There’s always another layer

Silent water runs fast. This is not a game of “spot the difference” – even if your mind is probably annoyed that something is not right about the proverb I’ve referred to. The original, well-known one is “still waters run deep”, but combining my observations with a good old google-search got me giggling. There’s always another layer.

Let’s get back into the bush. To my local bush and creek. Yes – as I’m currently traveling, you may soon start getting travel-inspired insights, instead of being stuck with me in nature. Anyway, back to the story.

As some of you may know, we had the wettest summer ever in Sydney this year. Some weeks my usual bush trail was closed off, and after weekends without the usual exploration, I was always curious to see what would meet my eye. New trees that had fallen, the trail having morphed into new shapes.

And I was not disappointed that Saturday morning. Mini waterfalls everywhere. On the trail. Beautiful to watch, but what suddenly caught my attention were the sounds. Or more specifically, the lack of sounds.

Most of the passages made no sound. Litres of water passing every second, without a sound. And then: one steep drop. One passage where the water left the ground, jumping into free air before it fell to the ground and continued its journey. Aha – at that point, I finally got the expected sound of water.

My mind instantly compared to the beach where I had spent some mornings the week prior – probably the first sunny, warm weekend this summer. The constant sound of the waves. Water moving. Lots of water. But only when the waves break, you get the sound. Not while they’re rolling along at sea.

And now the same contrast as I observed the mini waterfalls on my usual trail. Most of them had no sound at all. Even if they were carrying litres of water per second.

This leads us to the original proverb of “still waters run deep”. Which is understood as people you meet having more than meets the eye, whether in deep meaningful conversation or in passions hiding underneath the surface.

I purposely noted it down as “silent water runs fast” that morning on my phone – and only as I was finalising this blog at the computer weeks later, did I google a bit and found the possible original source of the proverb:

It may be traced to Rome in the first century as “the deepest rivers flow with the least sound”. Hahaaaa…. There it was! Going back to a different source, tracing back another meaning of what had been presented to me, unveiled exactly the meaning that made sense in that moment on the bush trail. Adding more speed and movement. That silent water runs fast.

Tonnes of water can flow without making a sound.

The more we can make our business and life smooth sailing – the more we can be the calm water flowing with tonnes of water. The stronger results we can create – without too much fuss.

And yes, raging rivers and breaking waves are exciting and breath-taking. But it’s OK to balance the moments of madness, the rip, the fall, the wild water rafting going on for a bit with calmer waters and quiet achievement.

The sound and the madness can be fun and makes us feel alive because we’re achieving crazy stuff. Remember to create structures, systems, processes, and empowered teams who can move tonnes of water per minute – even if the only noise you notice are lots of smiles and laughs.

PS.: Also remember to go back to the source. To check what we base our assumptions on. Whether it’s relating to our business, our leadership, a conversation, running water, or good old proverbs. There’s always another layer.