flare gun… maybe I should use that. Wait… I’m going to shoot at the fish? No, that makes less sense than trying to catch one. Maybe I can shoot into the air to signal help. Nevermind. No one is going to see my flare through this thick fog.
Umm… but maybe… the water!
You take your hat off and with it, grab a scoop of water. You remove the flare gun from your pack and place it underneath your hat. You’re going to boil the salt out of the water using the heat of the flare. Is that a thing? You’re not sure.
You pull the trigger. There’s a bright flash. And then, the smell of smoke. The flare has left the gun and gone directly into the ocean. Leaving you with a hat full of cold ocean water and a flare gun with no flare.
That was a bust.
Just then, you recognize a familiar sound.
Listening for a Beacon
You can’t see them, but you can hear them. Birds.
Now, you don’t know much about birds, but you do know that the sounds you’re hearing are of those that live near the beach. Particularly, the kind that hang around piers. I must be close. I have to be. Unless I’m by a buoy and those birds are just resting there. But, it sounds like there’s a lot of them.
I bet I’m close. You grab your paddle and follow the sound of the birds.
The Pier Is in Sight
The sound grows louder. And between the squawks, you notice the low hum of crashing waves. A crash that belongs to the shore.
Suddenly, in a brief moment, the fog dissipates and you can make out the wooden structure of the pier. I made it! You head in, reaching the sand, and vow to always pay closer attention to your surroundings before tangling with the sea.
Now to get this thing back to my car.
But that’s another story for another time.
The Most Important Thing
Whether it’s a new business, job, or artistic endeavor, every project you start is done so with good intentions. And with each inching out of your comfort zone, one paddle at a time, you move in the direction of a better future.
A better life. One of meaning and fulfillment.
Yet you may come to realize that your idea and reality don’t match. They rhyme, but they don’t look exactly how you had hoped. So what do you do? You feel lost. And you start to panic, you start to feel discouraged, you start to do everything instead of the one thing you should be doing.
Like the kayaker, you try to drink some water. You try to get some food. All the while, you neglect the one thing that will get you to the pier.
Writing Is My Paddle
Take my blog, QuickBooost. It’s easy to get lost in the various things to do. Emailing, marketing, writing, reading, networking, etc. But ultimately, there is only one thing I should be doing.
There’s one thing that serves as my paddles.
All those other things are great, but if I could only do one thing, it’s write. Writing is my paddle. It’s what moves me through the fog and towards the pier. Towards where I want to go.
Focus on Paddling
In any venture, you will be bombarded with a list of to-dos. But, through all that noise, there is one thing that sits at the top. One thing that will serve as your paddle better than anything else. It’s up to you to figure out what that is.
In the case of a salesperson, I’d imagine it’s cold calling. For a restaurateur, it’s probably making amazing food. For a musician, it’s likely creating powerful music.
Yes, all those other tasks will need to get done. But, if you can only do one thing today, focus on paddling. Take action on the thing that will get you to where you want to go.
Adjusting the Paddles
Now, that thing may change with time. For instance, I’m reminded of a lesson Derek Sivers shares in his book, Your Music and People:
If you’re torn whether to focus on promotion or creation, ask yourself: are your fans telling their friends about you on their own, unprompted? If they are, promote. Otherwise, keep refining, creating, improving until they do.
So for me, with QuickBooost, my focus is on writing. On creating, until it makes sense to go into promotion. At which point, promotion will become my main thing.
The One Thing
Don’t panic when you lose sight of the shore. Instead, ask yourself: What is the one thing that, more than anything else, will get me to where I want to go? Then start paddling in that direction.
If you can’t figure it out on your own, ask for help. Luckily you aren’t actually stranded in a kayak; you can ask others for advice.
When I first started QuickBooost, I’d often ask fellow bloggers the question: if you could only do one thing, what would it be to help your blog grow? Additionally, I’d look at blogs that I admired to figure out what allowed them to do so well.
I kept asking and asking and asking until I found an answer that felt right. (You already know what it is. It’s writing.)
Moving Forward With Your Paddles
What is it that you want to accomplish, create, or become?
Who are some people that have done what you want to do? And from that, what is the one thing that helped them get there and that you should do as well?
You will be able to get everything done that you need, but be sure to know what the priority is. Recognize the one thing that is going to get you to where you want to go. Do that and you will get to the pier in no time at all.
See you on the sand.
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