5 Sailing Tips for Weathering the Storm

I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Len Sweet give a talk yesterday and here are some of the take-aways that I’m applying to the business world.

There’s an old African proverb that says: You’re either leaving a storm, heading into a storm or in the midst of a storm. And there’s no doubt that there are a lot of storms out there right now. So as we all navigate these waters in our vessels – whether they are cruise liners or pirate ships, – here are five things we should keep in mind:

1) Lift your anchor and launch into the deep. When storms come, it’s our natural reaction as humans to pull our ships into harbor and stay close to land. Screw that. Boats weren’t made to hug the harbor. And we all know that when a boat is up against the harbor and the big storm comes through, that boat gets smashed to smithereens. You’re much safer if you raise anchor and head out in the deep. So go.

2) When you’re out there and you see the storm, steer into it. Don’t try to go around it. Because you’ll never outrun it. The storm will come looking for you. So why not head right through the middle of it? That way, at least you know when and how you’re going to deal with it.

As a fascinating aside, (and something I’ve seen first-hand from growing up on a cattle ranch) is that when cows are faced with a storm, they disperse and try to hide from it. But buffalo stick together and take on a group wedge-like formation to hunker down and let the storm pass right over them. And you guessed it, there are way more cattle that are killed each year by storms than bison (per capita).

3) Get rid of the excess cargo. I know it’s hard, but go on. Throw it overboard. This can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but I interpret it as getting back to basics. In storms like this, I really think the companies that specialize will be better off than those companies and agencies that are “full-service.” When we get rid of all that extra crap that’s making the boat roll and pitch violently, we have a better chance of righting the ship.

4) Lash yourself to the mast. Cling to who and what you believe in. And don’t let go for all you’re worth. Back in the day, when a ship was faced with a really bad storm, they tied the captain to the mast so he wouldn’t be washed overboard. In a worse storm, they’d tie the crew to the mast. And ultimately, they tie the passengers to the mast.

5) Enjoy the ride. It might sound trite, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And despite all that’s swirling around us, we still live in one of the most amazing times in history. We will all remember these days and have stories to tell after the ship is righted and the skies clear. So work hard. But have fun, too. If you’re not, then what’s the point?

This didn’t make it into my list, but it’s worth saying: Don’t complain about the weather. It is what it is. And you’re not going to change the weather by complaining about it. So don’t. Deal with it. And move on.

Good sailing, my friends.

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