3 Leadership “Gifts” From the Beach

by | Dec 1, 2021 | Leadership | 1 comment

Back in September, my wife and I celebrated our anniversary by going to Marco Island, Florida. The goal was to eat good seafood (I live in Nebraska so that doesn’t happen very often) and lounge on the beach.

My plan was to not do anything work-related on this trip, including my reading material. So I chose a book I read for the first time about 6 years ago entitled Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Since Lindbergh wrote this book at a beach house, I felt like it would be the perfect companion while soaking up the sun (besides my wife, of course.)

With the S/T album by This will Destroy You in my AirPods and the Kindle app on my iPad, I was ready to relax and reflect. What I wasn’t prepared for were the lessons that my beach classroom would teach me.

Here are 3 leadership “gifts” I received from the sea on this trip:



In today’s consumerist society, the pressure is to accumulate more stuff. As a result, garages have become storage containers instead of shelters for our vehicles and a show like Hoarders can hit way too close to home.

The problem is that stuff doesn’t bring sustained happiness and can actually make us less productive.

“Research done by Cornell University professor Dr. Thomas Gilovich, University of Chicago postdoctoral research fellow Dr. Amit, and Dr. Matthew Killingsworth, who studies human happiness at the University of California, San Francisco, found that when people spend their money on experiences, over time their satisfaction goes up whereas when people spend money on physical things, over time their satisfaction goes down.” -The Employee Experience Advantage 

In her highly successful Netflix series Tidying Up, Marie Kondo showed us the psychological benefits of decluttering our spaces. After watching the second episode where Marie helps a cafe owner who has ADHD, Rosie Barron of The Tidy Coo shared that “As a neurodiverse individual myself, I see how decluttering and getting organized impacts life far beyond having a tidy home. It really gives you the space in your brain to be more focused and more present.”

What I have begun asking myself is, “How little can I get along with?”


Practice Solitude

Technology has allowed us to fill literally every moment with “noise” or distraction. Anytime I have to wait, my first instinct is to pull out my phone and swipe right to see Apple News. 

This constant intake of information has caused mental overload for many of us. The antidote is solitude

James Mattis, four-star Marine Corps General and former Secretary of Defense, remarks, “If I was to sum up the single biggest problem of senior leadership in the Information Age it’s lack of reflection. Solitude allows you to reflect while others are reacting. We need solitude to refocus on prospective decision-making, rather than just reacting to problems as they arise.” 

Solitude helps us become better decision-makers, increases self-awareness, and refills our inner resources so we are able to invest more into others. 

For me, the best time of “solitude” is in the morning when I take my dog Rudy for a walk. This 30-minute, uninterrupted time allows me to process what happened the previous day and prepare for the next day’s demands.


Work Without Pressure

I need to clarify this one. Not all pressure is bad. There is constructive pressure that helps us grow and develop. The opposite is destructive pressure which will hinder or stunt our professional and personal growth.

For me, this destructive pressure comes in the form of “hurry.” I put too many tasks on my to-do list and try to rush through each of them so that I can feel “accomplished” or “productive.” The problems with this mindset are (1) I always feel behind, and (2) I am not fully present for any one task. 

I am very much a work in progress with this “gift” but I am trying to be intentional in embracing it by being mindful of how much I commit to do on any given day. Also, I am carving out more time and casting better expectations for projects both for myself and my clients so I don’t feel as rushed and can be fully “in the moment” with that particular item.

One byproduct that I am noticing in this area is that I enjoy projects more when I feel I have the time to be creative and even dream a little. 


Game Plan

Which leadership “gift” do you need to receive? All three are offered freely, we just need to open our arms and embrace them.


Tweetable Lesson

1 Comment

  1. Laura Houston

    I’m Bryan Houston’s wife. I read this Lindbergh book many years ago and it is a favorite – still in my bookcase! Thanks for reminding me about it; I need to re-read.
    Also, thank you for all of your influence with Bryan personally and with his company. You have been so impactful in my life (indirectly) and in my husband’s. I appreciate your skills and knowledge. And kindness.