“Some people, I saw, had drowned right away, and some people were drowning in slow motion, drowning a little bit at a time, and would be drowning for years. And some people had always been drowning, they just didn’t know what to call it until now.”

Sara Gran


Drowning. Another way to think about drowning is that relentless sense of something missing. Or maybe it’s a constant sense of a lack of purpose. Or maybe it’s a sense of directionlessness. Or maybe it’s a nagging sense of worthlessness. Or maybe its just a sense of helplessness in life. Suffice it to say this constant sense of drowning is a helpless feeling when day after day after day passes by.

Oh. And that first time you drown. Yeah. Drowning for years almost always has a beginning point. I am sure some psychologist could rummage around in everyone’s drowning past and come up with some “oh, this is kind of what the issue is” but for most everyday people there is no psychologist to point at anything and for most everyday people it is just a nagging sense of drowning and a constant reminder that if you don’t work at swimming, or treading water, you can drown many times in Life & business.

That’s the thing with Life <and much of business>.

Circling back to that first time thought, the reason why drowning can occur for years is that this kind of drowning rarely kills you in Life.

It really only kills the moment, the ‘thing’, the feeling, the opportunity, the whatever. So ‘the first time’ just feels like an unfortunate occurrence, not reflective of some larger underlying issue.


While drowning sucks let me tell you why it sucks so much.

Moments, ‘things’, feelings, opportunities, the possibilities die fast … like in the blink of an eye. In a blink of an eye what was possible simply disappears and is no longer possible.


“In the blink of an eye, what was possible is possible no longer.”

Nelika McDonald


Which leads me to drowning but not drowning.

“Drowning men, it is said, cling to wisps of straw.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky


You learn fairly early on that despite this blink of an eye timing we see the situation as drowning. This means we cling to wisps of straws that are not really there. And we call it drowning, but in reality, we are already ‘dead’ <with that opportunity>. Yeah. You have already drowned but you don’t know it yet. So you tread water, tray and swim, and cling onto any wisp of straw you can find. Part of this drowning is a horrible sense of something slipping away from you. One moment, or each moment, feels like it is all slipping away from you and there is really nothing you can do.  And, yet, you will cling to anything. Even wisps of straw hoping you can hold on to whatever it is that is slipping away. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that not all wisps of straw are created equal. Say for example amongst all this drowning you find something you are good at – like your work. At that point you cling onto that straw with an iron grip and actually overinvest energy making sure that wisp of straw is as robust as possible. Yeah. That kind of explains some versions of being a workaholic but that’s a different post.

Which leads me to general expectations.

“Sooner or later in life everyone discovers that perfect happiness is unrealizable, but there are few who pause to consider the antithesis: that perfect unhappiness is equally unattainable.”

Primo Levi

Drowning, generally speaking, carries with it a sense of unhappiness. Conversely, I imagine that means there is always a sense you cannot figure out what makes you happy (in a meaningful way, not in an indulgent way). And maybe that is why included the quote above. Maybe part of drowning is you are not one of the people who discover perfect happiness is not realizable, therefore, you begin to believe unhappiness is more easily attainable than it is. I would also note that unhappiness is, generally speaking, not of the moment but rather the thought about the moment. Yeah. Kind of expectations of the moment itself. I bring that up because while drowning, and drowning for years, is a real thing, how you set up your expectations matters. Drowning, at its core, is a sense grounded against some expectations – either your own or what you believe someone has for you. Expectations are the waters within which you tread, swim, or drown. So maybe the next time you grasp a straw, no matter how wispy, maybe see who values that wisp of straw because within that view you will most likely see a reflection of whatever expectations you have for yourself, life or career. Ponder.

Written by Bruce