A few weeks ago, my wife and I went down to Tampa, Florida. Going from gray and dreary Ohio in February to bright and sunny Florida is a treat !! We combined a trip around meeting HR peers as I spoke at an HR Tampa chapter dinner meeting. We decided to add a few days away and recharge our batteries to break the winter doldrums.
The time with the folks at the chapter meeting was a wonderful start to our trip. We had asked some people who visited Tampa often along with the locals for ideas of places to see and activities to do. Everyone was eager to give us suggestions of restaurants off the beaten path and small towns full of charm. One of those locations was Tarpon Springs, Florida. It’s a little over 30 miles northwest of Tampa and is nestled close to the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a kitschy little burg which has a center of town full of souvenir shops and Greek restaurants. You may wonder why a Florida town would have such a strong Greek presence, and that is its wonderful secret !!
Years and years ago Greek nationals traveled across the Atlantic to settle and work in Tarpon Springs because they could “fish” for sponges. Yes, sponges. Most people don’t realize or know that sponges are living organisms anchored to the ocean floor. They act as filters, shelters, and homes for various creatures. Just like the sponges you have around your house, these really can be used to absorb liquid and clean surfaces. The difference with these beauties is that they come in various shapes, sizes, and types. My wife and I learned about so many different types of sponges we never knew existed.
As unabashed tourists, we meandered and tarried through every single store. We took our time and looked at the rows and shelves full of tchotchkes and sponges. There was so much to consider and take in and we weren’t sure which one would be “just right” for us to take home. My wife was keen on finding a Vase Sponge. After an incredible Greek lunch at Costas (you MUST try this place if you’re ever in Tarpon Springs !!), we worked our way to a few final shops and we found what we had been seeking. We picked up a magnificent sponge and took it home with us.
We weren’t sure where to display this spectacular creation of nature, but then it found its way to our coffee table in our family room. It grabs and holds your attention the moment you enter the room. There are countless nooks and crannies throughout. It has a defined pattern that builds upon itself and you can almost picture it sitting in water even though it is now on dry land.
I really enjoy having the sponge in our house as a visible reminder. The reminder is that everyone, including myself, should be a sponge themselves that is constantly seeking to take in new information, perspectives, and learning.
There used to be a strong movement for people to choose to be lifelong learners which captured the focus of learning and development initiatives. It had a spark and energy behind it and many organizations and HR pros put together efforts for this to occur. Like most initiatives, it lost steam and couldn’t be sustainable. That’s a shame because it’s more than an aspirational desire.
Being spongy and learning helps us to remain sharp, current, and relevant. If we only stick with the knowledge and experience we currently possess, then we actually become stagnant and stuck. Why would you want that to be how you approach work and life?
This week get out of the tarpit you find yourself in and read a book, listen to a podcast, read some blogs, attend a webinar or plan to go to a conference. See what is floating and flowing all around you. Then, be a sponge to take in all you learn and absorb it so you can grow yourself and help your organization move forward. You’ll be surprised how much you can take in !!