I recently crewed on a yacht called Cyclone for the final races of the Winter Series 2017. I was given the position of trimming the headsail.
A place I really love to be, as the headsail gives the boat lift and can be the main power driver for the boat at critical times.
It's also a high action, adrenalin position because you are most active during tacking (changing direction), and if you stuff it up, you can stop the boat and be dead in the water.
If you know me, you know why I love this place of pressure!
But something happened that day that taught me a BIG lesson about my personal brand...
I knew we were winning the series, but the format for the day was really short 'legs' where the other, smaller boats could easily win, based on handicap the odds were not, as they say, in our favour.
Given my position on the boat for the final racing, there was a keen sense of “I better not stuff this up!”
For the opening race of 6, I was excited, hyped and nervous...Although I had trimmed loads of times on other boats, I had only ever done it once before on Cyclone, and every boat is different even though the mechanics of the activity are the same.
I also knew we really wanted to win the series. The pressure was on and I was trying to handle it.
Race one began and I stuffed up.
It got especially interesting when we hoisted the spinnaker, going around the first mark (the big colourful handkerchief that floats out in front of the boat when you travel downwind), mostly because, I had never trimmed a spinnaker before in my life!
This is a sail which is tissue thin and huge, so there is plenty that can go wrong. It can twist into a wine glass shape when hoisting and within seconds of a wind shift or wave, it can collapse in on itself.
Then rather than the bulbous shape you really want where the wind fills it to give you maximum speed, it crumbles into nothing and you can even drop it in the water and drag it behind you, turning the light tissue handkerchief into a lead weight.
And that is exactly what happened.
There was, as usual on racing boats, lots of shouting, from all areas of the boat but mostly from the skipper, and plenty headed the way of the trimmers (There are two on board to handle the tacking from one side to the other).
The other trimmer was pretty hungover, I was far too nervous and we were both coping an earful.
They have this awesome saying on board this particular yacht, that if you've made a mistake, it's in the past, just focus on the present.
If you've made a mistake it's in the past. Focus on the present.
You never take offence while racing, you just get on with it, with the expectation that you learn and get better next time.
The oddest thing was that at the start I was giving myself a hard time as well, knowing I could do much better and saying sorry lots - which doesn't really need saying on Cyclone, because of the culture they are nurturing on board, trading jokes, insults, praise and instructions all in equal measure.
I had also in the days leading up to the race, been in a conference with Jack Delosa and the incredible entourage team sharing entrepreneurial mindset shifts and giving us huge action steps, and had two awesome days at a retreat on Coochie Mudlo Island with Pitbull mindset mentor Marguerita Vorobioff.
I was excited for what I was achieving in my brand and my self development and had shifted some really cool shit from the past, restoring incredible balance. patience and calm.
Throwing myself from that environment into high-speed action on the sea was always going to be interesting.
My newly established mindset was telling me to trust my instinct, and that they wouldn’t have put me in the trimmers position if they didn’t have the confidence I could do it.
This was the finals for Christ-sake, someone obviously had faith in me, even if I didn’t. Thankfully we had 6 races and there was plenty of improvement to be had.
And improve we did.
Someone always has faith in you, even if you don't.
One of the things I really noticed was the more we raced, the calmer I got.The calmer I got, the better I performed. I was still moving at pace, but now it was thoughtful, mindful, purposeful.
A long time ago, my amazing golf coach Kevin Smith asked a vital question. Where, on an emotional scale of 1 to 10, do you perform the best?
1 being basically snoozing, 10 on high-alert.
Based on my personality and approach to life (all or nothing) I had assumed I would perform best at around an 8 or even 9.
Oddly enough, it’s the exact opposite. I perform at optimum around a 4, maximum 5. Caring enough about the outcome, but also being present and composed. Not quite cruising but enjoying myself, feeling confident, relaxed and comfortable.
We went on to win the day, crossing the line first a couple of times and taking out the series.
Each time I saw that big blue kite flying, belly-full of wind, or set the jib quickly on a tack, so the skipper had all the power he needed to do what he wanted, I felt genuinely proud and gave myself a mental pat on the back.
Each time I stuffed up, I took a deep breath, asked more questions and learned from my mistakes.
Take a deep breath, learn from your mistakes and move on.
I learned that throwing yourself into new situations and challenging yourself shouldn’t be scary.
More often than not, others believe you can do it, so you should too. You need to be excited but more importantly, you need to find your zone.
I can’t wait to sail again, to keep perfecting my skills and most importantly, to find ways to get into that calm, confident headspace, where you move fast but think slow.
That perfect performance level, where skill, instinct, and calm come together to create a sense of purpose.
- Where is the optimum emotional ‘zone’ for your personal brand?
- What level of relaxation or excitement do you need to find, to really be at your best?
- What are you going to throw yourself into to find out?