Saturday, June 24, 2017

Make the boat go faster

When I say "Make the Boat Go Faster" what do I really mean?  I say it all the time, anyone who knows me personally has heard the phrase at least once.  Anyone who's ever received a job application from me has seen it.

But what does it really mean?

The short answer is that everyone has a job to do.

The long answer requires some background.

In 2001 I worked for a company that was part of a worldwide group of companies.  Although my workplace was in Nevada, the headquarters of the group is in Sweden.  This often caused some disconnect, not only because of time zones, but also because of cultural differences.

Case in point:  Corporate decided the group would sponsor a yacht in the Volvo Ocean Race.  My immediate coworkers were baffled.  Why would we care about some boat race, when we have NASCAR and football right here?  Who watches boats?

It was going to be a hard sell, but fortunately, the president of our company, Bob Cook, was up to the task.

Bob started out by explaining that Corporate wanted to encourage unity throughout the group.  Lofty goals, considering the group consisted of dozens of companies spread over every continent on the globe.  Tens of thousands of employees from all backgrounds and nationalities.

Then he broke it down further. 

"What do you do here?" he asked one of the production team.  "I make electromagnetic locks."
"What do you do here?" he asked one of the techs.  "I answer customer questions and troubleshoot problems."
"What do you do here?" he asked me.  "I design ads, catalogs, packaging, and write articles."

"Not any more.  What you all do here now is one thing.  The same thing.  You make the boat go faster."

You could almost see the question marks pop up over confused brows.

Bob explained that when Rich answered the client's questions, Les didn't have to, which allowed Les to do his job.  When Les did his job, Mike could do his, and so on up and over and around until we got to "And when Josh on the shore team does HIS job, then Mark Rudiger can do his job of navigating, and our boat will go faster.  Oh, by the way, did you know that Mark Rudiger is from Reno, Nevada?  And that the sails used on our boat are made in Minden, Nevada?"

That day I realized that no matter what I actually DO at a job, the reason I'm there is to make the boat go faster. 

Years later, I held the position of Administrative Assistant in the Facilities Department at the University of Kansas.  During a staff roundtable, Vice Chancellor of Public Affairs Tim Caboni asked a few of us what we did.  When he got to me, I said "I help educate students."  (in my head, I still said "I make the boat go faster.")

People that knew me scratched their heads, I didn't interact at all with students in that position.  But Chancellor Caboni smiled.  "And how do you do that?"  "I make sure they have functioning classrooms, well-lit building spaces, clean restrooms, and working equipment.  You might say that I am actually the most important person on campus." 

That brought a laugh, but it was true- my job description included sending technicians to fix what was broken, clean what was messy, and maintain what was working.  Without me, the students would not be able to learn as well.  I was an important part of what made the University of Kansas run.

No matter what you do at your job, make sure you're making the boat go faster.  Find your company's core goal and make sure that everything you do makes that goal happen.

I'm proud to say that because of my efforts, my VOR team came from behind to clinch second place.  Just think of what I could do to make YOUR boat go faster!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

With friends like this...

"Well you didn't REALLY think you had a shot at that, did you?"

This, a while back, from a friend while I was lamenting the fact that I didn't get a sailing syndicate job I'd applied for.

What the hell kind of stupid question was that? Of course I had a shot! I'd done the same kind of job before, I'm highly qualified, I'm enthusiastic, I WAS PERFECT FOR IT. The only drawback was that I was in Kansas, not England. Pfft. Easily surmounted.

But that night...

"But the tigers come at night. With their voices soft as thunder. And they tear your hope apart. And they turn your dream to shame."

Stupid tigers. I should know better than to listen to them, but they were just repeating what my friend had said, over and over, adding little bits of their own commentary throughout the night, until I woke up the next day POSITIVE that I'd been on crack when I thought that I could do ANY job, let alone a job with a high-end sail racing syndicate.

I moped about until my husband asked me what was wrong.

"I should have never trah-ha-hied! What made me think I cooooould? I'll neh-he-hever..." ad nauseum, with tears.

Being the good husband, he listened patiently, and then said "Magnus thought you could."

Over the years, that has been sort of a refrain for my husband. Whenever I get down, my faith in my abilities starts to flag, he reminds me that a man who was the best in the world at what he did thought that I was good enough. 

I think about that a lot when I'm feeling like I'll never reach my goals. And I take a breath, look at the future and think "Yeah. Magnus thought I could." Some days that's all it takes- one person to have faith in you.  (one person for me, besides my husband that is)

Who is that person for you? And are you that person for someone?

Friday, November 11, 2016

What I'm going to do next

OK my loves and my lovlies. We've had a few days to process our reactions to the election, and for many of us, and for many of our loved ones, it looks like a bumpy ride ahead.

We cannot each throw our full energy at all the things that are going to be needing our help in the years to come. I know we all support many things, but if we tried to be active in all our causes, we'd burn ourselves out, thereby being no good to anyone, especially ourselves.

SO. This is what I propose.

Pick something. Pick the cause that resonates with you the most and throw your energy at it. I will pick the cause that resonates most with me and throw my energy at it. I will support your cause, and you will support mine, and we'll find intersectionality where we can work together on our causes.

If we all pick our causes, and link them together, we'll form a sort of web of support for ALL the causes. (think those little gold Nova ships in Guardians of the Galaxy)

My cause is the environment. I will do my best to make sure all of us have a planet to live on. This is more than just saving the whales or using cloth grocery bags. I will put my energy toward stopping climate change, so that drought doesn't exacerbate civil wars in Africa, so that indigenous people the world over aren't forced from their homes due to rising ocean levels. I will do what I can to make sure that kids in every country in the world have clean water to drink.

That's what I'm going to do. What are you going to do and how do our causes intersect?

Friday, April 19, 2013


Do I put the bad news at the beginning or the end?  The beginning I guess.

By now you probably know.  You know we've lost one of the best and brightest.  We've lost an incandescent smile, a heart as big as any ocean, a giant.

I worked with Magnus for just a few weeks, but have thought about him often (like- every day) for a decade.  He was just so NICE.  I knew nothing about sailing when we met, I was a glorified groupie- running errands and making coffee.  Magnus made me feel like I was a terribly important part of the team.  That what I was doing was helping them succeed.  A big hug and a kiss every time he saw me- he was the best at the world at what he did but he took the time to make a nobody landlubber feel important.

That was his gift.  Beyond being a legendary sailor, he had the ability to make every single person he met feel important.  It was no joke.  To him, everyone WAS important.

I am heartbroken, caught between being enraged at the circumstances and crawling into bed and hiding in my sadness.

As I've said several times already since hearing the news, the only consolation is there is a new star in the heavens for sailors to navigate by.

Godspeed Mange.  You changed my life.  You will be missed.


What a shocker this morning as I read SCA's press release about Magnus Olsson:

Team SCA Information

Very sadly Magnus Olsson, one of the coaches for Team SCA, SCA's participation in the Volvo Ocean Race, suffered a stroke this week. He is receiving the best medical care and our thoughts are with him and his family.

Magnus (Mange) is one of my favorite people.  I've written about him before.  I worked with him in Miami with the ASSA ABLOY Racing Team back in the day. 

It is impossible to know Magnus and NOT love him.  As Patrick Shaughnessy (President of Farr Yacht Design) tweeted "Wishing Magnus Olsson, everyone’s favorite sailor, and worlds most smiley person, a speedy recovery. Get well Mange."

Here's hoping he recovers quickly.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Goals and movies and heeey Macarena!

A bit discombobulated this morning, but if I don't keep writing, I'll stop writing.

What have you done to reach your goals?

What would you do to reach your goals?

My high school principal urged me to read "What Color is Your Parachute" to help me figure out a career path.

My husband urges me to set goals and plan for them.

I get that goals are important.

Mother Nature has given me the attention span of a gnat (I had ADD before ADD was cool), and the economy has laid me off five times.

These last two things sort of overwhelm the first few.

Heck- right now if you were to observe what's going on in my brain, the brain that should be concentrating on writing, you'd see bits of the X Files, you'd hear Sammy Davis Jr. AND the Macarena, you'd see thoughts of baking bread, that woman has a lot of cats, thank God it's nice out today, I wonder if my breakfast is done cooking and OH HEY BLOG POST.

And I've gotten off track. 

I WANT TO KNOW ABOUT GOALS. (Uh, no, I'm, I'm calling about a suit, about, about Bob's suit. I'm calling about BOB'S SUIT!)

How do YOU set them?  How do YOU achieve them?  How do you decide if they're realistic or just unrealistic enough to try anyway?

How do you distinguish between a want and a goal?

What are your goals and can I help you reach them?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Dear Applicant

Definition of irony (n) · Bing Dictionary
 [ �?�rÉ™nee ]   
  1. humor based on opposites: humor based on using words to suggest the opposite of their literal meaning
  2. something humorous based on contradiction: something said or written that uses humor based on words suggesting the opposite of their literal meaning
  3. incongruity: incongruity between what actually happens and what might be expected to happen, especially when this disparity seems absurd or laughable
Synonyms: satire, sarcasm, dryness, mockery, causticness, wit, sardonicism, insincerity, humour, double meaning
I got'cher irony right here, Alanis. 
Yesterday I sat down and wrote my first blog post in months.  It was filled with hope and excitement, talking about how I'd applied to be the Race Office Assistant position with the Clipper Round the World race.
This morning I awoke to the dreaded "Dear Applicant" email from Clipper.  Not even "Dear Aileen" or "Dear Ms. Dingus."  Just "Dear Applicant."  My phone shows me the first line of an email, so even though the subject didn't say anything in particular, I knew even before I opened it up that it wasn't the news I'd so eagerly been awaiting. 
My first inclination was to rail against the person who'd sent the email.  He OBVIOUSLY didn't know what he was missing- heck- he didn't even know how to do a mail merge to personalize the letter.  I should just write a scathing email in response, I'd show THEM.
Well, actually, that was my second inclination.  My first was to have a big old pity party, shed a few tears and lament my lot in life.
The rest of my day has been back and forth between both emotions- anger and depression.
But really- my lot in life is no different today than it was yesterday.  I still have hope and excitement, who knows what will happen next?  The Clipper Race starts in August, a ton of things can happen between now and then.  The Volvo starts even later- and that's my ultimate goal- to go around with a VOR syndicate.  My skills are just as relevant today as they were yesterday.  If anything- my drive has strengthened.
Remind me of that, next time I start the pity party, ok? 
PS- I didn't send a scathing email.  I responded very politely, expressing my dismay, and asking the gentleman to keep me in mind if something else pops up that fit my skills and experience.  ;)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Spring WHAT?

**EDIT**  Read my next post too, to find out what's up

I'm sitting in my dining room, in Ottawa, Kansas. Spring supposedly sprung a few days ago, we're talking daffodils, robins and Easter Bunnies.  Right?


Reality is another 7" of snow and 28* F.  I'm bundled up like a reindeer herder, pining for warmer climes and sandy beaches.  When one lives in a 100+ year old house, with no central heating, one tends to live in layers in the wintertime.  Need to warm up?  DO DISHES.  BAKE BREAD.


Since I last wrote, I've become aware of, and interested in ANOTHER round the world yacht race.  Who knew there were so many?

The Clipper Round the World Race starts this August from Gosport, in the UK.  Same basic premise as the Volvo, go around as fast as you can, while making stops along the way.  The big difference here is that all the crew members are amateurs.  That's right- teachers and secretaries and ministers and firemen and students.  All sailing around the world.

I have a friend who's doing a leg, maybe two, in the upcoming race.  She's shelling out the money, doing the training and taking off on a dream adventure.

Am I interested?  Maybe.  ;)  The thought of sailing out of sight of land is terrifying, but the thought of staying ON land is also scary.  So I figured I'd ease into things by applying to be the Race Office Assistant.

Remember all I did for ASSA ABLOY? (insert Wayne's World flashback graphics)

During the 2001-2002 VOR, I was working for an ASSA ABLOY Group company, and was named "The Assistant to the North American Champion" for ASSA ABLOY corporate. In the months leading up to the North American stopovers, I figured out a way to convince die-hard NASCAR and NFL fans, living in Nevada, to be interested in a yacht race that didn't even come within 2,000 miles of us. I also spent that time being a cheerleader, and following the race around the world from my desk while arranging housing, events and other activities in two ports for over 300 people worldwide. 

When I got to the stopover in Miami, I spent weeks running around like a crazy person doing whatever needed to be done. When people asked me what I actually did with the Race, I would say “I make the boat go faster.” I didn’t sail, of course, but I did the things that allowed other people to do what they do best. I tracked down a playpen for the chef’s daughter, leaving the chef available to cook the food that fueled the sailors. I arranged speaking engagements for the team members, allowing their trainers and handlers to develop programs to keep everyone strong and healthy. I picked up supplies for the shore team, allowing them time to concentrate on boat and sail repairs. I even mailed a package to Richard Mason's dad, so that Richard didn't have to take the time to track down packaging and a post office. Because I was there, doing what I’m good at, other people could do what they’re good at, and the boat went faster.

I figure I can do that again for the Clipper Race.  Go around the world, prepping the stopovers, making the boats go faster, living the dream.

From where I sit on this cold, grey, snowy day, that's a pretty good picture.  And I look PERFECT in it.