Did you read Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham as a child? One of my favorite quotes from that book is: “there is nothing-absolutely nothing- half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” Rowboats, canoes, dories, kayaks and stand up paddle boards invite us to take our paddles and explore our local waterways. In small boats, we notice changes in the water, the sky and the shoreline. Messing about allows us to enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
In a small boat, it’s just you and your paddle navigating through the subtle shifts in wind, currents, and tides. As you head out in a small boat you must notice these small shifts or you might just end up with the wind blowing you way off course, turned upside down in a swell of rapids or waves, or stuck high and dry in a fast receding tide. In small boats, you must be ready to shift your approach to your destination. You can’t just turn on the motor and go straight where you want to go. You sometimes need to tuck out of the wind, cross currents at angles you did not expect, or go out and around a tidal flat.
It made me wonder, should we be “messing about” more in our offices and work places?
At work, we tend to turn on the motors and go straight for the destination. In this approach, we can miss the small shifts going around us. Shifts that could lead to new approaches, greater resiliency, or perhaps just more fun. Motoring straight towards high performance and productivity is one way to start a day. Yet, what if we took a few lessons from Wind and the Willows, took paddle in hand, and “messed about” a little more?
What would you notice on the journey towards the destination? Smiles and Laughter? Or Strained brows and silence? Clarity of Purpose? Or Confusion? Collaboration? Or Doors shut and heads down? Lunch time walks? Or Eating lunch at your computer? Rhythm and pacing? Or Chaos and swirls?
Consider one morning this week “messing about in your small boat.” What do you notice? What happens to your speed? Where does your journey take you? What do you see that you had missed before? Where do you change your direction because of something you had not noticed before? How does this journey help you to better navigate towards your destination?
Enjoy the ride.