Mark Twain 1905 - Wikimedia Commons

Mark Twain said, “A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.”  Experience is a great teacher.  I hold a special reverence for the unexpected experiences in life.  Like Twain’s cat, they can teach us a lot.

I recently attended an event where the attendees were encouraged to be intentional in their actions.  One of the activities involved a series of decision-making tasks where we were urged to consider options, make a thoughtful decision and then act on it.  The result of all this decision-making divided the group into multiple sub-groups busily completing tasks.

One of the tasks involved a quick trip to an adjacent rock beach to stick your foot in the ocean.  Sounded simple.  I found myself accompanied by three others also seeking to complete this task.  Our proof of completion would be a cell phone photo of our feet submerged in the gentle tide.

Ocean Toe Challenge - P.Landreth

We found the beach even rockier than expected and the tide out.  We kept our shoes on until almost to the water and then slipped them off.  We took a few more steps toward the water and waited for a wave to reach us … none did.  Determined to complete the task, we decided to move over a bit and closer to the water.

We readied ourselves for a cold wave to lap over our feet and in the process snapped a practice photo.  Looking back, the practice photo was probably a good idea.  The wave that hit us not only covered our feet, but most of our thighs.  The next two waves hit us in rapid succession before we were able to recover and scramble over the rocks to safety.  We were soaked to our waists and beyond.

We never did get the feet-in-the-water shot. The laughter and a deep sense of accomplishment came as we dripped our way back. The experience we had had was not the one we expected, but it was the one we will never forget.

  • When was your last unexpected experience?
  • What did you learn from it?