Last summer we were on a whale-watching trip in Iceland and my kids taught me an important lesson about enjoying the ride.
I’ve carried a new mantra with me ever since:
“Is this fun? Yes, this is fun!”
I suppose the first thing I should say is that I do not like “big” water. Playing in the ocean, deep-sea fishing, cruises … those things do not appeal to me. I like to say I have a healthy respect for the vast forces of Mother Nature, but the simple truth is I’m scared of rip tides and man-eating sharks.
Irrational, I know, but I’m just over here living my life, y’all.
Anyway, when my wife, Laura, suggested we add a whale-watching excursion to our vacation, I thought, “Not my first choice, truth be told. But, whales will be well worth it.”
Or should I say, “whales will be whale worth it.” My first dad joke of 2020, friends and I am sincerely sorry.
Turns Out the Arctic Ocean is Cold
Now, as much as I dislike the open ocean, Laura hates the cold by let’s say a factor of ten. That could be a gross underestimation.
Laura is among the sweetest and kindest people I’ve ever met, but if she is too cold for too long she begins to exhibit some Hill Dwarf Barbarian in a rage type tendencies.
So it was with trepidation and dare I say total regret, that we stepped aboard the little oaken vessel, battered by arctic winds and a threat of precipitation. As we began pulling on the neon orange, fleece-lined onesie the outfitter provided, I hummed the theme song to “Gilligan’s Island.”
Laura was already giving herself a hug and tucking her chin into her neck, trying to stay warm and out of the wind. I wasn’t worried so much about the cold, but I did notice the white caps the wind was creating even within the protection of harbor.
The Pointy Front Nose Looks Fun
Once we’d pushed off and turned the pointy front nose of the boat out to sea (some call it the bow, I prefer pointy front nose) the true implications of what we were in for became immediately obvious.
Because while the wind might have been cold just sitting there, now we were making our own wind. And while some gentle back and forth rocking wasn’t exactly my jam, a constant 5 meter rise and fall as we made our way out to sea had me quaking down to my core.
But of course, my two youngest kids (9 and 7) took a look around and thought something along the lines of, “Hm. Seems like if you stand at the very front of the pointy front nose, not only do you get a better view but you also go way higher and way lower with every swell.”
And so, they wanted to go to the front.
Laura’s eyes, red and watery from the arctic winds, pleaded with me:
“Please. Will you do it? From the very heart of that sacred oath we made to one another on our wedding day amongst kith and kin. As we stood there in the church before God Almighty and spoke those vows, so do I speak to you now, my Love. Please. Please take the children to the pointy front nose.”
In reality, through chattering teeth she managed something like, “Shep and Charlotte want go front. Can you please?”
Waves are the Worst … or the Best.
We lumbered to the front and took our position. Their tiny frames barely extending above the railing of the boat as their small hands gripped the bars. Their eyes wide with excitement, utterly free of fear, taking in this new adventure.
As they laughed hysterically with every splash, every roll, and every stomach-lurching drop of the boat, I looked down at them and had no choice but to laugh at myself.
Here I was clutching the bar on each side of them. My feet also planted on each side to create some kind of cocoon, in case they … I don’t know, slipped or something?
And all they had in the moment was laughter.
Is This Fun?
“Is this fun?” I shouted to them over the roar of the boat and the splash of the waves.
“YEAH!” they screamed in unison without hesitation.
And that was when the whole trip changed for me.
Yeah. Yeah, this is fun isn’t it?
These waves don’t suck. They actually create a kind of roller coaster.
And sure it’s cold, but we’re in the friggin’ Arctic Ocean for the first and probably only time in our lives. It should be cold so we’ll remember it that way.
Is this fun? Yes, this is fun!
“Hey kiddos, try this!” And I bent down into a squat as the boat rose to the top of a new wave. As we dipped down, down, down into the bowl of the swell I slowly stood back up and it created the sensation of riding the waves rather than being tossed around at their mercy.
“Whoooaaaaa!” They gave it a try and loved it, too.
We experimented with all kinds of different leans and squats; trying to read the ocean and predict how the boat would pitch and sway as it made its way across the constantly changing surface of the water.
And just like that, what was once a misery I was steadying myself to endure had become a brand new experience that I didn’t want to end.
This Should Be Fun.
It’s amazing isn’t it? How much mindset and point-of-view determines the quality of our experience.
Exact same conditions. Exact same people. Exact same everything.
But with a shift of perspective and a change of attitude, the infinitely relentless barrage of waves desiring nothing more than to suck me down to a watery grave are actually nothing more than the pleasant easing in and out of a mild roller coaster.
When people ask me, “How’s business?” and the answer is, “Good, but a little stressful.” Or when Benedikt and I are openly sharing the highs and lows of our entrepreneurial journey on our podcast, there are a lot of times when I get to the end of my answer and wonder, “Why exactly am I doing this to myself? Why am I putting my family through all this uncertainty?”
In short, the answer to that question is that this is an adventure I want to take. It will be cold. It will be windy. It will be a bit rocky. It will often feel unfamiliar and rarely be comfortable.
But. It should be fun! It should be worth it! And my kids reminded me that I have a lot of control over that. Even the scary parts can be fun, that’s what makes it an adventure!
There have been some long stretches where, if I’m being honest with myself, I haven’t acted in a way that makes this choice worth it. I’ve gripped the railing with anxiety, bitter at the ocean for being what it is.
I hope this year to do a better job of riding the waves the way my kids did.
I hope to return to seeing entrepreneurship as a game to be played and have some fun leaning into the swells, laughing at the splashes on my face, and relishing the tinge of salt in my eyes.
Because yes, in the end, we saw whales. But as you can tell, they aren’t the part of the story I think about or retell very often.