Yesterday I experienced what it’s like to go against the flow. It provoked me to consider how hard it is to be the person in any situation who approaches things from a very different perspective. As I reflect on the experience I hope that I will now have more empathy and understanding for the experience of those who choose not to comply or conform and are equally convicted in their goals and approach them in a different way. Situation: A Blue Jays versus Boston Red Sox game had just completed in Toronto. The Jays had a big win. There was a mass exodus from the stadium to the train station as 1000’s of people made their way to the Go Train or subway. They were a powerful force decked out in Jays gear and high on a win. They were happily moving towards their goal – home.
I was too. However, I was going to the train station, trying to get to my gate. It was the opposite direction. It was me against them -- going against this mighty, powerful tribe of happy and purposeful fans. It was daunting.
In order for me to achieve my goal and get to my destination on time, I had to go against the flow. The experience provoked a number of responses and feelings. I put my head down and launched forward, making space wherever I could to get through. As I juggled my luggage, I ran over toes (not on purpose). However, survival of the fittest instincts had kicked in. I was on a mission to get to my train and was going to push forward.
At one point someone said with disdain “Why would anyone be going the opposite direction.” I was judged. I immediately got defensive and felt the impact of not being understood nor my perspective valued. The feelings came fast and were powerful.
At one point I had to cross the endless line of people and yet there was no break in the flow. I literally felt powerless and at a loss for what to do yet knew I couldn’t give up. However, in that moment I had to stop. There was simply no other option. I had to find a different way. I realized that in pushing forward I had lost my connection with people around me. So, I stopped and I started looking at people, seeing if I could catch the eye of someone. And it happened. Someone looked at me and I asked if I could cross. He stopped. As he did, the crowd slowed and realized the need to make space. I made it to my destination.
It’s that one small act of human connection that shifted the whole experience. A small act on the part of another; so powerful to be seen and my need understood.
Going against the flow can be draining. However, I realize that it is often fueled by great purpose and intent. It’s a sweet reminder that while complying with the majority may be easier, it doesn’t always serve in achieving goals nor is it the most creative way of getting things done.
If we value making things easy and going along to get along then going with the flow works. If we value creativity, innovation, powerful and purposeful intention then sometimes it’s important to go against the flow. My experience is a reminder to not lose connection with those around you. If you assume you are alone, you are. If, however, you look to see if others might be willing to engage and even help, you’ll have more resources available.