It’s not news that Shakespeare had Marcus Brutus tell us that “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads on to fortune…”, and that the failure to attend to the tide results in misery, and being forever doomed to the shoals of life. Anyone who passes their time on the sea also knows the advantage of making the tide for a journey, or even for the most productive times for sea angling.
It’s equally not news that “time and tide wait for no man” – a quote attributed to Chaucer in the 1300s, but believed to have older roots. There is a suggestion that the “tide” in the above quote refers to a season, rather than a nautical tide, but the intent is the same. We can’t hold back the progression of the tide, the seasons, or the clock.
We have so many tide-related sayings. Apart from the above, there is also the old favourite, re-rigged for the modern business world:
“a rising tide lifts all boats”
which may be true if all the boats have sound hulls, and have not been holed while grounded on a metaphorical or literal sandbar.
I’ve been thinking about tides because I believe we are all tidal creatures – not in the sense that the moon causes a gravitational pull on the water in our bodies, or impacts our mental state (the “lunatic” theory having been fairly roundly debunked) – but because we all have ebbs and flows in our days, our years and our lives.
It’s also true that when the “tide” is against us, it can be very hard to progress. Anyone swimming against an outgoing tide to try and reach the safety of shore will tire quickly.
On the other hand, tidal flows can be harnessed for energy, and the same is true in our own lives. By identifying the direction the tide is going, and using its power, we stand a better chance of achieving our goals.
What does this mean in practical terms? When our energy or tidal flows are low, we are less likely to be able to complete complicated, high-focus projects. We’re also less inclined to push upwards in our lives, or in the organisations we work within. That ebbing tide may be as a result of sleep-deprivation (Hello, new parents!), burnout, chronic pain, or just distraction. From an organisational perspective it can be due to changes in management, or market or corporate challenges that restrict funding. It can result in a sense that progress isn’t possible. It is important at times like these to consider how to conserve energy for when the tide turns, and we can then swim with it.
From my perspective, the key thing is to be aware of and pay attention to the tides in your life, whether internal or external. Be prepared to use a rising tide to power your development, career progression or personal projects.
Be prepared to work with the tide, not fight against it. While swimming against the tide can be the right thing at times, and can build strength, doing it persistently is unlikely to be sustainable. Choosing the optimal time to leverage the tide is not always easy, but progress is easier if we choose correctly. Spotting the opportunity results in avoiding being stuck in shallows that Brutus talks about with Cassius. Most of all, enjoy the swim!