Lessons I Learned This Past Week While Captaining A 90 Ft. Yacht

I’m writing this blog from the water. 50 miles offshore, to be exact. We -my partner and I- were asked to fill two spots of a 4-person team that would bring a 90 ft. yacht from NY to Ft. Lauderdale. We (obviously) said yes.

We love adventure so we’ve been looking forward to this for months. Now, here we are out to sea along the length of the East Coast for 10 days and 10 nights. Individually and collectively, we’ve been on or near boats all our lives but nothing like this. Typically, we have always been within swimming distance from shore. But not this time. This time we can’t even see land, and except for the occasional passer-by vessel, we’ve seen very few other boats. Literally, like ships passing in the night.

As happens often in my life, my experiences turn into a blog post. With a great deal of time to think on the water as I’ve been keeping watch at the helm, I began listing out all the things that make this adventure similar to the exciting, and sometimes scary, adventure of running a successful business.

Maybe at least one of the lessons I’ve been thinking about can help you in your business:

  1. All the planning you do can’t fully prepare you for what lies ahead. You can read books, you can pack well, you can talk to others about their experience, you can create a plan, but what’s ahead will be completely unique to you.
  2. The fantasy is often very different than the reality. Day in, day out; the grind continues. Each day we wake up, it’s more of the same. More ocean. More waves. In a hopeful entrepreneur’s mind, it’s glamorous to start a business. Make your own schedule, write your own paycheck, be the one who gets to make all the decisions… but then reality sets in and it’s a whole lot different than how you played business ownership in your mind.
  3. The sun always shines, even after the darkest night. While on this journey, we’ve had a few really rough nights. The kind where you play out in your mind how you’ll survive capsizing. No matter how dark of a time you are in your business right now, the sun will shine again.
  4. Sometimes you just have to trust that land is still there, even if you can’t see it. It’s scary to realize you and the other 3 on the boat with you are all alone. Alone on an ocean that’s 100 ft. deep, teeming with sharks and all kinds of sea life. But, steady ground is there… somewhere.
  5. Storms are inevitable; and they are relentless. For the first 5 days of the voyage we were in 8-15 ft. swells. And it sucked. It sucked because the waves just.kept.coming. Nothing we could do would make them stop. Similarly, sometimes in business it just feels like you can’t catch a break.
  6. Those storms can crush you, or make you stronger. Our captain told us the story of another crew member from a previous voyage who panicked. Five days in she demanded to get off the boat. It wasn’t possible without great expense to the other crew. So she locked herself in her room for the duration of the journey. She had a choice in that moment, and she chose to let the seas crush her.
  7. Some days the best you can do is just care for yourself. On the days where being underway is more than you can handle and you’re about to lose your cookies, you have to focus on you. Now’s not the time to be the hero. In these moments, you must just put one foot in front of the other, knowing and giving yourself exactly what you need.
  8. It takes a team to accomplish a big goal. Can our captain do this journey alone? Most likely yes, because he’s an experienced mariner, but is that the best choice? Absolutely not. There is strength in numbers. Form a trusted team around you and lean into them.
  9. Sometimes the only way out is through the storm. This is a hard reality that I wish were different, but it’s not. There will be times where you have to batten down the hatches and hold on for dear life.
  10. The navigation system becomes your very good friend. At night, or in times of storm, the only way you can see what’s ahead is by looking at the radar and navigation system. You have to have complete faith that they will tell you exactly what you need to know. In business, it’s of utmost importance to create a plan and just work the plan, one day at a time. Also, start working with a business coach… they will see things that you just can’t see.
  11. The most exciting parts of the voyage are often the beginning and end. Our journey started on the Hudson River in New York City. We got to cruise past the Statue of Liberty and we felt like a million bucks, ready for anything this trip was going to throw at us. We were snapping pics, sipping on a cocktail, and giving knowing looks of approval to each other that we are some of the few who “get” to do this. One day in, my how the story changed.
  12. When an emergency situation comes, you drop what you are doing and respond to “all hands on deck”. Nothing matters in distress except the safety of the crew on board. If you’re in the middle of cooking dinner, you stop. If you’re sleeping, you wake up. Everything other than your well-being takes a back seat.
  13. You can only control what you can control. Mother Nature is an incredibly powerful force. And water is one of her tools that can’t even begin to be controlled. The vessel we are on weighs 160 tons. And the waves push it around like a plastic toy boat. Bouncing up and down like Styrofoam bobber. In business, you can’t control any outside things that happen to you, but you can control how you respond to them.
  14. The power of waves is no respecter of persons. Our captain has cruised all over the world for the last 35 years. He is an experienced mariner in every sense of the word. But, when we are being tossed around like a piece of paper in the wind, he walks on the boat no better than us. We all look like drunk babies. No matter if you’ve been in business 1 month or 20 years, there will be days when the waves feel overbearing.
  15. It’s often very lonely 50 miles out. It doesn’t take long on the water to start missing the comforts, security, and familiarity of home. We always say that business ownership is often the loneliest place to be. It’s important to find a few trusted people who can be “in it” with you.
  16. Even when it’s monotonous, it’s helpful to remind yourself that not many people get to do this. We’ve pinched ourselves many times to make sure this is real, but just as many times, we’ve wondered when it will be over. Lots of people would LOVE to own their own business, but not many are willing to sacrifice what it takes to build a successful company.
  17. You’ll have good days that will make you rethink everything. When the seas are calm, the sun is shining, the fish are jumping, you can actually walk around the boat without getting thrown into the walls, you begin to think… “I could get used to this.”
  18. And finally, sometimes you just realize that maybe you’re not cut out for a life at sea. There is no shame in coming to the realization that sea life, or business ownership, just isn’t for you. You are in the world for a big purpose. Maybe you just need to keep looking until you find it.



2 COMMENTS

Sherry Smith2017-11-07 08:58:40

Julie you continue to amaze me with your knowledge and wisdom. I have always thought you are a completely awesome individual. I believe that you and Stacey are an unstoppable team - both cut from the same cloth. Love you both.

    321go2017-11-13 07:25:17

    Thanks so much, Sherry! Stacey and Julie think pretty highly of you as well!! :)




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