The sand swirls into your mouth, and the briny backwash of the tide swirls you around like a lost tooth. Half baked from blinding, mid-morning sunshine, and half-shrivelled from hours drifting across a lagoon, you push yourself up onto your knees.
You and a group of complete strangers are alone, washed up, marooned somewhere uncharted, perhaps hostile. Definitely not home.
And the next challenge is to figure out what you’re all going to do.
While the others stagger around, greeting each other, looking for scraps and snacks and eyeing the treeline with suspicion, you shutter your fingers against the glare. The harsh acridity of salt burns your mouth, but you think you see something.
A line of smoke, far away. Deep inside the tree line.
You haul yourself to your feet, swiveling your head right and left to see if anyone else sees it.
A couple of others do, but they go back to pulling starfish off floating crates, choked in nylon netting.
That night, as everyone pulls enough wood and lighters together to make a campfire, you tell them what you see. And you propose a plan.
Half of them believe you. Half don’t know if you can be trusted. Most are desperate to do anything. Everyone wants to feel safe.
The challenge is that no one else saw what you saw – the way you saw it. And if they did, they don’t know what to do about it.
This is the magic you bring as a leader. Direction. Belief. The opportunity to act.
How you handle it defines the kind of culture you create.
You could damn the doubters and strike out the next morning on your own, with a few supplies.
You could take a week getting to know people, building up trust and reserves.
Or any other number of ways.
Every human needs to believe and belong to something.
Sometimes, we just need someone else’s passion to ignite our own fire, and show us what to do with our passion.
Most of us default to doing nothing.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an extrovert or introvert. What matters is if you can communicate with clarity and conviction.
You could save everyone. Or at the very least, drive the next chapter.
Would you stand up and lead if you could? Do you feel held back? What’s holding you back?
I don’t know what it is about desert islands that just stirs the little kid in me. You?
I can’t count how many times I re-read ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ growing up, Ballantine, and ‘South Sea Adventure.’ Later, I binged ‘Black Sails,’ and ‘The I-Land’.
They all come back to the same idea, which is what this story is about; leadership. And your tribe.