They were tied in their beds. The story I was reading gripped me since I was about to dive to see the wreckage of the historic RMS Rhone, a UK Royal Mail ship embedded since 1867 in the depths of the Caribbean Ocean. The site of the Rhone, now a National Park, is considered one of the most popular diving destinations in the world. But what fascinated me was the tragic loss of life that resulted from a long-held tradition based on “what’s always done” during a hurricane. In this case, it was tying people to their beds during a storm to keep them from being tossed about on the ship. But as the boat sunk, what was done for “protection” became their doom. As a result, only one passenger survived the wreck of the Rhone.
Traditions or “the way we always do it” can often cause disasters. Traditions, office policies, and rules need to be reexamined from time to time to see if they make sense, particularly in our rapidly changing world. Traditions and regulations are created out of the importance of health, safety, security, and even love. Yet sometimes common sense is not considered and can lead to resentment and sometimes more damage and destruction. Like the passengers on the RMS Rhone, we can become tied down to them, which can cause more harm than good.
One of my constant struggles in life is to untie myself from misguided truths or rules and trust God to bring a new understanding to my life, relinquish what I want or think is important, and follow His will and wisdom. One of the reasons I resist is that it requires me to make uncomfortable choices or change a rule or policy that I have long held. It makes me feel unintelligent or that I have somehow failed. As I have matured in my leadership skills, I have learned that it is the opposite. Being willing to change shows good leadership and shows others that I care about them. When I make positive changes and update policies and rules, having gained new perspectives or truths, it empowers me.
Here are three things I’ve learned that might help you make those positive changes.
Write down your personal story or connection and the history of the business or nonprofit.
It sounds crazy, but most people don’t know you or the company’s history. Knowing the history of those rules and traditions changes their understanding of why they were put into place and why they are important. Traditions and company policies often began as acts for safety, security, and caring for others but may have lost their significance simply because the reason for their existence wasn’t passed on to the next generation. Re-tell the history and your story so that others can connect and understand their meaning. It might also reveal where some of those traditions and rules are placing undue burdens and stress on those you work with and might need to be readdressed. If the story and history behind practices, events, or rules become lost, they become meaningless rhetoric. They become rules that don’t make sense. Never be afraid to share the history of who you are or that of the business. Those working with you will feel an added personal connection and relationship that increases their understanding of policies and procedures that might have seemed insignificant. It gives those you work with a glimpse into the “why” things are explicitly done and changes a silly or strange rule into a vital procedure.
Examine your preparations.
I must be prepared when I scuba dive, so I check my gear carefully before going underwater. It’s also essential to have a diving partner. I never dive alone. It may sound silly, but the first rule is to breathe once in the water. Many divers have lost their lives due to thoughtlessness, lack of preparation, and an inability to breathe in a stressful environment. If panic sets in, mistakes are made, and disasters occur. During a dive, I’m constantly checking in with my diving partner. Each diver carries an alternative regulator so that if a diver’s tank runs out of air, you have an alternative source of air. In fact, to become a certified diver, you are required to learn how to breathe out of your partner’s tank.
Likewise, being prepared and adequately equipped during stressful company changes is also essential. It requires a partner with an alternative source of life-saving air. For me, that additional source is the Holy Spirit, and the Bible is my regulator. It’s where I get my extra air. When I get into unpredictable situations, He’s been there for me, helping me surface and breathe. One of the fantastic things about diving is that it puts you into an unknown world. Each time I dive, I challenge myself to face the fear of the unknown because I know I will see God’s beauty below the surface, and it is well worth it. So be and stay prepared. You never know when a crisis or unforeseen challenge might be something significant that God may want to reveal to you, and you will need to adjust quickly. It could be a change that saves your life and those of others.
Have a 3 am friend.
We live in fast and changing times that bring unforeseen disruptions and, many times, great emotional hardship. Like storms, they hit at unexpected times. We become more fearful when we experience these fast and sometimes even tragic events or challenges. Often they make us hold tighter onto what we have always done or onto past rules and traditions. Having a trusted relationship to call on at 3 am can be a saving grace when uncertainty hits.
Working in Hollywood, I’ve seen the destruction that happens to celebrities who seem to have it all together but, in reality, are struggling and suffering. It’s been said that “It’s lonely at the top,” but it doesn’t have to be when you’ve built a strong relationship with God and an earthly relationship with a trusted 3 am friend. In three books of the Gospels in the Bible, it tells the story of Jesus, whom the disciples awakened when they were on a boat in the middle of the night during a storm at sea. His response: “Why are you so afraid”? Do you not have faith?” The disciples physically had Jesus with them on the boat, and they still lost their faith. In the chaotic world we live in today, having a trusted friend to pray and stand with you during difficult times and help you work through needed changes can be life-giving. But also remember that God will never not be there with you in all our storms too.
God wants us to be at peace in our constantly changing world, but we must also be leaders who can light the way for others to see God’s mercy and love. Jesus came and brought the most significant change to the Jews. But because of their rules, traditions, and laws, they couldn’t see God’s life-changing lifeboat. Redemption was sent to them with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, but their stubbornness kept them tied to their traditions and laws.
Tying ourselves to our beds (traditions and rules that lack meaning) will only drown us and keep us from making positive changes. To survive, we must be willing to share personal stories and history about our traditions and rules, be prepared for the unknown storms with the life-giving air and the knowledge of God’s Word, and be anchored in an everlasting relationship with a 3 am Savior who can help us calm any unsettling storm that might occur any time of day or season.
Here’s to your ship making it into port every time.