The Only Time We Do Not Swim Is When There's Lightning!
Updated: Oct 26, 2022
By Alexander Circosta, Communications Lead, The Brilliant Foundation
The goal was set in February 2019, I had mentioned to a friend of mine that I could not swim, like not even floating, and having swam his entire life he graciously offered to teach me. I decided I would learn to swim so that in February 2020 exactly one year later I would swim the Busselton Jetty. In exchange for his tutelage and having worked briefly as a personal trainer myself I offered to train him in the gym in return.
We trained early every morning before work sometimes four times a week and I quickly learnt how an early start is made all the more begrudgingly when you know someone is waiting for you. We started with the basics from floating and kicking to arm technique and breathing , I assure you learning to swim as an adult is no easy feat and requires a discipline and dedicated practice.
Of all the time it took, one training session really stands out for me, allow me to set the scene. It was a stormy morning with extremely heavy rains and strong winds, I had already acclimatised to jumping into an outdoor unheated pool but today’s challenge was different somehow.
I was apprehensive I had never swam in a storm (not rain, a proper storm!) so as we approached the water I looked to my friend and said: “Do we have to train today Coach?” A fair question I thought given the worsening conditions.
He said something offhandedly, something which resonated and was oddly profound “The only time we do not swim is when there’s lightning”. Despite looking to the skies as if beckoning them to light up, there was no lightning to be seen on this day.
I felt very reluctant but he proceeded to say: “You do not have to train today if you don’t want to” and I thought the session was over and we could have our coffee, a ritual that often ended our joint gym and swim sessions. However, he then went on to say something more telling he said: “I would be disappointed if you didn’t train today.”
Now these words, these words had weight, they carried the feeling that in that moment he wanted my goal more than I did. I had said I wanted to learn to swim and here was my test, how much did I really want to learn, how much did I really want to swim the Busselton Jetty.
I tell people all the time in my corporate workshops that they must step out of their comfort zone to grow and here was me out of my comfort zone ready to give up at the first sign of bad weather.
The thought of disappointing someone who believes in you is visceral and without another thought I jumped into the water and we trained through the bad weather. I learnt quickly that when you are already in the water the storm has no bearing on you at all.
Our perceived threats are just that, a manifestation of fear attempting to hold us back, a narrative we spin to protect ourselves from pushing beyond a limit no matter how small. I realised that only lightning is truly dangerous, only true danger should stop you, not perceived danger as it’s simply not real and it can’t truly hurt you.
One year later, I had accomplished my goal and got out of the water after swimming the Busselton Jetty. However on reflection the memory and the lesson that resonates with me till this day is encapsulated completely in that one phrase from that stormy day.
‘The only time we do not swim is when there’s lightning.’