Have you ever heard the saying: “You don’t drown by falling in water, you only drown if you stay there.” As far as I can figure out, it was first coined by Edwin Louis Cole, founder of the Christian Men’s Network. By the way, if you like sayings that can amuse or motivate you, check out the Ed Cole Video Library. Even if you’re not into religion, I’m sure you’ll find a few lines that’ll put a smile on your face.
People all over the world have picked up on Cole’s saying. It’s the title of a lot of blogs and personal development talks. Zig Ziglar used the saying in his motivational speeches, and you can find it in his books. One I think you ought to read, if you’re into personal development, is Embrace the Struggle: Living Life on Life’s Terms. The point of the saying is that, when life gets you down, you shouldn’t stay down. You’ve probably heard, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” In the martial arts world we say, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.”
Anyway, with all due respect to these very accomplished guys, I don’t think the saying goes far enough. If you’ve spent as much time as I have studying the science of self-improvement, you probably realize that learning to recover from adversity is only the first step. If you want to become truly outstanding, you’ve got find a way to build personal evolution into your DNA.
So I’d change the saying to: “You don’t drown by falling in water, you drown by not getting out and learning to swim!”
Ups and downs are not just part of life, they are life. Once you’ve figured out a mindset or strategy for moving through adversity, like picking yourself up after you get by hard times, then you can start working on real accomplishment. And you don’t get it by doing the same things over and over. Like falling in the water and pulling yourself out! If you do, you’ll find yourself in the same situations over and over, and I don’t think that’s the formula for real personal achievement.
You see, every challenge has built into it the germ or seed of its own solution. “Hey,” you say, “last time I fell in the water I got out, and here I am, doing great!” But there’s an aspect of dealing with challenges that’s even more important, more profound, and probably far more life changing than just figuring out how to solve life’s immediate problems. If we think about it, each challenge can teach us the lessons we need for real, meaningful, lasting personal change.
The truth is, most of us ignore these lessons. It’s like we deliberately tune out the most profound lessons that life teaches us, virtually all the time. We suffer through some crisis, get our lives more or less back to normal, sit back and say, “whew, I’m glad that’s over,” and forget to change the fundamental behaviors or attitudes that got us into the crisis in the first place.
Now, that might be because taking the action called for by lesson is difficult, or involves some sacrifice, hard work, or change in our thinking, but it’s almost never impossible. I know this because there are always people out there who have learned the lesson we were supposed to learn. Let me give you an example.
After you fall into the water and pull yourself out a few times, even if you’re darn proud of figuring out how not to drown, you’re probably thinking, “darn it, isn’t there some other way to handle this?” And that little voice in your head might say, “hey, dummy! Stay out of the water.” And if you do that, you’re not going to fall in anymore.
But what if the water is where you really need to be? Maybe all the most exciting things are happening in the water. That’s where you learn the most, get the biggest reward, meet the coolest people. So you have a lot of motivation to get back in the water, you’re just tired of hauling yourself out. And if you look around next time you fall in, just before you pull yourself out, you pay attention to what all the other people are doing in there. They seem to be having a good time, you know, getting a lot done, making friends, learning a ton by staying in there for so long. So, you ask yourself, “what are they doing that I’m not doing?” And darn it, that voice in your head answers you again. “Hey slowpoke, they’re swimming!”
So, the point is, don’t just keep pulling yourself out, learn to swim! If you find something you absolutely, positively need to do, but you keep doing belly flops when you try it, don’t you think it’s time to do more than just pull yourself out? Look around and figure out what the really successful people are doing. Learn to do what they’re doing. And the surprising thing is, most of them are happy to give you some tips. And when you get good at swimming, you can go in the water anytime you want, and get all kinds of work done there.
Visualize your goal, plan your mission, and don’t just do something, DO SOMETHING!