A few days ago, I had a delightful opportunity to teach my friend’s 5-year-old son how to swim. Her son was a bit fearful of moving around in the shallow end of the pool, and certainly didn’t want to get his face wet. So the lesson was more about overcoming his fear of the water than real swimming. No matter – we had a great time! We started with walking next to the pool’s edge in the shallow end – one of his hands on the edge and one clenched my hand very tightly.

At one point, he stopped, “I can’t go any further.”

“Why?” I gently asked.

“Because it’s too far.”

“OK, let’s go back to the steps.”

Relieved, he sat on the steps and kicked up the water. He enjoyed kicking and getting me wet. He relaxed and giggled. Since it was hot weather, I welcomed the water! Then I challenged him to try again. As we walked along the side this time, his grip on my hand loosened (ahh…the blood flowed easily again in my hand). He stopped suddenly, “That’s it. Let’s go back.”

I noticed that there were flowers on the pool tiles. “Look! This flower has two petals and this next one has three.”

“Ooooh,” he said, “and that one has two. And the next one has three!” We walked a little further as he pointed out the differences between the pool tiles. We made it another few feet and then returned to the steps.

Besides appreciating this little boy’s company and the cool water, I realized there was more to this interchange than a swimming lesson. I saw this experience as a life lesson.

We move out slowly from a safe place, taking small steps, grasping something we know – familiar surroundings, supportive friends, or perhaps our network. As we build some confidence, we move a little further away from the familiar surroundings, yet we look for some recognizable aspect, to help orient us. This little boy counted the petals on the pool tiles, noting the similarities. As adults, we might search out professional or personal national networking opportunities so that we have some frame of reference.

Eventually, after much practice, we’re willing to swim in the deep end and teach others how to get there.

Have a great swim and enjoy the water!