Learn to Swim

Even if you’re good at treading water, the tide can pull you farther from your objectives.

Sometimes you need a reset.

Success breeds complacency. When everything is humming along, it seems easy. And it’s easy to relax. Your jobs bring constant pressure. Something always needs to get done immediately. So when you complete a major project or resolve an emergency situation, the natural reaction is to relax, to let your guard down, give yourself a break.

I don’t work on waterlines, and I don’t climb down manholes, but I know a thing or two about pressure and deadlines and the importance of moving from one task to the next and keeping a steady pace. Stories don’t assign themselves. Or edit themselves. Photos don’t just come in on their own. My phone isn’t going to get in touch with anyone to discuss potential stories unless I make the call myself. Sure, no one’s basement or business is going to flood if I’m not fully planned out, and no one will lose essential services if I miss a deadline. But, every opportunity to get ahead that I skip or ignore adds pressure down the line. It makes it harder to maintain success. Taking advantage of those opportunities, even if just a simple phone call or email, is like adding a little buoyancy to my life jacket. Miss enough opportunities, and pretty soon you’re kicking and flailing just to stay afloat.

Sometimes kicking to stay afloat, reacting to the most immediate challenge and doing it all again the next can bring complacency, too. You get accustomed to the daily stress. You realize you’re pretty good at treading water. You forget what it’s like to stand comfortably on dry land. You fall into a routine and it keeps the anxiety of having no plan — or at least no way to realize your plan — off to the side just enough to ignore. Mostly.

I don’t compare this magazine and the work I do with the significance of the work you do to protect and promote the health of your communities. If you never saw another copy of MSW again, you’d be OK. But if your customers suddenly lost water and wastewater service with no prospects of it ever coming back, the foundations of your communities would immediately begin to crack. Nonetheless, we’re both in positions where everything we do affects people down the line. Everyone in the chain beyond me, from proofreaders to production staff and so on, depends on me to deliver strong material, on time. Their ability to do their jobs depends on it. Likewise, the people you serve depend on you for some of the most critical elements of life and health. If I fail in my job, a handful of people will be upset. If you fail, whole communities will suffer.

So sometimes you just need a reset. I’ve said before in this space that I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, but I’ve been treading water, fighting just to stay in place, and I’ve been upping my efforts since the start of the year to get ahead and bring you a better magazine and a stronger connection to the industry at large.

If you haven’t stepped back lately to take a look at where you’re at, now’s the time, because if you wait until you have time, it’ll never happen. There’s always something that needs to get done. Treading water is better than drowning, but it’ll never get you anywhere.

Here’s hoping you make it to high ground.

Enjoy this month’s issue. 


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