We all dread getting that call, the one with bad news about a friend. I got that call yesterday, with the news that a friend of mine named Geoff had passed away, suddenly and far too young. Geoff and I were not close friends. In my past life with the Olympic Sailing program, Geoff and I were much closer. But since those days, we had lost touch. Geoff was an excellent sailor, and remained an active and successful one right up until his last days. He was widely loved and respected throughout our sport, and he was the best of friends with close friends of mine. So my pain is one part my own, and one part the empathic response to the pain of people I care deeply about.
Bad news always makes you pause and think. There are no silver linings about the passing of a friend, especially one in the prime of his active and positive life. But the only positive that can possibly come from tragic news is the inevitable response to pause, think and reflect. Geoff’s passing has caused me to do exactly that.
This is not a post about the conclusions I have come to. Most of those conclusions are too personal to share here, even for a writer like me who is not afraid to share. But I will share this… my biggest lesson learned from the cumulative events of the last seven months is that everything can change in a moment. You can be on a good run, where things seem to be going your way, with “the wind at your back” as sailors like to say. Everything can feel good… and those same winds can shift in a moment, and suddenly be blowing against you, hard and in your face. And the reverse is also true… that harsh, biting head wind that makes you feel like you can’t take another step can suddenly calm, and shift, and suddenly you have a warm breeze helping you along.
Life is not static. Life is constantly changing and dynamic, to the good and the bad. So my big lesson learned is that when times are good, roll with it, enjoy it. But keep “a weather eye” out for that big wind shift. Even if you can’t see it coming, the knowledge that it could come at any time makes you more agile when it does come. And when times are bad, brace yourself, don’t stop fighting to take that step against the wind, and remember that the storm can calm just as quickly as it started. That’s my lesson learned. Earth shattering wisdom? Certainly not. But nonetheless, this is a lesson that needs to be refreshed once in a while, because we all can get so wrapped up in our own current weather conditions, and it is easy to forget how quickly things can change.
This blog is about communication, and I am supposed to dispense communication advice, not little nuggets of life wisdom. But this lesson has far reaching effects on the ways in which we communicate. When times are good, enjoy them, and let the people around you enjoy them as well. If things are good for your team, distribute complements with generosity. make sure your team breathes in and revels in their successes. But also make sure your team is thinking about and planning for that inevitable wind shift. And when times are bad, be that voice that communicates strength, and be the voice that shows the path towards calmer conditions.
Rest in peace, Geoff. You will be missed by many, including me. And when we all eventually go to our reward, I am sure you will be waiting there at the finish line to welcome the rest of us, with a smile on your face.
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