When I was about 12 or 13, I saved a little boy who was drowning.
I didn’t really think too much about it at the time. When it happened, it was instinctual; I had never been trained in water rescue. I was too young to be a lifeguard, but I could swim. And I was fast.
It was summertime and we were visiting my aunt and uncle near Sacramento, California. My uncle had to work that day, so a family friend offered to take us fishing on the Feather River.
A group of boys was trying to cross the river just downstream from where we were fishing. The water was clear and deep, and the river current was deceptively strong.
One of the older teens held a smaller boy on his shoulders, carrying him across to the other side. Mid-way through the river, the tall boy lost his footing and slipped underwater, the small boy toppling off his shoulders.
The smaller boy could not swim. The current took him, and he thrashed about in the water, screaming for help while his friends panicked on the shore.
Hearing the screams, I looked downriver. I saw the little blond head bobbing in the water, and something inside of me screamed “GO!”.
I threw down my fishing gear and dove into the cold water.
Remember, I was just a kid, not much older than the boys playing along the river. I was just someone who saw someone else in trouble and responded. I couldn’t just stand there, listening to his friends screaming, without trying to do something. I had to respond; I had to at least try.
I swam as hard as I could and, as I got close to the boy, I saw him splashing in the water and then I saw his blond head sink below the surface. I took a deep breath and dove underwater. I opened my eyes and saw his small body bouncing along the bottom carried by the current.
Diving down, I grabbed his swim trunks, and headed for the surface. Fortunately, I was able to pull the boy from the water, get him to the shore where my older brother got him breathing again.
When I told my wife about that story recently, she didn’t seem surprised at all. “That’s who you are,” she said, “That’s what you do. You help people.”
And she’s right. A lot of my memories are of times when I was able to help someone who needed something I had – an extra hand to lift, a strong back to carry, or the bravery to act on impulse and instinct.
I guess that explains why I chose to be a consultant. I love working with the leadership teams at companies that are undergoing some major change – merger/acquisition, process-reengineering, restructuring – and helping them understand the change, communicate the change, and lead their people through the change.
It’s also why I love being a coach. I love helping business owners of small- to mid-sized businesses to navigate the day-to-day struggles of entrepreneurship. I help by bringing three key factors to the table: Awareness of what they could do or what their business could be; Education of business-building best practices; and Accountability, to do the thing they must do to achieve their strategic goals.
I love helping people. It’s who I am; it’s what I do. See Less