The official start of the 2012 sailing season was recognized by an opening reception at the Royal Lake of the Woods Yacht Club this past weekend. The outgoing Commodore, a former Olympic sailing champion, began with an announcement that the scheduled race for that day had been canceled due to “lack of wind”. It would run tomorrow, he said.
What is “lack of wind” I pondered? And how interesting that only a day earlier I had had a session with a business coach on this very subject.
The coach has senior execs, entrepreneurs and athletes as clients (some of whom he has helped make a come back after serious injury). During our session I was feeling frustrated because while most things seemed to be in place in my business, I was having trouble due to a “lack of wind”. “How are you defining wind Elizabeth?” he asked. This was a very interesting question and I examined my sailing roots for the answer.
When I was young every Saturday morning in the summer my father would wake my brother and I for the sailing race at the Royal Lake of the Woods Yacht Club; “feet on the floor” he would bellow and my brother and I would groan. It took an hour to ready the Lightning (that was the class of boat we sailed in those days) and 45 minutes to tow it to the Yacht Club. We would untangle the halyards, fold all the sails, and bail the boat (every drop had to be sponged out as my father inspected). Some days there appeared to be no wind but to my father this was a light wind day and to him that was an advantage since he had a “light wind crew”. I can remember on one occasion a dozen Lightnings lined up with their crews on the starting line when there was no wind. My father whispered to my brother and I “wait for it….ah there’s a puff” as we drifted another couple of feet. My brother rolled his eyes in absolute boredom because as far as he was concerned my father was making up “the puff” and we were in for a long race.
It occurred to me that to the successful Olympic sailor who has sailed and competed in high winds and to the accomplished entrepreneur who has battled a competitive marketplace and won, starting again in either career can be difficult as the vision that once provided competitive advantage no longer serves as an advantage in a re-start. The problem is in the definition of “wind”. This needs to change.
To my father the “lack of wind” was not important. In fact he never even noticed it. It was all about being in the sailboat, being in the race, and being a sailor. That is what mattered. You see a sailor sails, just as an entrepreneur creates a business. The important thing is that you are in the game and ready for when the real winds of opportunity come because if you think there’s not enough wind to start you might never get started. And, if you never get started you will indeed remain in the doldrums.