On Barnacles

William Henley wrote: “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”  Such beautiful, powerful and inspiring words for great leaders who are captains of their lives. In his recent blog post, hockey great Ryan Walter shares a metaphor about the unexpected and unseen challenges great leaders experience on their magnificent journey.

Walter and his wife, Jenn, found time to steal away for a moment to spend time on their boat along the Pacific Coast of British Columbia near their home. Unexpectedly, he found he could not get the boat to plane even when he put both throttles down. He returned to the marina expecting to find an engine problem. His mechanic suggested first a cleaning of the boat’s keel. No engine repair was needed. The boat had barnacles which were preventing the boat’s speed. Walter, a leadership coach, mentor and consultant, found learning in this experience. He asks great leaders: “Have barnacles been attaching themselves to the bottom of your boat?” What are those things that overtime have imperceptibly attached themselves to our life and are slowing our forward progress?

In nautical terms the process of barnacles growing on the bottom of a boat is called fouling. Great leaders would probably choose the same term for the process as it applies to their professional and personal life experiences – that slow, gradual and unnoticed evolution of attitudes, behaviors or actions that, left unchecked, impact growth and development. May you quietly pause for reflection and ask yourself: “Have barnacles been attaching themselves to the bottom of my boat?” And then take action to get back up to speed. Your journey is to ride the waves of life with magnificent passion, joy and caring in fulfillment of your purpose. Enjoy every beautiful moment! Life is so very good.

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week!!!

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2 Responses to On Barnacles

  1. Christy says:

    This is wonderful and so timely…thank you!

  2. Jack Beach says:

    We all know we have a constant need for self-renewal but it sits in the back of our minds and too seldom do we make the effort to engage in the introspection required especially if we have reached a level of excellence and expertise. Frank Lloyd Wright quipped “an expert is a man who has stopped thinking because ‘he knows.’” Knowing the answers can be the biggest impediment to self-renewal because we start to automatically apply the same rules and engage in the same behaviors; which inevitably leads to rigidity. The real key is how do we develop the capacity for renewal to the extent that the barnacles never attach? Just like Ryan Walter, we just want to go out on our boat, relax, and enjoy life. We don’t want to take the time to engage in a daily routine of checking for barnacles or to see if dry rot is setting in. We wait until it has already occurred and the negative effects become apparent and only then set about to fix things. Renewal requires that we really care about being better—even if we are the best. It is an attitude of curiosity and as we used to say at IBM “a spirit of restless reinvention,” which infuses us and our organizations with intellectual energy.

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