“Rather than waste time irritated with “supposed to” or “should,” why not spot your own buoy and keep yourself on track?”— Misti Burmeister

How many times have you waited for someone you thought was responsible for your success, only to find out they were busy with their own? Or not equipped to help you? I’ve done it, and I can tell you, it’s a waste of time.

I woke up at 3 a.m. with nervous energy on the day of the swimming event. At first, I couldn’t figure out why I was so nervous. “I’m an athlete,” I told myself, “This is just another event.”

Just 15 weeks before, I had taken my first swim lesson ever. Inspired by the mission of Swim Across America, and wanting to learn a sport that might help my hip, I signed up for a 3-mile open water swim event.

Now that it was just moments before the start, my nerves were jumping all over the place. Thankfully, Kevin, a good friend, hero, cancer survivor, and beneficiary of the Swim Across America Lab here in Baltimore, asked if I’d like to have him as my angel during the first mile.


When the race started, Kevin navigated my path through the course. As long as he was beside me, I knew I was headed in the right direction. At the end of the first mile, Kevin took his cap and goggles off, and said, “You’re on your own now. Be sure you spot often.”

As I headed back out for my second loop, I thought I was very focused on spotting that yellow floaty-thing (a.k.a., the buoy), but whenever I looked up, it didn’t seem to be getting any closer. Soon, one of the many kayakers along the course came over and redirected me. I had swum way off to the right.

It took several kayakers to get back on course, and the next thing I knew, a stand-up paddle boarder floated up to me. “Are you going to guide me?” I asked her.

“Yep. I’ll stay to your right.”

I was so grateful – and relieved – to have someone guide me. But when I looked up only a few strokes later, she was gone.

Not wanting to waste energy looking for her, I spotted my next turning point and headed in that direction. Several minutes later, my paddle-boarding buddy re-appeared. She mumbled something about leaving her station and promised to stay with me until I completed the course.

Off we went in pursuit of the next buoy, when a giant something hit me right in my head. Terrified and in pain, I blurted out three F-bombs in a row and looked up to find my paddle-boarding buddy staring down at me.

I had swum right into the back of her board.

“Are you okay? Do you need help?” she asked.

“I’m fine,” I said. “Is that my next marker?”


“Good. I’ve got this,” I said, hoping she wouldn’t follow me.

Rather than allow myself to stay irritated with her inability to maneuver that thing, I refocused on putting one arm in front of the other and just swimming.

When I finally finished my second mile, there stood Kevin, my angel.

“Would you like some help spotting on this last mile?” he asked.

“Please,” I said gratefully.

I must have swum into his legs at least 12 dozen times on that last mile, but finally we reached that last 200 meter mark.

With every ounce of energy left in me, I sprinted to the finish line, ran out of the water, and immediately tripped and fell. I heard something about “not having my land legs back yet” as I jumped up and hugged Kevin, Marci, Annie, and many others who had played a big part in my journey.

As I was walking to my car, a voice called out, “Was that you?” Before I could answer, she said, “Yep, that was you that ran into my board.”

I immediately apologized for my profanity and then pointed to the fake tattoo on my left arm that read: “Rookie.”

Really? I thought. She was supposed to have helped me, and instead she let me slam right into her board.

A part of me wanted to yell at her for not knowing how to maneuver her paddleboard effectively, and I was annoyed that a novice paddle boarder was put in charge of my success and safety.

When my adrenaline rush wore off, I realized it was never her job to ensure my success. Finishing the swim was 100 percent my responsibility, and every bit of support I got was an added bonus.

If I had allowed myself to get distracted by what I thought she was supposed to do to help me succeed, I might not have completed the race. Finger pointing never helps us achieve our goals.

Rather than waste time irritated with “supposed to” or “should,” why not spot your own buoy and keep yourself on track?

JOIN THE CONVERSATION – Have you ever been irritated by someone’s lack of follow through on their job, or role in your success? What did you do?

Thanks to Gillycuddy and Dexter Britain for their music contribution and LN Lurie for producing this podcast.

[iframe style=”border:none” src=”https://html5-player.libsyn.com/embed/episode/id/3095455/height/100/width/480/thumbnail/yes/theme/legacy” height=”100″ width=”480″ scrolling=”no” allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen oallowfullscreen msallowfullscreen]