Over the Thanksgiving weekend our family took a short trip to the beach. The kids were getting restless, Jeanie and I were running out of amusements, and we all needed some fresh air.
We parked the car and walked 200 feet or so over the dunes to the ocean. After a few feet, one of our kids spotted a shell sitting on the path. "Look! A shell! Cool!" Everyone gathered around to see this unique and wonderful ornament of the beach. It was a bit dirty and cracked in half, but it was the first shell of the trip. The kids ran down the path, excited to see what else they would find.
As we approached the shore, they began to realize that the sand they were walking on was entirely covered in shells. Shells were literally everywhere.
As this realization dawned on them, guess what happened? The kids lost all interest in most of the shells. Oh, they spent 30 minutes or so combing the shore, but they passed over hundreds if not thousands of shells far prettier than the one they had discovered on the path. The only shells that attracted their attention were the ones that looked markedly different than the rest.
The episode stuck with me. Does it speak to our inability to see the precious right in front of us? Or how easily the novel becomes boring? Or how quickly we can take beauty for granted?
It probably speaks to all of those things. But I can't help but think that it is a quick lesson in strategy, too. Our organizations spend a great deal of time trying to keep up with everyone else, when most of the time imitation is the quickest way to blend into the beach. If you want to get picked up, you have to be willing to be different.