To backtrack a bit, this team of players do not come from the wealthiest families. These were boys, who loved to play soccer and who had a coach, who they also loved and who cared for them. They had a soccer practice on June 23rd, after which they had a picnic. Such a simple pleasure and no doubt a treat for them. During the picnic, they decided to do some cave exploring. It seems like such a teenage boy thing to do. The complication occurred when the boys and the coach went into a cave and monsoon rains caused the water level in the cave to rise quickly, and dangerously high. The boys and their coach managed to scramble to a high ledge, out of the water, but 4km inside the cave. It was nine days before they were found, alive, another six days before the first four boys could be rescued and two more endless days before the final boys and the coach were safely removed from the cave. At the time of writing of this blog, no one is considered ‘out of the woods’ yet, however they are receiving excellent care at Thai hospitals.
Besides the terror I felt for these boys and their families, I was mesmerized by the way experts on cave rescue (among other things) gathered together from around the world to solve this problem. I was not on the ground there, nor do I personally know one single member of the rescue team, but from every report I have watched or read, these highly trained people put aside international differences and made the decision that the goal of successful rescue would be their only focus.
There have to have been egos among this group. There have to have been governments who would love for their country to receive credit for such a dramatic rescue. There have to have been members of this group who could have refused to participate if things were not done ‘their way’. And yet, somehow, this group united, and made the decision to not only attempt the near-impossible, but to work together, stay focused on the mission and put their training and experience into practice.
It’s hard to imagine all the small decisions and structures that were needed to pull this off. When I listened to the description of how the boys would be led from the cave, with one Navy Seal leading in front, tethered to one soccer player, and one taking up the rear, I felt the familiar sting of tears. One of the news anchors describing this mentioned that with these supports in place all that each of the soccer players needed to do was to breathe.
It struck me that if only each of us had this support in our lives, in our families, in our workplaces and in our countries, many of the problems we are trying to solve might dissolve.
Imagine what could we achieve if we had someone ahead of us saying, “I haven’t travelled your exact path before, but I have travelled a similar one and I have skills that will help you. Follow me and I’ll show you what has worked for me.” And if someone behind said, “Don’t worry, I’ve got your back”. And if both of them said, “You can do it. You can do this thing you have never even imagined doing before. Just remember to breathe”. And if your whole world cheered while you did the impossible.
This week in my little world two very small-in-comparison events occurred. One has to do with my dancing. We have performed at about fifteen or twenty different locations around the city. Last Wednesday a small group of us performed on CTV on the morning show. I was asked to be the spokesperson for this event. I didn’t realize how nervous I was until we arrived at the television station. Luckily, our instructor, Reba J, had sent me a video of a previous year’s performance so I could get a sense of what was expected (Reba J was the person leading me). All of the other dancers stood with me as I did my little part, and they reminded me to breathe. And after our performance, our little group cheered, not only for me, but for all of us and our successful execution of our dance.
The second event involves my friend, Brenda. Brenda set a goal for herself earlier this year. She decided to train for and compete in a running race called The Sinister 7. This is a seven-stage, 160km (100 mile) mountain race. The terrain is rugged. The cut-off time is 30 hours. The competitors start in daylight but run through the dark of the night. The information on the website for the competitors is not sugar-coated. “This race will punish those who are not prepared” and “The race’s name is inspired by the treacherous Seven Sisters Mountain that looms over much of the course” and “This race is incredibly difficult. Be prepared for one of the toughest experiences of your life”.
Brenda had never attempted this before. She did create a training plan and she stuck to it. She did research the race. She did tell people what she was doing and she called upon a few others who had done similar events to help her with support. As she raced, her main support person, Carena, navigated her way ahead to meet her at the transition stations with supplies. (This was her ‘lead’). And she had a whole army of people taking up the rear, cheering her on as she left each transition area: some in person, some on social media, some quietly in their own way. And at just over 27 hours from her start, she not only finished, she RAN across the finish line. And her whole world cheered.
This week it may be time for each of us to think about something we long to do but fear we may not be able to accomplish. We have evidence to prove that with supports in place, with a lead, with a cheering section and with reminders to breathe, we may just be able to do far, far more than we ever dared possible.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘How can I make this possible?’
Elizabeth is a life and leadership coach in Calgary, AB. She provides leadership coaching for individuals and groups and she creates and facilitates custom workshops for corporate, public and private groups. Contact Elizabeth to help you or your organization to figure out how to make your dreams possible.