July 4, 1952
Thirty-four-year-old Florence Chadwick waded into the cold ocean water and began swimming the 21-mile stretch from Catalina Island to the California coast, determined to become the first woman to complete this feat. Millions watched on national television as sharks were driven away with rifles to protect the lone swimmer.
Long-distance swimming was not new to Florence Chadwick. She had been the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions. But this was a new challenge. The fog was so thick that day she could hardly see her escort boats and the water was bone-numbing cold.
More that 15 hours later, Florence asked to be taken out of the ocean. She couldn’t continue. Her mother and her trainer, in the boat alongside, urged her to go on, but when she looked up from the water all she could see was fog. So she stopped swimming, discouraged and exhausted.
After thawing out from the bitter cold, reality sunk in. Florence quit her quest just one-half mile from shore. Asked by a reporter why she had stopped, Florence said, “It was the fog. If I could have seen land, I would have made it.”
Florence’s story illustrates the fact that from the birth of one’s vision to its ultimate completion, obstacles get in the way. People are actually surprised when the cause they believe in so deeply meets repeated frustration and delay. But that’s not the way vision works.
There are four distinct phases of fulfillment all vision passes through, understanding each is critical to success.
PHASE ONE: The Dream
Big goals begin with a dream, and dreams are exciting. Maybe, at first, you don’t share your dream with a single soul, but it still burns inside of you. Then safely, tentatively you begin to talk about it and, in the talking, begin to believe it can actually happen.
“Can we do that?” you wonder. “Really?”
“I think so,” you tell yourself and go for it.
You’re off on a grand adventure, fired by the enthusiasm of a new idea and empowered by a challenging goal. The top’s down in the convertible, the sun’s high in the sky, the wind’s in your hair, and you’re free.
PHASE TWO: The Dip
Then reality hits. Think Thelma and Louise. The marketplace doesn’t love your ideas as much as you do. Most are apathetic, and some are even hostile. Like gold that’s refined by fire, goal fulfillment goes through a period of testing, as the realization begins to sink in that it’s going to be much harder to accomplish than you ever thought. This is where you come to understand how very easy words are to say and how very hard actions are to do.
And this is where most goals go to die: in “The Dip”. The Dip, a term coined by Seth Godin, is that gap between starting something new and truly mastering it, where the effort you’re exerting over time has not produced the results you were expecting (or desperately needing).
It’s here also the fulfillment of your goals is at its most vulnerable point. The excitement of starting something new has worn off, but the finish line is not in sight. In the words of Bill Hybels, you’re neither here, where you once were, nor there, where you want to be. And this feeling of being is no man’s land can be very, very discouraging. Any job half done looks like a complete failure.
You must, however, embrace the fire of this phase. Don’t rush it or resent it. Learn from it. Grow in it. Starting anything is the easy part. Finishing is hard. Succeeding is hard. Mastery is hard. That’s why so few do.
Take time in this phase to remember the absolute unacceptability of current reality and to picture in your mind’s eye the incredible opportunities of future possibility. Do this on a regular basis for the people traveling with you as well. That’s how you’ll survive the dip.
PHASE THREE: The Breakthrough
With refined vision and a sharpened focus, things begin to take off. Not the beginner’s luck you had at first and the loyal support from family and friends, but real acceptance by real people. One success builds on another that builds on another that builds on another, and soon you can barely remember the fires of refinement.
“The market wants to see you persist. It demands a signal from you that you’re serious, powerful, accepted, safe,” counsels Seth Godin in his book entitled simply, The Dip, “The bulk of the market, any market, is made up of those folks in the middle of the bell curve, the ones who want to buy something proven and valued.”
PHASE FOUR: The Summit
Reaching this phase is glorious. Like standing on the top of a tall mountain, the view is exhilarating. Take a deep breath and enjoy the cool, fresh air. Thank the other climbers who made it possible for you to get there: family, friends, and co-workers. Now climb another mountain.
That foggy July day in 1952 was the only time Florence Chadwick quit anything. Two months later she returned to the waters of the Pacific and swam the same channel, crushing the men’s record by two hours.
What about you? Isn’t it time to get back in the water and swim?
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