Who Controls the Tide?

“A rising tide lifts all ships.”

I hear this statement often, and I tend to agree, it’s a good message for what happens when the economy is improving around us, the benefits for all are great. So, we cheer for economic development, because it will help us all rise!

Recently, I have started to see this a little differently, and quite frankly, I wonder if the prediction a friend of mine made several years ago — that I would eventually become cynical like him — is actually happening. I am hoping that’s not the case, but… this shift in thinking is somewhat foreign to me.

After all, I am an idealist, so this is something I worry about happening. Am I being worn down by the cynics?

I really hope not!

Today, when someone chirped the very familiar “tide” aphorism, which I discovered while writing this post, was popularized by president John F. Kennedy, and borrowed—interestingly enough—by Kennedy’s speechwriter, from the slogan of the New England Council  ( the area’s chamber of commerce), I saw a fallacy to the statement that I had never noticed before.

I wondered why we don’t talk about where the tides come from?

While we’re all in this together, there are also some responsibilities we have — to ourselves and to those we serve, and it’s in this space that I am most focused today.

We can pray all we want for the tide to rise, but what are we doing in the meantime? Just waiting? How can we be bettering ourselves?

Not just the obvious — a leaky boat, or worse, being tied to the dock, and finding ourselves underwater when the tide actually does rise, because we’re so attached to the moorings that we forget to loosen the ropes!

So, today, as I explored this idea a little further, I started to ask, “Where can we start using our own internal “water sources” to assist the process?” Is it always an outside source that is responsible for lifting our boats?

Have I been cheering for the wrong things, focusing on the external forces that are not within my control? What energy, attention and work can I add to the cause that will allow us, even ever-so-slightly, begin to contribute to raising the level of our community?

I heard someone say today that small businesses —  the organizations that we credit as being the backbone of our community —  “are not-for-profits whether they mean to be or not!

Wait? Really? This might be the problem! We have to become better than that. Individually, we have to begin to understand that we are not a charity, and we do not need people to make donations to our businesses.

We must begin to look at the marketplace differently.

Because it’s not someone else’s job to ensure you succeed. And, the tide may not be rising, unless we, as leaders, community-minded people who believe in a better future, start to assess what we’re doing to raise the bar.

Christopher Gardner, (who wrote Pursuit of Happyness, but also Start Where You Are: Life Lessons in Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be — another book that was integral in my personal growth journey, reminded me, at just the right time:

“Only by acknowledging, ‘Hey, here is where I am, and I’m here because I steered my horse here,’ can I make the next choice to ride on out to the sunset where I’d really like to be… The cavalry ain’t coming. You’ve got to do this yourself.”


Also published on Medium.

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