The Triton


Good role models make worthwhile listening


Sometimes in life we come across people who can inspire us toward a new level of living. When this happens, it’s important to recognize the opportunity to learn and grow that has been placed before us. I believe it is one of the keys to a life of constant growing, evolving and becoming.

Have you ever come across a role model? Here’s possibly a more important question: Are you open and humble enough to recognize one?

In the yachting industry, I know they are there. Have you spotted one yet? I’ve met a few. If you’re fairly new to the industry or even if you’re a seasoned veteran, I strongly encourage you to keep your eyes and mind open. If you desire or feel the need to raise your game, a role model can be invaluable.

A great way to learn is through observation. Keenly watching someone perform a task or watching someone’s way of handling people and circumstances can be educational and valuable. If we like or admire their ways, we can adopt some of their techniques or habits to improve ourselves.

This is not to suggest losing yourself and trying to be somebody else. It’s more about being you but improving you by taking on some positive and productive habits.

Here’s the tricky part to recognizing role models: we may not always like them. Our personalities may clash and part of the reason for that clash is the role model may focus on things you find trivial or unimportant. In many ways they seem to be not like you at all, so there can be conflict.

Understand this: Your role models probably will not be like you. They won’t have your habits or ways of looking at things, otherwise they wouldn’t be role models. They operate on another level, which can annoy or irritate, but we must recognize the methods that we need and they have.

I remember taking over from a captain of a high quality charter yacht. I was fortunate that he was around for the transition and I didn’t have to go in cold. I immediately went into observation mode and it was quite interesting.

His reputation was that of a fine sailor and manager but set in his ways. I also inherited his crew. I learned the dynamics pretty quickly. The captain, it seemed, was not popular with his crew. At first I didn’t quite get it. I realized we had just met but I was impressed by his attention to detail and structure. I recognized some areas I needed to adopt and tighten up for my leadership role.

Then I realized the crew grumblings were not so much in regard to his rules but more about his delivery and attitude. This capable crew was ready and willing to be led, just not by a condescending or superior attitude.

This revelation was of great value to me. What I was able to do was to take his good points such as his solid procedures and continue them but with a different personality. I continued many of his ways that I respected but I stayed with my delivery, my personality. I must say it was a nice mix. That crew and I worked well together for the next two years.

So the lesson is, you don’t have to become your role model; just pick what you respect and resonate with and incorporate that into improving your performance and professionalism.

I also had the opportunity to work for owners who were role models. Again, we didn’t always see eye to eye but I respected them. One was a retired executive from IBM. This was a guy who rose to the top of his field, and it was easy to see why. One thing was just the way he carried himself. He exuded confidence and strength. He was definitely an alpha and quite headstrong and we butted heads on occasion but I still maintained great respect for him.

Working on yachts gives us a great opportunity to meet and even get to know successful and impressive individuals. One trait I noticed in many people of high achievement was how they were ready for each new day. It may seem like a small thing, but they always seemed to be looking good and ready to roll each morning, greeting the day with enthusiasm and energy. There’s some role model material right there.

Rob Gannon is a 25-year licensed captain and certified life and wellness coach ( Comments on this column are welcome at

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