What's Outside Your Boat?
Soloists are notorious for their capacity to worry, particularly about things that are beyond their control. As CEOs of one-person businesses, it's sometimes difficult to accept the fact that our power and reach can be limited -- particularly since our dreams are often so big.
I recently came across a delightful book that changed my thinking, and my focus. Charlie Jones is a sportscaster who has covered several Olympic games in his long career. At the 1996 games in Atlanta, he was assigned to announce the rowing, canoeing, and kayaking events -- a situation that left him less than thrilled, since it was broadcast at 7am and the venue was an hour's drive from Atlanta. What Jones discovered, however, was that it ended up being one the most memorable sports events in his career, because he gained a chance to understand the mental workings of these Olympic athletes.
Preparing for the broadcast, Jones interviewed the rowers and asked them about conditions such as rain, strong winds, or breaking an oar. Each time the response was the same: "That's outside my boat." After hearing the same answer again and again, Jones realized that these Olympic athletes had a remarkable focus. In their attempt to win an Olympic medal, he writes, "They were interested only in what they could control... and that was what was going on inside their boat." Everything else was beyond their control, and not worth the expense of mental energy that would distract them from their ultimate goal.
Jones writes that this insight made the event "by far the best Olympics of my life" and changed his thinking in other parts of his life as well -- as it did for me when I read it. What freedom to realize that, yes, it really isn't worth all the worry.
Like me, you've probably heard such a message before: Don't worry about what you can't control. However, once it is linked to such a powerful visual image and phrase -- "That's outside my boat" -- it hits home with greater impact.
These days, the question I ask myself is: Inside or Outside (my boat)? It it's outside, the issue is quickly discarded. If it's inside, then the focus becomes on how to manage it toward the desired end.
Distilling this to a binary question removes the fuzziness that so easily depletes a soloist's energy. It's also incredibly liberating. And if it's good enough for individuals who spend years focused on achieving Olympic heights determined within the span of a few minutes, I figure I can make it work in my world, too.
Thanks for reading,
This article originally appeared in Terri Lonier's Working Solo Newsletter, a free monthly email newsletter filled with news and information for small business owners. To subscribe, visit http:www.workingsolo.com.
Copyright 2004 Terri Lonier. All rights reserved.