I am glad I did.  I came across a bright, carrot-colored leaf, torn from the limb of an old, bold oak (or did the leaf simply let go and fall on its own?  Hmm… a topic for another Sunday!)  The leaf was floating slowly in a small, reflective puddle, heading south.  I stopped and stared, letting the image soak in.  Suddenly, I was reminded of something I hadn’t thought about in a long time:  water always wins.

It’s a good lesson for us as we lead ourselves in the best of times and the worst of times.  Today, we’re the wave, rushing forward and smoothing the edges off the obstacles in our way.  Tomorrow, we are the slow drip that wears away at a difficult challenge, shaping the desired outcome with patience and determination.  No rock, regardless of size or makeup, is immune to the power of water.

Three questions arise from this.

Question #1:  How does this relate to strengths and becoming fully?   

Question #2:  Which approach is right? 

Question #3:  Which approach works best for you?

Q1: How does this relate to strengths and becoming fully?

First of all, we will all have our natural inclinations based on our Strengths DNA.  So, let’s think about water for a moment.  Water is complex (like we are!)  Water always moves forward; it doesn’t retreat or look back. Water follows the path of least resistance.  Water can be hard (think of a belly flop off a diving board) or comforting (a warm, gentle rain.)  Water can move swiftly, shifting everything in its path, or it can be slow – a single drop every minute or hour or day.

All of those descriptions mimic characteristics of some Strengths. Moving forward feels like Futuristic.  Following the path of least resistance sure sounds like Adaptability.  Refusing to “give” feels like Belief.  Comforting feels like Empathy.  Moving fast sounds like Activator, and a slow drip feels like Deliberative (both Activator and Deliberative have a different sense of time than the rest of us).   I lean heavily towards Activator – especially when I’m riding the wave of a good idea.  But, as we discussed last week, knowing that the world can’t see inside our mind means we sometimes have to package things for digestibility.  For me, that may mean slowing down – consciously choosing to take my foot off the gas – even just a little bit.  I can better complete the universe if I slow down when needed.

Q2: Which approach is right?

It depends.  “Be the Wave!” might be the battle cry if swift, massive action is required because a project or large team is stuck, or if a company has fallen behind in the marketplace (think BlackBerry).  “Be the Drip!” might better suit a more thoughtful, slow approach if the stakes are high and if a misstep will result in major, negative consequences (think disarming a bomb.)

Sometimes the situation dictates how to respond.  Other times, the approach is determined by the strengths of the folks involved.  If the house is on fire, moving swiftly and surely is appropriate, regardless of one’s strengths.  If you hate “going with the flow” but can acknowledge that doing so will work better for a particular client, then partner with someone who has Adaptability and let them help you navigate that path of least resistance.

The keystone of self-leadership is your ability to remain focused on one thing:  effectiveness.  If you can let effectiveness dictate your next move(s), you will be seen as a better self-leader and leader of others.  This is different than focusing on what comes most naturally to you – it requires opening up to and embracing the strengths of others and keeping the desired outcome front and center.  (This circles back to the idea of me choosing to slow down to increase effectiveness for those around me.)

Q3:  Which approach works best for you?

This is different from Q2 in one major sense:  self-leadership and becoming fully are inextricably linked and can serve as your navigator to determine where YOU can contribute the most value in a team, project, or unexpected challenge.  Then, expanding the same concept to the rest of the team or organization, if you know the strengths of your colleagues, you can help harness and direct them.  This is a considerable value proposition!  Knowing what is needed, and when, means that you can collaborate with your manager or leadership team to determine how to build the highest performing group in a way that harnesses their natural awesomeness.

Learn how to manage and direct your energy, and the energy and talents of others.  Look at the landscape and determine what would be most effective to achieve the desired outcome – and then head in that direction.  Be like water, because water always wins.


    • bkorte

    • 11 years ago

    Hi Maureen, Another thoughtful post. When I saw the rain today, I only thought about frizzy hair! What I took away from your post is the importance of taking time to look at things thoughtfully and see what we can gain from them, whether insights about our strengths or just some calm happiness from being in the moment.

      • Maureen Monte

      • 11 years ago

      Hello Barbara! I love your takeaway – hearing other people’s comments is always so interesting because what you got is not necessarily what my “top of mind” intent was. It’s kind of like both of us watching a movie, and then you saying, “I loved this part!” and me saying, “I didn’t even notice it!” :-) This is also a strengths statement – we view the world through the lens of our strengths.

      I hope you did slow down (which is really a part of your brave new world, isn’t it!) and being in the moment is the secret to happiness, I believe… Thanks for diving in with us!

  1. “Be like water, my friend”. Yes, that certainly is excellent advice. And well explained too. It might sometimes difficult to remember in the thick of things, but choosing your path (actions) carefully and thoughtfully can (or will) be the difference between success and failure.
    The “Be Like Water” metaphor is sure to give you the necessary guidance.

    Well written Maureen.

      • Maureen Monte

      • 11 years ago

      Thank you, Rogier! I am so glad you come and play with us because you have such an interesting insight to social and business and success… Appreciate your ongoing support and leadership! Great points, my friend.

    • jsephoto

    • 11 years ago

    As my friend Jo-Ann Wilson says.. “Motion is a wave”… she is a horse masseuse, working to restore the horse’s range of motion to its natural and unimpeded state. (
    I view my life in parallel..over time, developing tightness due to overuse, fatigue, stress and strain. Or perhaps I “splint” an injury..
    When we work on our weaknesses, we fatigue or even inure… imagine if we focused on our strengths… we became energized, encouraged and flourish because we maximize what we do best.
    Just imagine… “motion is a wave” and if we do not block the motion or we release what might be blocking the motion, we might travel further with greater impact and clarity.

      • Maureen Monte

      • 11 years ago

      Hi JSEPhoto! I am so glad you’ve joined us to share your insight – and I love that your post is like a conversation with you. Insightful, fun, deep, inspirational. Traveling further with greater impact and clarity is a great benefit – thanks for recognizing it!!! I also love that you link our learning to the other things you do, like work with animals. Glad you’ve joined us my friend!

  2. love, love, love this. Water is amazing, and so are we. We are both the wave, rushing forward and smoothing the way, and we are the slow gentle drip that slowly shapes possibilities. Wild and fluid and strong and comforting. Here’s to keeping the desired outcome front and center and moving with the energy and grace that’s needed to be most effective.

      • Maureen Monte

      • 11 years ago

      Isn’t it true? We are all aspects of water – the wave, the drip, the ice, the river… Fluidity… energy, grace, power – thank you for adding to the effectiveness of my post!

  3. Hi Maureen, another smashing article! And on one of my favourite topics around the water metaphor, which can certainly be incredibly powerful. If you look into it Water is all about Flow, it’s all about flexibility AND Adaptability, in terms of how it blends with everything moving along with that Flow and everything, but interestingly enough how accurate it is also to describe us. We, human beings, are made of 70% water, so, in a way, we *all* are water, flowing in this universe, trying to make a dent in it, and move along with the flow and certainly thinking along those terms of flexibility and adaptability are going to help us get there. After all, we are also the living species on this Earth capable to adapt to every single environment out there, including the jungle of the workplace!

    We just need to help change it accordingly! And that’s a very interesting challenge altogether!

      • Maureen Monte

      • 11 years ago

      Hello Luis! So glad to see you here – I love that you “get it” and have added the actual reality that we are mostly water! It never, ever occurred to me! And you and Hazel, being the most adaptable people I know – well, it’s just great to have your insight! Thanks again.

  4. Hi Maureen! I am thinking about this sentence : “Water follows the path of least resistance”. This really triggers me, because I think 99% I am choosing the path of the most resistance :-). It reminds me one video of Teal Scott who was advising the followers to live one year based on the question: “What would a person who love themselves do?” I think each of us would go patiently and confidently via the path of least resistance.Therefore do what they know best. Why would be there need to push? Somehow too many signs for me to slow down out there. Great post, love it :-)

      • Maureen Monte

      • 11 years ago

      Hi Lydia!! I love your post!! And you may not realize it, but your strength, Restorative (going by memory – you have it in your top 5, yes?) is thrilled to overcome resistance. So you are wired to attack resistance and get great joy out of breaking it down. Many doctors have restorative, by the way, which is reflected in how they remove roadblocks to people’s health. Having said that, as with all of our strengths, if they are running us, rather than us running them, well, it always leads to trouble! So once in a while, we can put Restorative in our back pocket and leave it there while we follow a lower resistance path and take darn good care of ourselves. I love the idea of a year of “what would a person who loves themselves do?” Oh my, I believe my life would be very different. As always, you’ve given me something to think about!!

      1. Hi Maureen :-)! Yes Restorative is in my top 5, it’s the 5th one :-D haha now I see why I get all fired up to action when someone tells me that I can’t or “we don’t do that” etc. ROFL.
        I am incorrporating that question before every decision (or that’s what I would like to do), but it’s challanging ! Haeven’t done even 2 days in a row yet :-) If you do a trial with this : What would a person who love themselves do, I would looooooove to read a post about it :-) <3 Looking forward to your post tomorrow ;-)

          • Maureen Monte

          • 11 years ago

          Hi Lydia! EXACTLY. You are hard wired to respond with energy to the “You can’t do that!” remark! :-) That’s what we love about you and why we need you in our universe!

          I will noodle on your “what would a person who loves themselves do.” :-) Talk soon! Maureen

  5. […] response, my mind wanders to something I heard from my friend, Lydia, who commented on my Water Always Wins post. Lydia said that she’d been moved by speaker who was advising followers to live one year based on […]