Pontoon Trip

“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom . . .”

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

Pulling away from the Caribe fuel dock, I safely idle our pontoon boat into the channel where other boats are moving in both directions near Perdido Pass, the scenic passageway entrance to the Gulf of Mexico. On the other side of the canal is popular Robinson Island, where a number of families have already gathered in small boats. After a few minutes in the idle only zone, and just past the signs requiring a slower speed, I push the throttle forward and the boat accelerates. For open-air boats, the only air conditioner on the water is created by the speed of the watercraft.  Fortunately, today Is overcast due to a weak cold front which has lowered the temperatures to a level uncommon in the middle of August in LA (Lower Alabama).

Driving though John’s Bayou, we enter Arnica Bay, home to Pirates Cove – always crowded on Saturdays in August. Join my wife Carol and me on board is Carol’s cousin Michael Mayer and his wife Eva, who have traveled from New Orleans to spend the weekend with us. Along for our trip is another cousin, Stevens Leslie and his wife, Romona. (One of my past blogs is titled “Romona,” and is a great inspiration in how to achieve important goals in life.)

After a short ride across Wolf Bay, the ICW (Intercoastal Waterway) makes a sharp left turn, and before us in full view is The Wharf and the Beach Express Bridge which passes over the ICW at this juncture. Coming into our portside view on the eastern edge of the marina is a large boat with a davit arm hanging over the water. Davits on larger boats like this one are used to launch small tinder boats for transporting passengers back-and-forth to shore.  As we get closer, visible is a pulley with a thick rope – normal tackle used in a davit. I look for a tinder boat in the water that has just been launched, or, is being reloaded back into the mother vessel. But, there is no boat to be found.

Upon closer inspection, our group recognizes what is going on.  A group of young people, employing the davit system of the boat, have created their own swinging system for splashing into the water.  I push the throttle into neutral and soon get the attention of the four individuals who have created their own water adventure.  One young guy, eager to show his talent to the new audience, swings out from the boat and then does a full flip before entering the water feet first. Up close and personal, this is better than watching Olympic diving on television. Seizing the opportunity, our team quickly embraces our self-appointed new roles as judges.  After a short consultation, we agree on a score of eight, which we immediately show to the young boaters who now realize they have an engaged audience. We encourage the other young athletes to showcase their talents – they are more than willing to comply.

After two more individuals jump, earning increasing scores from our team of judges, we slowly idle toward the western end of the marina.  A magical moment. Some young people, whose names we don’t know, have met our group of adults on the waterway. As we move westward, while the boat is still in view, I notice on the transom the words, ‘New Orleans.’  I quickly comment that Michael and Eva traveled all the way to Orange Beach to watch some kids from their home area entertain us this afternoon. The chorus-like expected response is ‘small world!’

We have a large world, but not too large. Have you ever heard of the ‘six degrees of separation’ theory? This idea states that every person on the planet is connected to another person through a chain of acquaintances with no more than five intermediaries. I cannot prove this concept, but have seen a number of occasions, too many to ever list, where I recognize a mysterious connection to another person that I have just met.  Have you had similar experiences?

What are we to make of this phenomenon? Is there some value in this typical experience that will help in our successful journey? Yes.

Engagement makes a difference in our lives. Gallup, a management and consulting company, has confirmed this with their well-known exhaustive and scientific survey.  If you have never explored this survey, be sure to spend some time reading about the results. You can easily access Google to obtain plenty of material on this extremely important study on engagement. Check for the 12-question survey.

Measurement matters.We want to know how we are doing. Even kids on a swinging davit entertaining passing unknown observers. We want to know. We may not like bad scores, and may disagree with how scores are decided, but we still want to know the score. We want to know how we are doing. Do you agree?

It is easy to be the evaluator when the marks are high, as in the 8, 9, and 10 we gave the kids in our fun team scoring event. But, when what we think is not that good, many of us crumble at the mere thought of telling another person that their grade is just average, or even worse. If the individual is someone we know well, it becomes more difficult. If that person is our partner in marriage, or someone else whom we love, it may become impossible – at least in our minds. What do you think?

What do we do? We overcome our fears and say what we think. Because, long-term, it is the only way to live. How can we become our best, if we are never aware of what our best might be? How can we help others to excel, if they have no idea what Is needed for excellence? 

Gallup’s scientific surveys over the years have proven that employee engagement matters for the success within organizations. I believe that similar engagement in our individual lives is an accurate determinant of our personal journey toward victory.  How do we do it in a fashion that allows us to still retain important relationships while at the same time helping others to improve their lives? This is probably one of the most challenging and essential questions we will face in our lifetimes.

The answers have been explored by many authors. The solutions may fill many books. Yet, the principles are simple and very clear. Unrefuted. Essential. Life-changing.

Personal engagement and measurement are success principles. 

Being open to feedback matters.  Engagement with others provides a path to measurement.

Today, I will seek the opinion and advice of others. I will be open to what I hear. My successful journey in life is at stake. When it comes to the important people in my life, I will be honest. I will tell them the truth, even when it is difficult to do. The success of others that I care about is at stake.

Today, I will engage.