We are back on deck after a week in Las Vegas presenting our #bluegreen seminars and meeting sustainable business owners in our changemaker community at DEMA Show 2018. (Oh… the irony of doing ocean sustainability seminars in the desert.)

Like many of you who attended, I am suffering from separation anxiety from my wonderful ocean family; Adding to this is ‘Vegas Voice’ – a sore throat, and a strong urge to avoid communication of most kinds, allowing for deep rest and integration of all that I have seen, heard and learned.

We are like the ocean.
It’s times like this, after making major headway, that I remind myself we are all like the ocean. We ebb and we flow, and if we don’t honor the natural balance of going out into the world with a return to shore to rest, reflect and realign, we will be forever depleted, off course, and not serving our highest good. The power of pause may be the most powerful yet rarely-used tool for sustainable business owners and ocean changemakers. And this is how we know…

“The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Strong Headway this year.
Since DEMA 2017, our BON team has been way out in the world, bringing together key people in the dive and travel industry, talking with citizens and scientists about our common love of the coral reef, and our shared vision to become more sustainable to protect it. It was clear last year that the larger marine tourism industry wanted to learn how to better align the requirement to make a sustainable living with actions that create positive ripple effects in our communities and environment.

Getting answers to the big questions.
What are the issues affecting enterprise in this community? Who are the people on the sustainable business pathway? How can we apply lessons learned from their successes and failures? To get answers, BON covered three high-level Ocean Conferences this year to get clear on the broader issues. We shared our work and soaked up the results of the Green Bubbles 5-year EU Blue Economy initiative (presented at the International Scuba Diving Sustainability Workshop in Genoa); and in partnership with the Reef World Foundation and 4 awesome Sponsors. We created “How to Unlock the Ocean Conscious Business Model,” bringing the UN Green Fins approach to North America for the first time at DEMA 2018.  All this headway was in addition to the weekly research for the 46+ Ocean Updates we have compiled for this community this year.

Laurie 1st International Scuba Diving Sustainability Workshop genoa - Copy

BON Co-Founder Laurie J.Wilson presenting findings at the International Scuba Diving Sustainability Workshop in Genoa,  Italy. (Photo: Robert Frerck)

Confident about two things.
These forays all served to prepare us and our community for BON’s signature gathering:  Neatly aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) and the International Coral Reef Initiative’s  (ICRI) International Year of the Reef, we designed the Coral Reef Summit as a knowledge transfer and community building platform where people connected to coral restoration, the recreational dive industry and marine tourism, could learn, share, collaborate and thrive.

After a full year of interviewing, surveying, researching, creating, writing, presenting and partnering with business, academia, contributors and conservation organizations, I can confidently share two big take-aways here:
1.  We are all in choppy waters as our organizations make tentative moves towards sustainability;
2.  The dive industry as a whole is not quite ready to engage and collaborate at the level we had envisioned.

Observations on point #1:
Some of us are bobbing along in a fast-moving current, scanning the horizon for fair winds and sustainable seas, taking advantage of the opportunities that cross our path; some of us are pushing beyond the horizon with new ways of doing and being that are changing the course of business. Others who’ve been testing tactics in this uncharted territory are giving up when the response means a strong pushback to shore; a big group are tacking close to the mainland, tweaking standard operating procedures to manage new realities and; still others are in the weeds doing whatever they can to keep their organizations afloat. Some are collaborating, more are duking it out, others are trying to keep their heads out of the frey.

Realizations on point #2:
Without a critical mass of industry people setting clear intentions to embrace a sustainable mindset and associated behaviors, (a spectrum of which plays out in Point #1) it is a very challenging environment for BON to bring specific support that deeply serves our community in this moment.

Ocean Quote Andre Gide

“You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” ~ Andre Gide

There is no finger pointing here.
We are all on different parts of this journey. We are all explorers and we are setting our course as we go. One step can create unpredictability or be downright scary; and the next step can be exciting, with fulfilling opportunities for positive impact and sustainable revenues. But it’s hard to let go of old habits when your next move is not a sure thing. We tend to stick with what we know. What we are missing is what we are avoiding. (What might you be avoiding?)

Change is an inside job.
None of us is left unscathed by this tumultuous moment in history. Big or small, for-profit, non-profit, volunteer, academic, or cultural creative, we must take time out to revisit our mission, reevaluate our focus, re-calibrate our methods, let go of what no longer serves, and go to places we have been avoiding in order to face the unprecedented change happening right now. The ocean is a reflection of the collective state of our unconscious minds: We need to go deep within to address our deep-seated beliefs and our shadow that is running the show. We must remove these entanglements that are stopping us from making headway.

“The ocean is a reflection of the collective state of our unconscious minds.” ~ Laurie J. Wilson

More is not better, more is just more. 
The stark reality is … change is happening fast and we can’t add anything more to our plates to do better. Nor can we carry everything we’ve accumulated as we shoot these rapids. To avoid overwhelm, we must travel light. We are going to have to ditch some things. It may be an action, a project, a set of beliefs, a goal held dear, a longtime supplier, a team member, a customer, a partner, a promotion or an entire line of products. You may have a lot invested in your plans, and you may have to let some go. (And it’s going to be okay.)

Stop to make headway.
To make the right decision on the series of next steps, we must carve time to go within, review our trajectory, find the gaps, connect the dots, determine what works and what doesn’t, and release what is no longer in alignment with the journey before us. These pivot points don’t show up on December 31 or every quarter – they can rear up at anytime. We must heed their call. And the sooner the better. Busyness is our enemy. ‘Just do it’ may not be the thing to do.

The world is evolving and so must we.
Without giving ourselves time to stand back, review, release and reset next steps when we need to, we are merely rearranging the deck furniture on the Titanic.  Unfortunately, I see a lot of rearranging happening in every stakeholder group we work with.  Even for those of us in the business of change, we are being asked to step out of our business as usual – at oftentimes inopportune moments – to check our course, and free ourselves of an anchor (that may masquerade as a cornerstone of the business) that no longer connects us to a safe harbor, but is now holding us back from where we need to be.

“On a long journey even straw weighs heavy.” ~ Spanish Proverb (Photo: Adam Johnson)

Change is a moving target.
Here at BON, we had scheduled to have our signature summit in December, and we have decided to do something that honestly scares us a little, challenges us a lot, and requires us to take some bold action. And that bold action is to actually NOT hold the Coral Reef Summit. This event that served our community so well in the past is not presenting as the best thing to serve our community – right now.

This is not an easy decision. 
We have had generous, successful and insightful people set aside time and resources to partner with us on this journey, and we are asking them NOT to do this event.  With minimal promotion, we’ve attracted many attendees excited to join our online community, and we are already sorting out returns to honor their good will and enthusiasm.

We have grappled with the guilt of letting you all down.
But our experiences this year, and direct feedback from many of you are telling us it is time to call in our energy and apply our collective efforts and capabilities to something far more powerful for all of us. Total transparency: We can’t tell you now exactly what this is going to be.

“Learn to pause or nothing worthwhile will catch up with you.” ~ Don King

Creating Space for the Big Reveal.
We’ve cleared the last six weeks of this year to ask some deep questions and sit with the uncomfortable issues that this community has been wrestling with. We are actually excited for what will be revealed in this pause. Our goal is to shed the superfluous, travel light, and lean into the top 2 (or 3) ways our mission aligns with and supports your goals as a change-maker and sustainable business owner.

No throwing the baby out with the bathwater. 
Many of you have made it loud and clear what you love about the work we’ve doing – and the many ways it helps you. Thank you so much for your thoughtful (AND unsolicited!) comments. We just want to do it better. So if you can, please take a breather with us, as we pause to review lessons learned and integrate needed changes that serve fast-changing times.  It is so clear to us that we must slow down to speed up.

We are all in the same boat.
Perhaps our pause will inspire you to take your own inward retreat, revisit your mission and let go of that which no longer serves. Pause halts burn-out. It fills the well, and addresses anxiety. It brings forth the wisdom that was hidden by the noise. It frees up resources. It creates space to grow and makes time to catch up. And it is frowned upon in traditional business, where we lose our perceived value if we aren’t constantly doing.  Well guess what? This is not working!

Our value lies in attaining a higher state of consciousness.
We can’t get there by burning ourselves out. Let’s all take a moment to enjoy the ebb tide and kiss the shore. Slowing down allows us to connect to our higher states of wisdom and awareness. For those who are afraid to stop doing, applying the power of pause may be the most transformative tool we can ever use to guide us boldly forward.

So much Ocean Love,

Laurie & the Blue Ocean Team.