The Beach

I love to walk the beach. There is something about the mix of sand and waves that calms the mind. It is especially so on days when the weather is not so nice.

The beach is empty and you are left with the wind, water and your thoughts. As I have written in this space before, most of the major decisions I have made in life – either alone or with my wife – have been made on the fringe of the sea.

“And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.”

As I look back on the decisions we have made out here in the tidal zone, some of the best ones have been not to make one – on refinement and reflection to simply say “no.”

The answer “no” is powerful in that it reflects the choice on direction. To make such a choice requires a destination, a vision, values, a strategy and a notion of personal legacy. As I have gotten older, the notion of where I want to be, how I want to live my life and how I want to spend my time has become critical to making decisions and choices as they appear.

I am amazed by individuals who for any number of reasons do not have a game plan, rather go about their daily routine without a true north to guide the journey. When I get asked to help folks with a job search, it is the first question I ask: “What are you called to do?”

I am grateful for my faith, family and friends who have been on this journey with me and helped chart the direction. Without them, I would have been lost. I also know that my history shaped the individual I am today and gave me the experience and the knowledge to help answer the same question: What am I called to do?

I remember vividly the day I stopped drinking. October 26, 1991. My spouse and I decided to raise our children in a sober house. We said “no,” and life has never been the same. When I was offered a significant promotion at MCI, but without clarity, and after multiple moves at IBM, we said “no.” We moved to Bucks County and spent the next 21 years raising our family and building a successful small business and life. As I made the decision to retire from Modern, where I had been CEO for 20 years, I said “no” to retirement and accepted an assignment with Episcopal Community Services, working on the issues of poverty in Philadelphia.

The opportunity to give back and to lead an interesting life was a call I could not say no to. I have never been happier professionally than I am now. I suspect my personal compass is pointed to true north for the moment. I also suspect I will find out how true north with some time. I have also come to learn that given the right goals it is never about the destination, but way more about the journey. Destination is more about direction.

You search your entire life. The search is made easier when you have the foundation of direction and values shaped by faith. I have been blessed to have a spouse who shares this journey and a common faith that we are called to mission and that one is at their best when they live into mission. I am thankful for the clarity and the opportunity that few are given: the chance to do what I love.

It is interesting to me that the place I find myself now was crafted more by the decisions not made than the ones made. Sometimes the beach is all you need, and it is funny how a walk in the fog on the beach can help you find clarity.

I, for one, am glad God did not forget the beach.