One of my greatest shames in life is that I never learned to swim. I almost did. I took swimming lessons as a kid, learned a very basic cross stroke, but when it came time to tread water, I was too worried about sinking to go to the deep end. As a result of this, trips to the beach involve more sitting than swimming. When I do go in the water, it’s only up to my waist or chest, which just so happens to be the breakpoint when the waves are big.
A few weeks ago, I listened to the Phil M. Jones audiobook, Exactly What to Say, which outlines 23 persuasion techniques for anyone who wants to sell a product, service, or idea. Lesson #9 was about using the Series of 3 to help folks make a choice. It’s structured this way: (1) you can do something hard (2) you can do nothing (3)you can do the attractive option I’m presenting you. This presents your idea as both sensible and a relief from the other less effective choices. I thought about this when I was dealing with pretty choppy surf in Dewey Beach last week.
When a wave is coming and its bigger than you are, you have three choices:
Jump up the keep your head above water, leaving your feet and losing any strength of position
Do nothing and get knocked sideways
Cut through the bottom of the wave, going underwater, but avoiding the crest.
You may be amazed by this reasoning, but I’ve always chosen #1 to “keep my head above water”. That’s a popular survival phrase and, in this case, completely mis-applied. I tend to avoid going underwater at all costs. But, when I asked my wife about #3, she said you feel a slight jolt, but you end up in mostly the same position you started in. So, I tried it. Then I tried it again. Then, a third time at the base of a wave that had to have been 6-7 feet tall, easily the biggest I’ve ever encountered. Each time, I went underwater, felt that slight jolt, then resurfaced on my feet, in a complete ready position for the next wave.
There are two lessons here:
Framing our options helps us understand, make, and accept our choices.
The most assertive action is sometimes revealed to be the path of least resistance (and most survival).
So, while I didn’t learn to swim on my summer vacation, I did learn to choose.
Founder, The Idea Enthusiast. Speaker, Trainer, Facilitator, and writer about all things creative consulting. DC-based consultant to individuals who want to be more creative, teams who want to collaborate without fear, and anyone who wants to deliver the best pitches and presentations.