I saw this in a daily devotion from 2014.
Some years ago, three hundred whales were found marooned on a beach. Scientists speculated that the whales had been chasing sardines and became trapped in shallow water when the tide went out. Now, that’s an amazing thing. By chasing little sardines, these gigantic creatures were ultimately led to their doom.
This can be applied to each of our lives. Throughout our working years we often chase the sardines of a pay raise, promotion, and awards. We can chase the sardines in other areas such as sports trophies and awards at the adult softball league or something similar. We can chase sardines in almost any areas of our lives and not paying attention to the bigger picture. Most of the time our pursuit of the sardines is for our own ego or to impress people whose opinion really doesn't matter in the long term. The ones that matter are our friends and family. They are the ones that surround us long after the working life or softball career are long over.
I got caught up a little in my career of chasing the promotion sardines. I took on extra tasks and responsibilities to prove that I was ready for the next level. I moved my family a few times in pursuit of the sardines. The move for my first promotion was from Ft Worth to Oklahoma City and still not too far from family and didn't affect us too much. The second move was to St. Louis and put us at least a 9 hour drive from family. This move was the one that made me realize that I was chasing sardines. I enjoyed the job, but the stress of being that far away from the things that were important to us was too much. When I looked ahead at where the sardines would be next, the next promotion would have more than likely taken me even further away and demanded more of my time. My wife and I made the decision to backtrack a little and we were lucky that I was able to move back to Oklahoma City where I spent the rest of my career and now we are enjoying our grown kids and granddaughter in retirement. The move back was tough on the ego but quickly became one of the best career decisions in the end. I wound up getting promoted again and had a very fulfilling career on that track.
Looking back, if I had continued to chase the promotional sardines, I would have likely ended up in a high cost area that would have eaten up most of the pay raise and I would have put my family in another new place with no friends or family to rely on. I would have added a few dollars to my monthly pension, but certainly not enough to make up for the hassle of moving across country and stressing us all out.
Sometimes we all need to chase sardines so that we can eat, much like the whales above. We just need to make sure we are aware of the surroundings as we do so. As long as it is in the deeper water, with a real purpose and without danger to ourselves or others. The problem comes when we focus so much on the sardines that we don't realize what is going on around us and all of sudden we find ourselves trapped and in trouble.
When I think about things that people focus on to the detriment of other people or things, many come to mind. Some people will sacrifice everything to be the best. People will hurt others to climb the corporate ladder. People will sacrifice everything to be the best gymnast, best golfer, best basketball player, etc. I'm all for being great at something, but sometimes it has it's toll. Simone Biles recently had emotional issues and she is a gold medal gymnast. Another gold medal winner, Michael Phelps, has spoken about the emotional toll he has faced. Both are good examples of chasing sardines but paying a price. They worked and sacrificed for years to get a gold medal and now are both probably thinking about the things they missed when they were practicing 8 hours a day, 7 days a week.
There is nothing wrong to being committed to something or being committed to getting better at something. Balance is the key.
Have you chased sardines to the point it got you into shallow water? What was your mindset at the time vs what it is now? Do you think we chase fewer sardines as we get older and wiser?