“I've taken you as far as I can, Jeremy. There is nothing more I can teach you.”
It was a bittersweet moment.
Bitter, because I knew we had reached the end of the road. And sweet, because that had been the goal all the while.
After working with Jeremy for five years, I had taken him from knowing nothing about the saxophone to being able to create his own music.
It was our last music lesson and by far the most memorable, for it marked Jeremy’s arrival at a new shore—the threshold of a journey previously unavailable to him—empowered to set sail from that shore to forge his own path forward.
But none of this was on my mind when I found myself on a literal shore many years later.
It was early in the morning and I had just jumped into the cool Wisconsin lake, when I quickly abandoned the swim to instead sit on the shore. I chose the safety of the shore because I was alone, and should I have had an accident, there would have been no one there to help.
It wasn’t so much a concern for my own safety. After all, just a week earlier I had jumped out of an airplane—and anyone who fears for their safety wouldn’t dare exit a perfectly good plane from 14,000 feet up in the air.
Rather, my concern was for the owners of the property. Canoe Bay is a beautiful place, and a dead body can be bad for business. So since no one else was around, I contented myself sitting on the shore.
And it was on that Wisconsin shore that a powerful reflection question presented itself:
“What else am I sitting on the shore of?”
If someone was there with me, I would have happily swum in the lake—just as I had happily jumped out of the airplane strapped to Chris Dunbar, who had made that same jump thousands of times.
“What else in life am I sitting on the shore of because I don’t have someone with me to show me the way?”
Sitting on that shore, within that context, became a valued mirror to help me see what I had been overlooking, and everything became suddenly clear—because I already knew the answer.
No matter the sport, no team takes the field alone. Rather, they have a coach with prior knowledge and experience that empowers them to offer timely advice and welcomed encouragement for the journey ahead. After all, the players on the field are too close to the field to see the bigger picture, which is where the true value of a coach is found—providing a mirror to reflect back what they are not able to see themselves.
Just as a sports team doesn’t have to take the field alone, so too can we benefit from worthy coaches, guides, and mentors who know the way, go the way, and show the way—just as I had done for Jeremy all those years before to help bring him to his own new shore.
“What else am I sitting on the shore of?” I already knew the answer, and today that shore is miles and years passed me because I sought the guidance of mentors to help guide the journey to become an educator, facilitator, and keynote speaker. Sitting alone on that shore, I didn’t know how to do this, but I did know the first step: find someone who did.
And it turned out that the mentor I sought was someone I already knew, John Brady, founder of Protem Partners—a reminder that sometimes we needn’t look far for the guidance we seek.
In the years since, I’ve had many more mentors—including John Maxwell, Rick Forgay, Dr. Larry Hass, Jeff McBride, and the faculty of Purdue University’s Learning Design and Technology Department, just to name a few. Each person opened up their unique reservoir of wisdom to help further guide my growth and development, bringing me to new shores available only to those willing to leave the safety of the known for a chance at the opportunity of the yet-to-be-discovered.
Sitting on the shore that day in Wisconsin put up a mirror to reflect what I was holding back on—empowering me to set sail on a new journey of discovery.
It was a bittersweet moment.
Bitter, because it meant taking a risk. And sweet, because in the words of T.S. Eliot: “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
What are you sitting on the shore of? What are you not doing today because you don’t have someone to show you the way?
Jonas Cain, M.Ed. is a storyteller, magician, musician, and facilitator of fascination on a mission to help you experience abiding joy.