The ocean and I have had a longstanding and complex relationship with each other over the years. Sometimes a forced intimacy. Other times a defiant moratorium. Mostly an undeniable magnetic draw that I contend with in some form or fashion each summer.
It intimidates me if I am being honest. And my weeks at its shores offer an overabundance of metaphorical shenanigans seeking to pack in a year’s worth of insight and personal awareness.
Some, I think, find an endless sense of freedom and release, able to tolerate the weather, the tides, the brine. I, on the other hand, tend to max out on its intensity and the constancy of change. To me, it topples over with too much of a good thing. Too dazzling. Too massive. Too dizzying. A constant sense of being outmatched despite attempts to tame it with the temporary assurances of a boat, a life jacket, or even a perfect weather pattern.
But, like I said, I keep coming back for more. To master it perhaps? Or to, at least, master the stir inside of me. To see if this time I might stand astride one of its mighty boulders, the wind whipping my hair across my eyes, the spray of the crashing waves dampening my cheeks and feel a sense of equal significance inside my own personal power. Hmmm.
Back in June I was preparing for the FH Perry Builder Community Meeting— our bi-weekly get-together as a full company. These meetings, again if I am being honest, equally intimidate me. There is a lot of power in one room for one hour. A lot of salary. A lot of opinion and insight. I feel a deep sense of responsibility to attend to all of it while offering content that is meaningful and significant enough to make an impression that carries over into the next meeting two weeks away.
This is how I got onto a definition of development that I really like. We were using the time for a deep dive on self-evaluation and mid-year goal setting, and I wanted to turn an age-old, boring process on its head. I wanted to give a refresh to why we even bother to show up and push our limits every day in the first place. Or at least to acknowledge why it always feels that way. Turns out, that’s development!
Development = the evolution of the capacity to manage complexity.
You have two choices, basically: sit still and do absolutely nothing. Literally. Which is, of course, impossible, OR recognize that every day of your life is filled with experiences that evolve your capacity to manage its complexity.
Because simply by repetition, if nothing else, you are getting more capable of executing upon whatever it is that you are doing. Driving into Boston and finding a parking space. Asking a trade to do something you don’t know much about yourself. Presenting a change order to a client. Managing a household, living in a post-pandemic world, seeking a sense of personal authenticity.
Whatever it is, your capacity for it, your capability to endure it, has evolved. What once defined your sense of limitation has shifted. You may still feel some kind of boundary, but that too has expanded to hold a new definition of “complex”. What once felt out of reach isn’t anymore. You have developed into a deeper you. And so, in the assurance of this knowing, what is the next boundary you want to stretch?
Perhaps, for me, the ocean is just a reminder that there will most likely always be something I can’t fully grasp. Something to keep me on my learning edge. Something that makes me feel alert and alive down to my toes because it offers a complexity beyond my personal capacity to ever manage it fully.
But like running a contracting business or gutting a four-story house on Beacon Hill with only one party wall to hold it up, we lean into these things. We develop. We befriend complexity even if it will always feel just a bit out of our grasp. And when this happens, well, doesn’t that mean we’re actually getting somewhere?
You know where to find me next summer.