Today’s post is the monthly reflection from the March 2004 issue of  The Front Porch Newsletter.  If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.

Four Leaf CloverMy closing keynote on a beautiful Saturday morning in Honolulu had gone really well and my work for this trip was completed. Since several close friends were also presenting at the conference, we had decided to stay an extra day. With late afternoon flights on Sunday, we knew we had little time to waste. We had a wonderful dinner on Saturday night and by 7:00am the next morning we were on our way to Pearl Harbor. It was an eye-opening adventure to hear the eighty year-old host recall his personal story of the tragedy he witnessed that December day. And it was a humbling experience to stand on the monument bridge that spans the Arizona — a ship that still to this day serves as a submerged tomb to hundreds who perished as the crippled ship sank in the harbor.

The 45-minute bus ride back to our hotel gave us a chance to talk about our impressions of the morning experience. Lunch back at our hotel’s outdoor beach cafe gave us a chance to shift back into a more upbeat vacation-like mode — and to put us in the mood to squeeze in a quick “jump in the ocean” in the remaining 90-minutes we had before departing for our flights.

The more adventurous decided to grab a surf board and head for the white caps. Three of us chose to take a big round raft out on the water to pass away the hour in a lazy kind of way. The continuous light waves and the sharp rocky bottom made getting away from the shore a bit challenging. But we slowly made progress. Then we spotted large white caps in the distance. They made for an inviting destination and with a little encouragement we began to push forward. The more focused we got on our target, the easier it seemed to move toward it. But for some of us, with flights to catch, the clock started working against us. We got near the white-caps with only three minutes to spare. We climbed atop our raft to rest and enjoy the breaking waves. Then we sensed an uneasy feeling — being pushed 2-feet towards the shore, but then 4-feet away from it.

We knew we were in trouble. We jumped off the raft and commenced our most determined effort of the day. Our progress had been slow, but steady, when a life guard approached in a kayak and questioned our “far-from-the-shore” position. With little empathy, he pointed out the safety buoy. It seemed we were four times further from the shore than the buoy! The guard didn’t help us, but neither did he leave us. Totally exhausted, we eventually made it back to the beach. It would be hours later that I would notice numerous cuts on the bottom of my feet and feel the fatigue in every muscle. Yet it would be months before I discovered the lucky lesson. The transferable one — where one experience teaches you about another. In this case, maybe a lesson for the hallways of business. I wonder how often we get so focused on our goal, that we miss the systemic warnings and eventually cross the invisible line of danger?