Kathy Buckworth Headshot

Don't Be a Lilly Dipper -- How to Get Ahead

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My son recently returned from spending a month away at camp, and was regaling me with stories of rugged outdoor activities, pranking counselors, and a much anticipated overnight canoe trip. "It was good", he said "Especially when the guy that was a Lilly Dipper fell in."

"A Lilly Dipper? What's that?" I asked. "It's when you just dip the paddle in and skim the surface without moving the water to push the canoe forward." He said.

Of course my "life as business metaphor" brain kicked in faster than a consultant on the breakthrough of a new geometric shaped flow chart. "I know some people like that," I said. And sadly, some of them have never been in a canoe.

We constantly come across people in our professional and personal lives who seemingly strive to move things forward for themselves; making grand plans and statements which often start with "One day" or "That's on my list." Yet the days go by and there's still no movement. Oh, they buy the paddle, and they can sit in the canoe, but they haven't stuck their oar fully in, to make the water actually move and to propel themselves forward.

As a writer, I often hear: "Wow, you're a writer? I'd like to be a writer. You're lucky."

I respond "You want to be a writer? Are you writing right now?"

And they (typically) answer, "No."

My response? "So how's that working out for you then?"

It's great to want to do something different or something the same, only better. But wanting repeatedly and not taking any action to get there is Lilly Dipping. It's taking part, but hoping that with minimal effort you'll just move along on the current of others doing the hard paddling. It never works. Also, as my 10-year-old son conveniently and metaphorically reacted to his own Lilly Dipping pal, people can find pleasure in watching you fail.

I know business acquaintances who get frustrated watching others figuratively paddle past them, while they tentatively Lilly Dip behind. But one of the great things about moving from Lilly Dipping to fully immersing your paddle is that you're so busy moving yourself forward, you don't have time to worry about who's in the same stream as you are.

So go ahead, dip that paddle in just a little bit further.