Most fathers build sand castles when they take their daughters to the beach, but not mine. For reasons I’m still unsure, he and I would dig holes deep enough to hit water. When we would begin digging, we would shove all the hot, dry sand out of the way. The sand underneath would feel cool and as we continued to dig it would start to feel damp. Eventually, we would dig deep enough to hit water. The sides of the hole would collapse. Suddenly, we’d have a crater filled with water that came from somewhere beneath the sand. (At six, I didn’t understand sea level or the water table, so this was an incredible feat.)
One day, he was napping in his beach chair. I was bored and tired of waiting so I headed away from the shoreline to start digging without him. I walked to where I’d be able to dig and not worry about sending sand onto anyone else’s blanket. As I tunneled into the hole, sand stuck to my forearms where I hadn’t rubbed the sunscreen in completely. I had dug so deep that I had to lie down to reach into the hole, but still no water. I continued to dig, scrape, and kick the sand with no success. The sand had gotten cooler, but after what seemed like half an hour, I had not hit any water.
I gave up and went back down the beach to wake my dad. He walked me back up to where I had started digging and we both continued. My dad told me, “If you keep digging, you’re bound to hit water eventually.” Sure enough, within minutes, water began to appear at the bottom of the hole just as it had all the times before.
My goals have changed from wanting to dig a hole. But, I can learn a lot about why we don’t achieve our goals from my six-year-old self.
I assumed I failed.
I stopped trying to improve.
When I didn’t hit water, I assumed I had failed. Any time we learn or start something new, we are met with rapid improvement and progress. The sand goes from hot to cool quickly, but on the way down the changes become less obvious and less frequent. It becomes less apparent if we are ever going to reach the water. As progress slows, we often confuse lack of rapid improvement with failure.
Our obvious advancement hits a temporary plateau and we assume we’ve reached our highest level of ability. But, we haven’t reached our highest level of ability. We have lost faith in the fact that the water will appear if we just keep digging.
Think of a dream or a goal that you never accomplished. Why didn’t you succeed? Did you give it everything you could?
The truth is, most of us do not even come close to trying EVERYTHING necessary to achieve our goals. The real reason most of us fail is that we stop trying to improve. We stop trying to be better than good enough.
I believe that very few of us know our true potential. Very few of us have even the slightest idea of what we can accomplish. When we fail, we simply stop digging right before we hit water.
When should you have kept digging?