Julius Caesar – “There is a tide….”

I have no doubt that to learn this off by heart would greatly benefit anybody.

Act 4 Scene 3

BRUTUS
Under your pardon. You must note beside,
That we have tried the utmost of our friends,
Our legions are brim-full, our cause is ripe.
The enemy increaseth every day.
We, at the height, are ready to decline.
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves
Or lose our ventures.

Shakespeare

Look for keyholes

In surfing, a keyhole is a channel surfers use to paddle out from a rocky beach. Rather than walk and slip over a reef before launching into the water, you can paddle out using the channel though the reef if the tide is right. The locals will show you the way, but they won’t guide you. You need to watch, learn, and follow. Nobody is going to hold your hand and give you a guide book. Once you paddle out, then you’ve got to earn your spot in the lineup. One too many false takeoffs or wipeouts on a wave and you are toast. The better surfers will call your bluff and steal a wave from under your nose.

The paddle out and the line up is a great leveler. Yes, jets skis have opened up access and made surfing more coin-operated, but in most cases, there aren’t jet skis. Jets skis are like ski lifts. Imagine if everyone had to hike the mountain before they ski down. There would be way fewer people up there.

Respect local customs and earn your place in the lineup. Same for most things in life.

Watertight compartments

Ships don’t sink because of the water around them; ships sink because of the water that gets in them. 

Don’t let a tough evening commute ruin dinner time with family. Don’t make a snap decision because the stock market had a wobble. Don’t relive mistakes and past interactions, or get anxious about things that haven’t even happened.  Don’t let the past or the future leak into the present.

Build watertight compartments by focusing on the task at hand. Do you have a plan? It doesn’t have to be a 5-year plan. Maybe the plan is to wake up, make a cup of tea, and get an early start. Get going and accomplish the mission. Then make a new plan and do that.

The clarity of a decision

Decisions create clarity. It’s a little like when I only spot spelling mistakes after I publish a tweet or hit send on an email.

Marriage: I didn’t know how good it was until I dared to be vulnerable and commit

Kids: I had no idea about the joy and love I would tap into until they arrived.

Investing time or money: I always have the urge to learn more or understand the downside and risk mitigating moves on the table. It’s paralyzing. It’s after I say yes that energy is freed up and power of momentum kicks in. Making a decision is like releasing the hand brake on a revved-up car.

Clarity after a decision isn’t like turning on a light switch. Sometimes it requires perseverance and a grind. That’s where courage and fortitude come in. It’s like that first night moving to a new home. The first night for me is always tough. Maybe I hear the neighbor for the first time or the sounds of traffic wafts through the window after everyone has gone to bed. It’s the same with starting a new job, and I’m completely out of my comfort zone and am looking back at what I’ve left behind.

If there were clarity before a big life decision, then it would be easy. Preservation of optionality is the enemy of momentum. Accept there will be unknowns, do the homework, understand risk as best you can, and then commit to a decision. Nothing is risk-free, and if you think it’s risk-free, then you haven’t done your homework.

One caveat: Some of the best ideas and companies were started because the founder wasn’t aware of the downside. Ignorance is bliss, but it also allows for a quick decision and resulting momentum. I think this is the exception rather than the rule.

More yesterdays than tomorrows

At some point, the yesterdays are more than the tomorrows. I don’t mean this to be pessimistic. My awareness of the finite is a forcing function to savor the things I take for granted. It’s liberating and sharpens the senses. 

Maybe it’s an immigrant thing, but I had a moment when I was boarding a plane to fly back to the states where I thought about this. I’d spent a couple of days in South Africa where I grew up and was now heading back to my wife and kids with all the goodness of routines and rituals that come with a busy, growing family. I wondered if I could count on my hands how many more times I’d be back to Africa. In my twenties, thinking about a finite number ahead of me never crossed my mind, everything was limitless. Now, I can count the trips ahead of me on my hands. 

My hometown airport doesn’t have jetways, which means passengers get off the plane on the tarmac and walk to the arrivals lounge. I’ve now got into the habit of touching the tar after I land. I think it’s a way to pause and connect with the place. A ritual to remind me that it’s real and help me remember.

Multi-generational living

A significant issue for western (Anglo-Saxon) culture is care for the elderly in the next 50 years. Multi-generational living in America is frowned upon. News articles and movies about kids living with parents are framed as a failure. Elderly parents living in multi-generational homes are seen as a burden.

It’s telling that boatloads of money are being invested in elderly care via the gig economy and artificial intelligence because the multi-unit family is now the exception rather than the rule.

In some cultures, a three or four generation family under one roof is seen as a blessing. Family knowledge, heirlooms, and folklore are passed down and kept alive. The grandkids keep the grandparents young and useful. Young at heart grandparents are also excellent baby sitters and companions.

 

Checking the floats

In the late afternoon, when the tide was high, and the wind was starting to drop, we would catch mullet in the shallows of the river. My bother and I would carry a throw net over our shoulders, walking the river bank, looking for the silvery glint and shadows of mullet. The hardest part was hauling the water-filled bait bucket, so the bucket was close by if we hit pay dirt with a good throw. 

After a long walk in the soft sand with a heavy bucket full of fish, we rigged up the rods and baited up the mullet. The mullet became the live bait. We’d use a fishing needle to thread the fishing line down the back of the mullet and then weigh it down with a sinker on the one end and float on the other. Once the mullet was hooked up, I’d hop into a paddle ski and paddle to the middle of the river to drop the float, mullet, and sinker. My brother would stand on the bank holding the rod with the drag off slowly releasing the line. Once I was back on the bank, we would look out to the middle of the river and watching the float bobbing up and down. The live bait would attract a larger fish, the fish would eat the mullet and swallow the hook. Once hooked, it would try to swim away, but the float prevented the fish from diving and escaping.

The sun would set, and we’d head back up to the house for dinner. After dinner at around 8 pm, we’d bundle back into the car and head back down to the river to see if we’d caught anything. The first thing we checked was the position of the rods. Had they moved or been knocked down? The next thing we checked was the floats. If a float had moved or was under water, then it was game on. But had we hooked a catfish or was it a Leervis or a Kabeljou? Leervis or a Kabeljou meant we were eating fish for breakfast. Reeling in a large fish could take hours, but at that point, it was just adrenalin and patience. Reel in too fast and the line snaps. Reel in too slow and the fish never sees the bank or gets tired.

It was a long day. We’d caught the live bait, lugged around the bait bucket, rigged up the rods and reels and paddled out the floats. Looking back, the best part of the whole day was bundling into the car on a cold night and driving down to the river in the dark, not knowing what to expect. 

The reward of checking the floats at night is very much like laying the groundwork for most things in life. The joy is in the doing, and then the anticipation of waiting to see what comes after the sun goes down.