Lessons from a Minke Whale

Recently, while on vacation, I had an opportunity to participate in the wonder of nature in a very personal way. The experience caused me to reflect on how focused we humans are on fixing things, situations and sometimes even other people. There are many reasons why this is the case, I have written about them in prior articles and there will be more to come. Today I want to tell you the story of a small Minke Whale I met up close and personal and share a very big lesson she taught me. I hope you find it important and helpful.

I was vacationing on Cape Cod Bay, a gorgeous bay with many different characteristics. The area I was in is made up of many sandbars, nice to walk on at low tide, but no place for a whale. As I walked on the beach one day, I overheard a woman say something about a beached whale. I looked where she was pointing and saw a very sad sight. I have seen beached animals on TV, but the impact of seeing it in person was quite a different thing.

As we got closer, we noticed that no one was doing anything. People just seemed to be standing and staring. My friend and I wondered why no one was doing anything to help her. Our curiosity turned into judgment as soon as we got there. What was wrong with these people why was no one doing anything. We were very confident that people should be in the water and at least throwing water over her to keep her cool. We were also wondering if anyone had called for help and no one seemed to know.

My friend called the Coast Guard and her, me and two other people began to walk into the water to at least to try to keep her cool and wet. As the whale attempted to free herself we noticed she was bleeding on the opposite side. Shortly, a woman approached and said she had called and they instructed her to tell the crowed not to go near the whale at all and to stay out of the water, they were on their way. Unfortunately, traveling from Mid Cape to Outer Cape on a gorgeous day in August takes quite a while and that is where help was coming from. Suddenly, the conversations in the crowed changed to high levels of criticism for the “rescuers”. Frustration and anger started to become heightened.

Eventually two professionals from the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies came to do further monitoring and control. By the time they arrived the tide was coming in and the whale seemed to becoming a bit more buoyant. Suddenly, the mood began to change again, this time it was hope that returned and we began to root for the whale. An Environmental Police Boat had arrived to see if they could be of assistance and got very close to the Whale. The crowd became very protective and began yelling at the Captain to back off and get out of the way. What we didn’t know was that he was providing information as to the type and state of the injuries the whale had incurred, rather important information. As the boat revved its engines to leave, the whale became very frightened and agitated thrashing violently. Miraculously she became buoyant and began to swim forward. The crowed cheered and suddenly she took another left turn, got even closer to shore and beached herself again. A pall hung over everyone. There seemed to be an unspoken agreement of a lost cause.

A gentleman from the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies stepped forward to tell us what was going on. They had determined that the whale was very ill and had been for quite sometime. He explained that there was nothing that could be done for her and that nature needed to take its course. He provided us with further details and asked that we honor this whale by providing her some dignity. She chose to beach herself because she knew she needed to rest and that it was her time. At this point, most of us left.

I am sure some of you may be wondering what the point is. Why is she writing about whales in the business section? As I reflected on this experience I realized that in our need to be helpful, to fix this for the whale we, in reality, would have been doing her a disservice. Our need to fix it came from our need to feel better, it wasn’t actually about the whale, the real truth was this was horrible to watch and we did not want to see her suffer. This reminded me how often in business we try to fix things and people because if we could only fix them our life would be easier.

Whenever we behave in a way that makes us feel better about us, we are unconsciously stepping into our own egos. This causes an inability to be objective and step back and become the observer, to take in actual data and make good business decisions. As business owners and professionals it is vital to our success to not react unconsciously to our emotions. The whale doesn’t always need to be saved and people never need to be fixed because they are not broken. Next time you find yourself feeling the need to fix something or someone you may want to stop and ask yourself what’s broken. Provide yourself and those around you with the dignity and respect we all deserve. Look first at yourself before blaming, shaming or damning others. This will bring you true success.

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