I’ve built my career as a wordsmith. As a marketing professional, words are core to my craft. I love to collect them, to connect them and run my mind across all their direct, nuanced and euphemistic possibilities.
Over the past few months, as I’ve explored my next career move, I’ve had to explain myself with words: in resumes, during interviews, in application forms, on LinkedIn, in 140 character Tweets, etc.
Once, I was even asked to choose the one word description that close friends, my husband or colleagues would pick to describe me. Intrigued, I actually asked. Here’s who I am to others cornered with this socially-awkward request (you can guess which one might be the spousal reply): Honest. Smart. Creative. Caring. Demanding. Fun. Energetic. Persistent. Engaging.
And, as I consider becoming a consultant and starting my own business, I’ve asked myself for the words that best describe my values, my mission, my aspirations and my “freak factor” that sets me apart from others. I feel stymied and even shy about applying words to myself, a bit like trying on a bikini in a brightly-lit dressing room. I am tuned to inspect, interpret and cultivate stories for others, their business models, their products, their visions.
But yesterday, at the beach, I caught a moment that captured my imagination. One I’ve been mulling ever since.
A solo swimmer, 30 yards from shore, relentlessly, effortlessly, exuberantly sliced through the water, again and again, to catch and hitch a ride amidst the gentle waves. A perfect, 75 degree sunny day had snuck in, unannounced to weathermen nor Spring Breakers, leaving the wavy playground to him and no more than a three dozen other people along this long stretch of Stinson Beach coastline. And he was clearly oblivious to anything but the joy of the surf.
As I watched him repeat his dance — slicing forward, darting beneath a wave, cresting the surface to turn and ride another one in– I noticed something else. Not six yards away, every time the swimmer ducked under a wave, another head popped to the surface to observe him. It was a harbor seal.
The hide and seek game lasted for about seven rounds of body surfing. The seal successively and successfully dipping beneath the water just as the boy turned to glide back in. Then, the water unexpectedly calmed. Boy without plaything, seal without cover, the two emerged simultaneously, serendipitously, mere yards apart. They each stopped, looked unflinchingly at the other, as the sun glinted off their two dark, wet heads. Just as quickly, the next wave brought them back to their respective missions.
That energy, curiosity, playfulness, openness, boldness and purposefulness was all empowered by one thing: buoyancy.
Any object, wholly or partially immersed in a fluid, is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object.
I recognized, in that moment, the word that captured and connected my mission and my passion: to create a level of buoyancy in marketing storytelling. To enable ideas to push up against the weight of market pressures, distractions, and apathy with an unflinching vibrance and purpose.
Thanks to those swimmers, the sunshine and Stinson beach. I am propelled forward.