I’ve been in my working life for over 40 years, a captain for nearly 30 years and a certified coach for seven years. With all those years in my wake, I definitely have some observations. Although there are many skills, abilities and character traits that go into top performers, I was reminded of two last month as I watched the dismissal of an incompetent deckhand on the TV show “Below Deck”.
I focus in this space quite often directly to the yachting world but these observations, these key ingredients, could pertain to anyone taking on a new position.
A powerful ingredient or driver for achievement is being hungry. Not literally hungry (although if there’s no money for food, that’s certainly a motivator), I’m talking about when what you have to fall back on makes you so uncomfortable that you are driven to make good with this opportunity you’ve been given. You need to do this for yourself and nothing is going to stop you.
When the thought of being unemployed again or going back to an old life that wasn’t working is powerfully uncomfortable and distressing, you will be driven. Mentally, you accept that failure is not an option. You recognize life calling and doors opening to new possibilities, and you grab it. Struggles from the past need not hold you back.
Let them build character and a strong work ethic. Remember the movie “An Officer and a Gentleman”? There is a scene in that film that really hammers home what I’m talking about. After butting heads and having constant confrontations, the tough drill sergeant has the officer candidate (played by Richard Gere) for a whole weekend of punishing physical drills, in a rainstorm doing push-ups in the mud, endless runs, even holding his feet six inches off the ground for minutes at a time, all the while berating him verbally.
The drill sergeant yells at him to just quit, pack up and go home where he can relax. Gere’s character finally breaks and cries out, “I’ve got nowhere else to go.” OK, a little extreme I know, but the discomfort with the past, the refusal to go back, drove this flawed, troubled character to graduate from the officers’ training program.
So in our lives, that refusal to go back develops the hunger and the strong conviction to make it, to take an opportunity and make the most of it. Old comforts and soft places to land can be a detriment to a young person attempting to grow and achieve.
The second ingredient is the desire to learn and get better. This desire will be of great benefit if you are just starting a new position and even if you have years of experience in your field. The newbie crew member certainly wants to be operating from here but the veteran chief stew and captain would also be wise to keep this in mind. Keep working at your craft. We never know it all.
If you’re just starting out, be a sponge. Absorb all you can. Show interest and a desire to improve. It will be noticed. This desire to improve is a big component of a good attitude. Talk with the more experienced members of your crew and ask questions. Make the most of this opportunity.
If you have years of experience under your belt and are good at what you do, what could you do to become even better? It may be in the area of your work or possibly outside your usual work responsibilities. How many of us truly feel prepared as first responders in a medical emergency? How many of us pass the CPR and first aid courses and then never think about or practice those skills again until it’s time to renew? Maybe a little more research and time in this area would really have you confident that you could step in quite capably in a serious injury situation.
How about looking for opportunities to work on your people skills a little? Sharpen your awareness to your reactions, attitude and emotions. Those are certainly skills that need attention from time to time.
So if you’re new to a position, being hungry can help drive the motivation, and a desire to learn will keep the tides of opportunity rising. If you’ve been at this awhile, don’t get too comfortable. Keep growing. Learn something new, sharpen something old and enjoy the voyage.
Rob Gannon is a 25-year licensed captain and certified life and wellness coach. He offers free sample coaching sessions and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments are welcome at email@example.com.