I am living in a time bubble: 4 hours on watch, 8 hours off. It doesn?t matter what time of day. Waking up at 4 o’clock in the morning, at 8 o’clock just after breakfast or at midnight when waking up can be quite tough. The dog watch. You learn quickly why it’s called that. Sometimes the weather is grim, blasting cold wind, waves dashing over board or rain “sandblasting” my face (natural facelift ;-)) and I wish to be back in my cosy bunk. After some days at sea I learn to accept this because the reward comes double-back on other days: when I get on deck into a star sparkling night. When under full sail the Southern Cross is my compass. Or when the full moon shines across the calm sea. Then it is a dream to be awake at this hour, and being out there.
I am in team Red: thirteen people of different nationalities, who had never met before. After us, team White, then team Blue. Steering and keeping us on the right course for four hours. Looking out for small icebergs or containers that are not detected by the radar, we don’t want to play ‘Titanic’. We hoist the sails, or take them down whenever the wind is changing. Four hours we are together responsible as a team for the other 40 people on board. They sleep, cook or do other things. We go for it, if it’s sunny, cold and windy, it may be raining or the sea is dashing across the ship.
With heavy weather steering the sailing ship is a challenge. They’re counting on me. There is always the captain or first mate taking care in the background, but they only check once in a while. On the rudder, I am the one holding the ship on course. While the ship moves up and down with big waves coming from behind, lifting us up, rolling under it and finally lifting the bow, I get a big smile on my face. This is fun, it makes my heart jump. Wind, waves, all sails are on and catching the strong wind. The fantastic ship and me being one with the elements and flying ahead. Playfully the colour of the sea is changing from very dark blue to an amazing turquoise at the crest of the waves. The ocean glistening in the sunlight. A whale suddenly appearing out of nowhere, right beside us. Blowing and showing his back, and then gone again. Wow. Isn’t this amazing?
The moment of the day is a huge iceberg. Majestically appearing on the horizon and turning up as big as a complete big-city apartment block. This really amazes me. We are living in a bubble, forgetting time and date. Sometimes somebody asks me which day it is. No clue. Does it matter? Nature is our rhythm.
When I am writing this, I briefly pop out of my bubble and realise that at home my life is also organised in a bubble. There, my business is dictating my daily life. The other bubble I live in. Today I asked myself: is that the right way of doing it? Is living around work the way of living? It is very different when nature is giving the pace of daily life. One day, we encountered very strong headwinds. The captain just decided it was okay to take down all sails and let us be blown by the wind. Was that a setback? Yes. We floated 12 nautical miles backwards to Argentina. Could we have fought against it? Yes! Putting up some sails and tacking against the wind. This might have kept our position or even gained a mile or so. But, at what cost? Tacking a Tallship is nothing like tacking a 6m dinghy. The whole watch team permanently on deck and sometimes even 2 teams. Becoming wet and tired. Hardly any time for sleep. More risk of damage to the sails or even people. Our captain knew that the meagre gain was not worth the risk and chose to let us float.
I think much less, feeling often obliged to act, to do, to continue something. Standing still is ‘wasting’ time. I have a plan, I want to carry it out because that is what should lead to results. But focussing on your plan and getting on with your tasks, you sometimes forget that also in the business world there are moments where outside forces run against your plan. Then you have to choose: either you go for it and fight against it, or you consider what the cost would be, in terms of not only money but also time, energy, goodwill, frustration etc. Then you might decide to let go and float – at least for that very moment – and concentrate on something else that will benefit your business more.
So, the crucial thing is to be aware of the situation and the forces around you. Take note of them regularly. Learn the laws of business, accept the natural setbacks and adapt your plans to the forces affecting your business. Then living in your business bubble can make you as happy as I am at the moment in my time bubble on the Antarctic Ocean!
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