As a kid growing up in Southern California, I went to the beach a lot. Southern California beaches are famous for their beauty, the high cliffs with expensive homes that surround them, the (very) cold Pacific Ocean water, and the waves.

The waves can be hard to navigate, even for the most skilled surfers. The biggest challenge is getting into the ocean and past the point where the waves are breaking. It’s the place where you see a wave build into its highest point. In a few moments, it’ll cascade right over you and in the process sweep you off your feet and underwater. That middle spot is not a fun place to be. But, if you want to get to the sweet spot where you can start surfing the waves, you have to push through the challenging middle to get there.

Pushing Through the Breaking Point

I thought about those times in the ocean this past week because I feel like I’m “in the middle” in a few places in life. I’m trying to make positive changes and push forward important initiatives, and yet I’m experiencing a lot of resistance. Perhaps you’re there too. If so, you are probably feeling:

Overwhelmed: Wave after wave keeps crashing and it’s hard to see things changing.

Beat Up: I remember on those beaches the sheer force of each wave crashing, pushing me back to the shore. Perhaps you are feeling random “gut punches” as you try to move ahead.

Discouraged: It’s easy to forget why we got into the ocean in the first place.

Pushing through the breaking point is hard. But every positive change in my life required persevering through resistance, self-doubt, anxiety, and discouragement. I’m betting that’s true for you too.

But there is one thing that makes pushing through these challenging spaces in important initiatives and changes a little easier. It’s navigating these spaces with other people. It’s having teammates.

The Challenge of Pushing Through

This is a challenge for me. I’m a big fan of teams and having teammates. But I also like to be in control. In a sense, I like to have a whole plan in place before I present it to those I work with and lead. I want to have a perfectly designed solution that inspires other people.

But what I’m learning is this is a really difficult and unproductive way to lead. For one, I feel overwhelmed by trying to get all the answers and think through the challenge on my own. And secondly, I’m missing out on a powerful experience for my team.

Doing something hard with others has huge benefits. Here are just a few:

It Makes Persevering Easier

When a challenge feels overwhelming, or we start to feel beat up, we can remember we have others who are right alongside us. We’re not alone!

It Creates Shared Memories

The times we remember the most are when we did something difficult. And when we’ve done something difficult with others, it creates a fraternity of sorts where there’s something unique to us that others don’t fully understand… which bonds us even closer.

It Pushes Everyone to be Better

The best way to push past a breaking wave is to run toward it and swim under it before it breaks. It’s counter-intuitive at first because it’s hard to run towards danger, but that’s the best thing to do. The only way I learned this was to see someone else do it and mirror it. Other people help us learn new techniques to navigate tricky waters.

So, if you, like me, are feeling beat up, overwhelmed, and discouraged by a tricky situation right now, let’s encourage each other to do two things. First, we need to remember that the best things in life typically have a rocky middle ground to push through. It’ll get better. And second, we need to recruit a team. Or we need to invite our current team into the process. It’ll make us better and bring everyone closer together.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash
When we feel like we're “in the middle,” pushing through can be difficult. Eric Torrence suggests two things we can do to get to that sweet spot.