What I learned sailing on a 420 with my 17 year old son...


On the 4th of July, we had the rare privilege of having our 17-almost-18-year-old at home for a change.  So I asked him to take me out on a 420 sailboat. (He is a fairly competent sailor and racer and he agreed.)

For those not familiar with sailing a 420-- it  is a two-person performance trapeze and spinnaker racing dinghy. The word dinghy says a lot-- it means a very small, unstable, fast boat.

Off we went on a beautiful summer day.  I quickly needed to adjust to the small surface and the fast, smooth sailing required to keep the boat moving and upright!

Here are three important lessons I learned that day:

  • Expert Leadership:  Whether you want to or not, there are times and situations where the team member with the expertise needs to be in charge. There was no room for parenting here. I was his student and his crew-- (though I am being skipper in this photo--under his guidance). There was no hierarchy or age. On this day in this boat, he called the shots. Period.  And I had to follow.
  • The Gift of Learning:  There was no need for me to leave my cozy hammock to be on a fast, unstable boat that day!   But I will remember that afternoon forever--- as it taught me new skills, showed me the beauty in continuous learning, and gave me a window into my oldest son's world.  (He spends most of his life on a boat year-round).
  • You Can't Blame Your Crew When You Crash:  Yup, I took my turn as skipper and I crashed into a supporting boat.  I proceeded to yell at my son because we were crashing and he calmly looked at me and said, "Mama, you are in charge.  You have the tiller.  You are making us crash."  Many times I get frustrated with my team when something does not go as planned or a project is not completed in the way I wanted. But they can only be as GOOD AS MY LEADERSHIP! If YOUR team is NOT performing--it's YOUR fault!  You either HIRED WRONG or are not LEADING SUCCESSFULLY.

Do you want to plan an opportunity to grow and stretch?  Take a minute and complete this exercise:

Let me know how you did and have a great rest of your week.