Quick...who sings “Sitting Onthe Dock of the Bay”? If you guessed Otis Redding, you’re right. I loved this song growing up.  My Dad used to play it on an LP record, and I could sing along with him—and with Mr. Redding—at a young age.  The classic tune describes the peaceful power of reflection that occurs at the water’s edge as one sits and watches waves go by and tides roll away.

Last week I took a walk at lunch, and went down to the “dock of the river” at Cathedral Park along the Willamette. I spent some time quietly watching the water go by. At first my mind was scattered, frenetic even, busy thinking about the excitement and chaos of a growing agency and what we need to do next as more clients came on.  

Soon the water put me in my place! Its flow, so present and continuous, is grounding. Unencumbered, undeterred, the water keeps moving—oblivious to boulders that impede. The never-ending journey is a universal message that makes everything else seem small.

And thus the lesson for me, which I’m happy to share with you: busy minds that plan incessantly, and focus only on the minutia, may be missing the totality of the journey.

It’s the end game that matters most. From my strategic planning days, I know that we often reach our goal by following baby steps. The challenge we need to be wary of, especially when things feel sluggish or stopped completely, is that if we get too locked into the details, we’ll forget about the direction we’re going. 

True, rivers can and will meander. Likewise, things will slow down for us. But like the river, we need to stay connected to our destination as we execute on our project plans.

Here are some worksite ideas inspired by Otis Redding, the river’s flow, and my own moment of sittin’ on the dock:

  1. Take a walk to a local body of water, then just sit and watch. Consider the water’s flow within the context of a current project or situation.
  2. Notice any boulders or barriers you encounter at work. Explore how you can “flow “ around them without feeling stopped, just like the water. Consider also how the tides come and go, and invariably roll away.
  3. Keep the destination in mind, and don’t overwork tasks. Make sure the project’s momentum keeps pulling you towards the end goal.

As an extra treat, take three minutes out of your day and enjoy a little Otis.

Thank you Erin Koehler, master illustrator with DOJO AGency.