Life lessons

Lessons on resiliency from a sailboat

My husband Kam and I recently spent three weeks sailing the BC coast. The weeks leading up were a test of will power and resilience. Many times the boat almost stayed docked. In the end, we stayed the course and set off into the sunshine.

Part of the trip was a stop at Hollyhock, Cortes Island for the Social Venture Institute conference. After a week at sea with just me and Kam, my legs hit land and 150 bright business people for five days of leadership development. I had the pleasure of leading a Resilient Leadership workshop that focused on helping leaders stay strong and calm no matter what came their way.

Living on a 28-foot boat with my husband, at the mercy of Mother Nature, I learned a lot about leadership. Here are my top three lessons, relevant to business and life.

 

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The forecast doesn’t call the shots. You do.

Every hour was a question of what the weather would do. It’s like trying to see the future, mixed in with the expectation of what we wanted it to do. Sunny skies and light winds are great, but no amount of wishing is going to push that storm away. Much of decision-making is based on forecasting, but when you’re still anchored and the hours are ticking, you’re just wasting time talking about the weather. Make a choice with what you got, put on your raincoat, and be in the moment.

Stay calm, stay clear.

There are so many things that can happen in a given moment. On a sailboat that means the wind can switch, just like that. And at the same time your line hooks a fish and a powerboat zips by. If I got flustered and reacted, something always went wrong. Your ability to stay calm allows you to stay clear. It’s easy to let multiple demands create urgency in you. That drama only clouds your choices. Pause and breathe. You’ll see with practice that urgencies usually aren’t emergencies and you have more choice that you think.

Go back to what matters.

When we sailed off for the last leg of our trip, the weather was relentless. Strong headwinds, big waves, and white caps on the ocean. My hands were gripping tight to the safety lines, eyes to the horizon hoping not to lose my lunch. We both wanted to come home on time, but Mother Nature had other plans. I looked at Kam and we made the easy – and hard – choice to turn around. Some things aren’t worth it because other things are. What mattered is that we were together and safe. When you hit storms, remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. Go back to what matters.

Looking forward to the next adventures. Thanks for reading.