"Boat!" Finally. The call to action we'd been waiting for. We dropped what we were doing and raced to our waiting cameras.
As photographers and videographers in the rafting industry in 1984, we spent long days in the wilderness on the river. The first trip often left at 8 am – the last at 4 pm. But without walkie-talkies or cell phones, we never knew when the rafts would get to us mid-river until someone saw them coming.
Our job was to perch on the rocks at the best rapids and record the spills and thrills for the guests as they tumbled through some of the world's best whitewater. Depending on the location, the half dozen rafts in each trip would pass us by in five minutes, then disappear around a corner. And we'd be left with nothing to do for another hour or two until the next trip arrived.
Nothing to do. Such an incredible and (these days) rare gift. How did we pass the time? Without knowing it, we invested in building our leadership skills.
We'd practice being bad at new things – for me, knitting. I set out to make myself an Icelandic sweater. And it came along wonderfully until one day the 98% DEET bug juice on my bare legs dissolved the wool and ate a huge hole in the half-finished sweater.
We'd make things just for fun – drawings, wildflower bouquets, photographs and music. I brought along the flute I got in grade 5 and played Simon and Garfunkel songs by the rushing water. (I'm sure the people in the rafts from the other companies that I didn't have to record thought they'd stumbled into some weird cult!)
We'd daydream. About what we wanted to do when summer ended, about how we could improve operations at the company, about how to manage our employees and bosses, about our deepest goals and desires.
We'd tell stories. About things that had happened on the river (building our shared culture). About where we were from and how we grew up (creating relationships). About how the wild spaces and species around us worked (deepening our connection to nature). About our vision for the future (sowing seeds of purpose-driven careers).
And of course, we'd nap, recharging our bodies after long days and nights of work and play, so we could be ready for what's to come. "Boat!"
Too often, today's big and small "L" leaders are so busy that they don't have time to reflect on how things are going, what to let go of, what to do more of or where to go next. They miss out on the time and mental space they need to be creative, develop new skills, build relationships and imagine the future.
As many of us head into the official start of summer today, we'll spend the next 8 weeks rushing around the world trying to cram in as much fun as possible.
While you're busy making memories with friends and family, I also invite you to make room in your schedule to do nothing. To give yourself room to make, dream, listen, watch and just be. Until September comes, and the world yells "Boat!" again.