Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash

When the Flood Waters Rise, Will You Sink or Swim?

Everything changed overnight for Damon Redd.

Redd woke up one morning, ambled downstairs, and found his first floor and home business under six feet of water and mud. Who could have anticipated a hundred-year flood would wipe out his home, let alone an entire community? In Colorado of all places?

About the time Redd was wondering how he was going to salvage his home and business, the gut-wrenching recovery from my own workplace crisis was still fresh on my mind during the first year of my retirement in 2013.

Leading up to the flood, Redd had spent five painstaking years building his small business, and he witnessed all his efforts washed away in the span of a few hours. He was frantic. His friends and family dropped everything at the news, and some traveled great distances to help Redd recover what he could.

Humbled by the support he felt, Redd fired off a Facebook post sharing his heart and a new outdoor clothing line he’d been working on before the flood. The post went viral, and Redd eventually sold enough product to save the entire company. His emotional triumph over the disaster reset Redd’s outlook: “I can now say that the flood was the best thing that ever happened to the company.”

I interrupt Redd’s story here because there’s a difference between allowing yourself to sink with the circumstances and starting to paddle like mad. I’m not saying it’s an easy choice. By humbly and candidly reaching out in the way Redd did, he showed a side of himself that resonated with people and that ultimately informed and sustained his future business philosophy.

I can relate to Redd’s experience. If not for the actions of the Prologis board, which asked me to take on a critical leadership role when the company was at its greatest need, I might never have experienced all that could be learned. This turbulent journey taught me the value of reaching out to others with transparency and sharing gratitude when solid ground is in sight. Allow me to explain:

Making a choice to sink or swim

As a leader, there’s a tendency to feel as if you must have all the answers and be the ultimate go-to person in your company. Yet it’s not until you openly look around you for collaborative decision-making that you experience the true potential of your team.

I often speak about one of the many turning points in my career when instead of feigning confidence, like many of us are tempted to do, I put my cards on the table and told my team that I needed their help. Looking back, I guess you could call this a sink-or-swim moment. If you’re going to swim, you need to reach out and move your arms. In that critical meeting, I decided the best way to swim was to reach out to my teammates and start paddling.

Allowing gratitude to fuel your resolve

Choosing to swim in troubled waters is only the first step. The question becomes “What will you do with the gratitude you feel when people have thrown you a life preserver?” Redd discovered a fierce appreciation for the people in his life who came to his aid when he needed them. Redd’s newfound emotions prompted him to redirect his company’s focus to be more on people and the customer experience and less on pushing paper.

When you survive an unforeseen event, you have a much greater sensitivity to others when they find themselves in a similar situation. Redd’s new mindset meant that he became an integral part of his community after the flood. He looked for ways that he and his company could contribute.

Never miss a post about leadership, transparency, and trust by signing up for my weekly mailing list, delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here.

Similarly, reaching out to each of the communities where Prologis had an office during the Great Recession became a source of immense connection and satisfaction for our employees. Somehow mending our communities by rolling up our collective sleeves reinforced our gratitude for what was possible within the company and fueled our resolve.

It’s often hard to see that our potential for resilience is rooted in humility and gratitude when we’re in the middle of a setback or experiencing a challenge. If you can lean into the humanity you share with others and look for what can be learned from each moment, gratitude takes hold. You begin to see life through a lens of what’s possible—a perspective that will take you to new heights if you let it.


  1. Viki Mann

    As Dory said in Finding Nemo, “Just Keep Swimming…Swimming…Swimming”. The mantra for my life after my ProLogis layoff in Feb 2009. I can’t say it was the best thing that happened to me, but it gave a new direction and ultimately a new career.

    Reply to Viki Mann

Leave a Comment on This Post

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *