I made a lot of money one summer in high school.
I was 16 years old and a lifeguard at the city pool. But that’s not where the money is. The money is in private swimming lessons.
We offered swimming lessons to the community. Mostly these were young kids.
Kids are easy to train. You just come up with games and get them comfortable with the water. You ease them into it, and you eventually teach them how to float. From there, you can teach them how to swim.
Adults are more difficult.
That summer there was a group of adults (age range 30-40s) that were just learning to swim. They needed all the help they could get. And after they finished the city sponsored courses, they decided to keep their momentum going. They wanted me to teach them more. So I set up lessons at my house.
I was paid an hourly rate by the city, but at my house I could set the price. And I set it high. They accepted.
There were 6 adults. I don’t remember the exact amount I was paid, but it was almost as much as I had made the entire summer. And there really wasn’t that much work involved. I just had to make sure they made progress. I just had to make sure they didn’t drown.
By the end of the summer, I had them swimming like fish. It was great.
I learned two important life lessons that year. These lessons taught me how to deal with anxiety, expect the unexpected, and accomplish my goals.
Lesson 1: Make progress, don’t drown.
This simple principle has become a guiding influence in my life.
It alleviates the anxiety of accomplishment and goal setting.
This mantra helped me learn to play the guitar. It got me through medical school, and then through residency. It helped me navigate the dangerous waters of business ownership. And most definitely helped me survive parenthood.
Remember this principle, and you never have to feel overwhelmed again.
You can accomplish anything.
Progress, even if small, adds up.
It accumulates over time and brings results. Small changes can become big changes.
You don’t have to be the best at anything. You just have to make progress.
Now, back to my story.
I told you there were 2 lessons learned.
If you know me well, it will come as no surprise that I trust people to a fault. I have even been called naive. I was much worse when I was younger.
I let my students have access to my house after lessons to dry off and change clothes. I had them use my parent’s room because it was closer and more convenient. On multiple occasions, they walked right past my Mom’s jewelry cabinet.
Her diamond earrings were never seen again.
I have no proof of wrong doing. And it happened the last day of lessons. I had no phone numbers or contact information. I don’t know if it was a coincidence or not. And to this day, I have a hard time believing any of my students would have stolen that ring. Either way, I made out like a bandit and my Mom got robbed.
And so I learned another lesson.
Lesson 2: Life happens and isn’t always fair
Not everything goes as planned. Sometimes things go your way and sometimes they don’t. Your actions impact other people.
What benefits you, might be a cost to someone else.
This doesn’t give you an excuse to have a bad attitude or not trust people. Knowing this principle gives you an edge.
In fact, I would encourage you to continue to trust people but accept that we are all flawed. This doesn’t excuse others’ behaviors. Don’t go around expecting the worst from people, because if you do, you won’t be disappointed. But also, don’t be caught off guard the next time someone does something stupid.
When you keep your perspective grounded in reality, you can be ready for what’s thrown at you. This isn’t being pessimistic. This is preparing for any and all outcomes.
It pays to remember: when things are going your way, the tide can turn.
So, it’s best to just put your head down and keep on swimming.
C’est la Vie.