Saturday, September 20, 2008


When I'm at sea, I look forward to listening in on what the rest of the world is doing while I'm away. Yesterday morning, my first mate Brett and I were below enjoying a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast when one of our crew tuned the short wave radio to the BBC. A half hour later, we were back in the cockpit with our feet up enjoying our second cup of coffee in the cool morning breeze. It was great. Until we found ourselves talking about what we had heard on the radio. Well, not really talking.

The U.S. Presidential elections again proved to me how easy it is to get distracted from what's truly important. Lipstick on a Pig, no matter how entertaining, will never get us to a World that Works. The issues are much bigger than the minutia political machines and entertainment centered news media keep pointing us to. I'd thought I was smarter than that. I'd prided myself in noticing the man behind the curtain. Yet, there I was raising my voice in anger at my best friend. Not a good example for the crew when the Captain goes nuts on his first mate.

If you run an organization, or ever aspire to, there are important lessons here. How many times have you been distracted from what you really want, from what is really important, to the point of forgetting why you took on the job of leadership to begin with?

Leadership is about taking other people on an extraordinary journey. One where we and our crew feel challenged, appreciated, and part of something meaningful. One where the crew willingly takes responsibility for the safety of the ship. It's about a journey toward fulfillment, and to reach our destination, it requires all of us, not just some of us.

As leaders, we need to point higher, think higher, be higher.

I was really angry with Brett's seeming non-supportive position. He wasn't agreeing with me just because I was the Captain. He questioned everything and his beliefs made no sense to me.

Fortunately, when I recognized how angry I was, I began to get above the anger and question what I was believing, consciously or unconsciously, that was causing my violent reaction. It wasn't immediately apparent - to me at least.

I had to work backward from the situation I found myself in: I was angry at my best friend, Brett, and I really didn't want to be around him. And on a 44 foot sailboat in the middle of the Pacific ocean, that's not a good thing.

When I looked inside myself, I realized that I was feeling powerless to affect the political situation back home. This unconscious limiting belief that I was Powerless put me automatically into survival, which brought me to the most primal instinct of all: fight or flight. I could go to attack or retreat. In that moment, I unconsciously chose attack. Many choose retreat or resignation.

Just as Lipstick on a Pig unconsciously triggers the conclusion in some that "This candidate is (you fill in the limiting belief)", Powerless led me to "I don't want to be around my best friend, Brett." It happened in an instant and it had nothing whatsoever to do with Brett, but he was the recipient of my anger.

How many of us go directly to anger or despair and never question why?

Fortunately, my anger, along with my good friend's patient listening, gave me the space to notice my situation and get back in touch with what really matters to me: People at Peace. Clearly I was not at Peace with myself in that moment. I was not at peace with the politics at home and so I was fearful of the outcome. Fortunately, I was able to recognize that I was acting out of fear and was able to switch to being hopeful. You see, when I put my ego in check and looked at the situation clearly, I was able to appreciate that there are millions of us all over the world who are re-thinking what's important, and that includes my friend, Brett.

A World that Works because Business Works can only happen when more of us in business remember that the reason for our journey is not just the money, the exit strategy, the let-me-get-mine-and-get-out mentality. Business offers us the opportunity to bring people together on a great journey of our own creation. A great journey that can change the world for the better in our lifetime. One that can secure our children's future. Business can be the engine that perfects relationships, grows people, solves real problems and brings communities, nations and the world to a better place. This is not Pollyanna. There are millions of us all over the world on this quest. And yes, sometimes we get distracted.

This is not a time for distractions.

"Helmsman," I found myself saying, "stand by to change course."

It's our time to point higher, think higher, be higher.

Today is day 264. Thanks, Brett. I'm back.

Sail on.


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