Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

I snorkeled the cenotes of the Yucatán, and inside the cave, I contemplate the value of guides and mentors. Anticipation and anxiety energized our small group as we traveled to push beyond our comfort zone. A cenote is a sinkhole formation resulting from the collapse of limestone. The underground rivers form a maze of caves and caverns. Our plan was to explore.

Swimming into unknown waters

Our guide was Charlie. Following his lead, we jumped into the crystal clear water of the cenote. The water glowed from the sunlight bouncing off the surrounding rock. As we entered the first cave, Charlie handed each of us a flashlight; an ominous reminder we were leaving the light and passing into an unknown world of darkness.

The darkness of the first cavern was breathtaking. Colonies of bats nestled into the ceiling in mesmerizing splendor. The rock formations sculpted nature’s power forming over thousands of years through the slow drip of calcium carbonate.

Photo by Joshua Sukoff on Unsplash

Snorkels and masks in hand, we swam further into the caverns. I witnessed another world. The underground water travels miles breaking down limestone, creating tubes and passageways. As we traversed the caves, the darkness engulfed us. No sunlight reached the caverns. Only the light of our flashlight guided the path.

Follow Charlie

Our instructions were clear. Follow our guide in a single file line. Charlie knew the way. Follow him. Stalactites hung from the ceiling. Stalagmites jetted up from the bottom. To navigate safely, we must follow the path of the person in front of you.

Follow the line

The complete and total darkness illuminated his instructions. As the river trail narrowed, we twisted and turned to navigate between the rocks. Watching for danger both above and below the water was not possible. The safest, concussion-free route was to follow the path of the person in front of me.

The value of a guide

Snorkeling the cenote reminds me of the value of a mentor and a guide. Throughout our lives, we swim into unknown waters. We take on a new project, job, business idea, or relationship. Fear consumes us. Anxiety stops us dead in our tracks. The fear of failure and the lack of certainty triggers apprehension. Like swimming in darkness, we move beyond our comfort zone.

You are not alone

Comfort returns when we recognize we do not have to go it alone. We can learn from the experience of others. Our unknown waters have been traveled before. Seek the guidance of those who came before you. Find a mentor who knows more than you.

Follow Charlie.

No matter what level of success we achieve, there is always someone faster, stronger, smarter, or wealthier than you. They are our guides.

Follow the path

Photo by Lili Popper on Unsplash

No matter your goal, identify one who can show you the way. Study their success. What made them great? What steps did they take? Seek out success stories. Copy them. Retrace their steps and replicate their actions.

We are never alone. Reach out. Ask questions.

Listen.

Learn.

Never fear swimming in unknown waters. Follow the path of those who swam before you.