WaterWise: Little Things That Mean A lot

Wheelbarrow of stone in front of river
Imagine How Your Life Would Change if You Were More Patient, Persistent, and Enduring?

Let’s face it, most of the good things in life do NOT come easily or quickly. All you have to do is consider the aspects of the 3 Circles. Success in your career, excellent health and fitness, mental resilience and strength, and awesome relationships are not microwavable things, are they? You cannot just decide they’ll be awesome and do some three-day program to make them so.

You have to develop a deep understanding that they are all results of a consistent journey where you show up whether you feel like it or not, push through periods where progress is hard to see, endure the moments you doubt you’ll ever get there, and the impatience you feel because you can’t have it NOW. Here is a current example from my recent life activities to provide some insight.

The Tale of the Little Stones

When Hurricane Florence weaved its path of destruction in September of 2018, one of the many things that it left in its wake at our house was a massive number of rocks, stones, bricks, and concrete pieces on our beach and wild-grasses area. We have a really cool rugged beach area. It’s made up of what are called “knuckles,” which are part of the tree’s root system (see picture above), trees, wild grasses, and sandy beach. That’s what is natural. In addition, the water is littered with clam, oyster, scallop, and a variety of other shells (like conch). Also, natural.

When Florence hit, the storm surge was eleven feet, and the waves in the neighborhood of four to five feet. This was what is referred to as a 500-year storm. The first floor of our home sits 20 feet above the normal tide (what is called the mean water level). We were not living in our house yet (we were supposed to move in 4 days after…obviously, it took a few more months until the rehab work was done), so I didn’t witness this happen, but it was clear by the devastation to our front yard, that the waves were actually washing all the way to our front door (water side).

As a result, the patio and walkway that USED to be in our front yard, in addition to most of our front yard itself was washed back onto the beach and into the river. We weren’t the only ones in our neighborhood that had this scenario. The problem was not just the surge and the waves, but also the length of the event. Because of the track the hurricane took, this pounding of the waves lasted a few days.

The result was that our beach was now full of all the rocks, concrete, bricks, and little stones that formerly made up the patio, walkway, and landscaping.The beach took me over 100 hours of work, to clear the debris (including what the river brought us from upstream as the Neuse River goes about 200 miles upstream from us). I focused mostly on all the bigger rocks at first and actually used them to build a few small jetty’s that help hold sand on the beach along with the knuckles.

The little stones presented a different issue. It took a while to gather them up and then I placed them on the river side of the jetties. But ultimately that didn’t work.  Whenever we would have a strong wind from the east, the rough water would lift the top layer of these little stones and deposit them back on the base of our beach making walking barefoot out into the sandy bottom a little tough. A few weeks ago, I decided to take a new tack on this. Instead of putting them back on the other side of the jetty, I’m removing them all and putting them somewhere else in the yard to be used as part of our landscaping away from the water.

The Value of This Activity

There is nothing fun about this job. Initially I started by raking them but quickly realized that to use a rake risked injuring some of the little creatures that are buried just below the surface, so I get down on my hands and knees and gather them by hand. This is tedious, hard work. Then I fill a bucket and carrying it is harder work, then carrying them up the steps to the wheelbarrow is hard work. In addition, I sift through each load and pull out the shells and living shellfish and put them back in the water. It takes about two hours to do roughly 6-7 buckets.

Sure, the accomplishment when it is done will be pure sand for my family and friends to walk into the water without stepping on these sharp little rocks, tiny brick pieces and stones. That will be nice for everyone.

I have no idea how long this is going to take. I have been working on it for close to two weeks and so far I think I’m about halfway there. It doesn’t really matter to me how long it will take, I made a commitment to do it (to myself), which means I will see it through. The work is so hard that after an hour or two, my entire body hurts (keep in mind I work out hard every day, and put in an intense day of work before I do this). I believe and teach that the power and value of seeing something difficult through to accomplishment is much more than achieving the end result. It is what you are becoming in the process of the doing. The transforming aspect.

Here are some of becoming/transformational  aspects of this little project:

Mental toughness: I don’t want to do this. That means I’m NEVER going to feel like doing it. Yet, I do it practically every day it CAN be done (if the water is high and rough, I can’t even see the stones so it’s not a good use of time. This is a big WIN lesson here. Most everything you WANT to accomplish of value will require you to do it regardless of how you feel. This kind of activity trains your mind to push through and do it despite how you feel about it. We would have a lot more fit and healthy people in the world if they just got this part of the mental toughness (and of course this applies BIG time to career/opportunity pursuits).

Patience: You and I will never be inherently patient. It’s not part of the human experience. We have to learn to be patient in our impatience and this kind of activity, which will take many hours of tedium to see a substantial result, helps to train us to put off the gratification of an end result and learn to have gratification in the process of the doing, which will ultimately take us to the result.

Persistence: If you want to break a big boulder you have to hit it over and over with a sledge hammer. Many of your strikes will seem like wasted energy, as the boulder will appear to be indifferent to your pounding. But if you keep striking, eventually the boulder will break. The thing to remember is that each strike is actually making an impact, it’s just not visible to you. You have to learn to embrace that the process of doing something is creating a tiny incremental gain in your learning, and in the wearing down of any opposing force. Each stone I pick up is making a difference despite what I see.

Perseverance: This is the long-game mentality. Perseverance is really just persistence over a long period of time. When you put the two (perseverance and persistence), you get what I refer to as “will.” The long game is where the big fruit is in life, and this takes the enduring mentality of persevering UNTIL the thing is done.

Building Commitment Muscles: If you want to be known as someone who ALWAYS does what you say you will do, that has to start with keeping commitments to yourself. I don’t tell people what I am going to do typically, because I don’t need to be held accountable by anyone else. I have learned through honoring commitments to myself, that what I think of me is more important than anything else, provided I am living according to my principles and a good moral code. Once I tell myself I am going to do something, I am the one who will know if I don’t. And I am NOT going to blow my credibility with myself, because if I do, that will make it easier to do so with others. None of us can ever afford to rupture our credibility, it is the door to all our opportunities with people.

The moral of this story is that it is a wonderful development tool for you to have projects that are difficult and take a while to complete, that you will consistently work on. It will make you better in every area of your life that you are dedicated to improving.

By Todd Burrier