Published on January 30, 2014
8 LIFE LESSONS I LEARNED WALKING ON THE BEACH It isn’t just sunshine and sand, you know? (Read between the lines…it isn’t about the shells.) ! Copywrite Edyn Roberts 2014
Even though, or maybe because, I am Canadian and have spent almost all of my life in southwestern Ontario, where the winters can be very, very cold, I LOVE beaches, and warm weather. A friend of mine loves winter, and can’t wait for snow so she can ski. Not me. I’m all about sand, sea, and sun. As a result, I try to spend some time somewhere like that every year. Usually, it’s somewhere on the Gulf Coast of Florida. And, because I am also fairly introverted, I also like to vacation alone. Seven days by myself is like Heaven. It allows the noise to stop. So, I spend a few days most every year, walking on the beach, usually for an hour in the morning and an hour in the late afternoon. If I do it right, after some time, I can usually calm my mind and just think. Not about work, or projects at home or anything like that. Just think. This is the result of some of those walks on the beach.
BEAUTY IN CHAOS Shells, many of them broken or the size of a pin head, pieces of drift wood or sticks, sea life, toy sand pails and shovels, candy wrappers and pop cans…there is a lot of “stuff ” as you walk along the beach. But, if you take a little time and look beyond the noise, there is beauty among the chaos.
QUALITY VS QUANTITY There are millions of shells on the beach to choose from. Be patient, and have a selection criteria. It doesn’t have to be perfect, you just need something to help you know what you're looking for.
BE FLEXIBLE The selection criteria is just a starting point. Nothing in life says you have to stay within the criteria you yourself set, to the exclusion of other possibilities. If you see something special, grab it…you might ﬁnd a great use for it later. Just remember to be selective…not rigid.
NEW DAY, NEW CHOICES Everyday, the landscape of the beach has changed. In fact, it changes minute by minute…footprints are washed away, birds come and take things away, the tide rolls in and out…it’s never ending change…and every minute is a new opportunity to discover something.
YESTERDAY’S SHELLS ARE GONE As Alice Walker pointed out, one can never experience the same river twice…it changes inﬁnitesimally, and continually as it ﬂows. Just so, if you miss the shell you saw yesterday it is gone. Focus on the shells that are here today, take action, grab what grabs you today, and remember that what interests you today might be different from before because you are a different person today.
DON’T OVER FOCUS Look around at something other than the 36 inches in front of your feet. Don’t focus so much on ﬁnding the perfect shell that you miss other opportunities Take a look left…and see the bird hopping across the wet sand. Look right…and see some dolphins swimming in the surf. Focus, but don’t miss the big big picture. “Open your eyes. Open your eyes. Open your eyes. Open your eyes.” — Vanilla Sky
BEAUTY ISN’T PERFECT Perfection is scientiﬁc, mathematical, symmetrical. And in nature, perfection can be rigid, uninteresting and bland. A shell might be ﬂawless and complete, but does it’s perfection stop you and excite you enough to pick up the shell? Does it excite your emotion? Like the short story “The Birthmark”, imperfection is humanity and to rid ourselves of beautiful ﬂaws in favour of chasing perfection is aesthetic death. A diamond with a ﬂaw is worth more than a pebble without imperfections ~Chinese Proverb "Mosaic" labrador retriever - purebred but not necessarily “perfect” Lab with a somatic black spot mutation that causes a mottled colouring.
STAY PERSISTENT - YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU’LL FIND The rare shell that you only see in tourist shops, that you’re positive is somehow man-made, is out there. You just have to be patient, be aware, and keep looking. That beautiful, complete, elusive sand dollar is out there…but not everyday or even every year you go to that beach.
CONNECTING THE DOTS… 1. Beauty in chaos - A lot of what happens everyday is stressful and negative. It’s easy to focus on the problems rather than to stop and look for the positive amid the mess. Stop and look around…in the face of the bad stuff is an opportunity. It’s perspective, attitude, and being open to seeing a positive. 2. Quality vs quantity - Without a criteria, we can’t make decisions. As with shells, the world is full of lots of great opportunities and it isn’t necessary to settle…for mediocre, for less than…simply to ﬁll the bucket. It’s better to choose the best…solution to a problem, job candidate, job offer, apartment, potential mate…than to just take all of it and then try to work through sheer numbers. Where would you start? 3. Be ﬂexible - I set a criteria that shells must be unbroken, perfect, unique and FACE UP. If it were face down, I couldn’t ﬂip it Who says the best part is the part you can see at ﬁrst glance? I allowed myself to veer away from the last one…if it caught my attention, I could turn it over and check it out. If an interesting option you hadn’t considered in setting the rules, presents itself…be open to considering it. But, the shell had to still maintain the other criteria - see #2. 4. New day, new choices - Everyday is different from the one before, with a whole new set of opportunity and chances to take. It will be different from yesterday if you are open to seeing that. 5. Yesterday’s shells are gone - Like the book “Who Moved My Cheese?” what happened yesterday is done. You can’t change it. Be present and focus on what offers itself to you today. Don’ t miss it because you can’t let go of what you can’t change that happened in the past. 6. Don’t over focus - Don’t get so focused on the singular task at hand that you miss interesting alternatives or ideas that may come up. If I had kept my head down, focusing on the 3 feet in front of me and 3 to either side, I would have missed some dolphins playing in the surf, the graceful gliding pelicans, and of course, the gorgeous sunsets. 7. Persistence - Getting the great stuff is sometimes hard and very often takes awhile. There’s a saying…anything worthwhile is worth waiting for. Greatness doesn’t appear often or regularly - you have to be in the right place at the right time, patiently wait for it, and be open to seeing it and grabbing it when it does appear. One walk on the beach ins't likely to deliver the perfect sand dollar, the shark tooth, the turtle shell. Just like the perfect house isn’t usually the ﬁrst one we look at, the best employee isn’t usually the ﬁrst one we interview, the best idea isn't usually the ﬁrst one, it takes time to get rid of the training wheels and ﬂy on your bike. Keep at it.
• “Wait!” you say. “That’s only seven!” • Yes, that’s seven. Number eight is this: • If you are quiet, thoughtful and present, you can ﬁnd something to think about and learn from in just about every situation and environment. A little quiet is a good thing and it allows your mind to be clear and open to seeing the lessons in the everyday.