Staying the Course
I hope you love the people you work with as much as I do. I wish you could all be a fly on the wall around here sometimes. You’d get to know people that dedicate their lives to serve you and make our company an amazing place to excel.
We learn something new from each other every day. In fact, one of the guys here has spent some time in the Navy and said something the other day that made me smile. I’d never heard the expression before and so after laughing at him for a while we looked it up. The word he used was the “Doldrums”. I learned that naval life was so mundane that a term was coined to describe the hours, days and weeks of just waiting. Apparently, it has been used for centuries to reference times when things are not going quite the way we’d like or at the speed we’d like them to or the direction we’d prefer to go. They called these times the Doldrums, which I am told, is named after an area close to the equator where the trade winds do not blow and ships get bogged down.
When a ship was traveling south towards the equator it was typically making great time riding the cool and refreshing trade winds. It was an exhilarating time for all on board. There was still plenty of fresh food and water. The wind kept everyone feeling buoyed and filled with excitement and hope that the voyage would be a success. Then, as you reached this latitude and longitude, in a matter of minutes the wind would die out and the ship would abruptly come to a standstill.
Gradually the temperature began to rise. The ship lulled back and forth in a nauseating pitch and roll. The discomfort, frustration and doubt that they called the Doldrums set in. Morale plummeted. What used to be a fun and exhilarating voyage became hot, stifling and confining. This condition could last for days or even weeks, and it was believed by the sufferers that respite lay in divine providence in the form of a breeze that would inch them back into the trade winds.
This lack of progress created a significant issue for the leadership on board. Discipline began to falter and the men became distracted by thoughts of home and a life far away. To combat this, the Captains had two options.
- Harsh discipline and murderous enforcement.
- Routine and an exact focus on getting the little things right.
Most experienced Captains chose the 2nd option and the ship’s company was placed into a strict routine. Each crewmember was required to be "on watch" for twelve hours a day. Every deck was scrubbed, every sail and capstan mended. Every moving part oiled and kept in perfect working order. Good Captains even introduced a time of the week called “Make and Mend”, when the crew were required to fix any minor rip or tear in their uniforms. The Captain knew that even the smallest of tears, if left untreated, would become a massive hole and render a whole garment scrap.
The idea of this routine was to keep the men focused and prepared for the arrival of the wind or even the enemy and to not allow the lack of external progress to hinder internal progress.
It appeared to the men they were stopped dead in the water, but the Master of the ship knew differently. He knew that the routine was teaching discipline, strength, unity and brotherhood. He also knew that deep below, a silent and invisible force was moving the ship through the Doldrums. See, it wasn't the breeze that got the ship through this dead zone; it was the ocean current that was silently pulling the ship to a happier place.
Hopefully, by now you will have realized that this is more than just a history lesson! Everyone one of you is the Captain of your business and you will recognize some of the emotions that these early sailors experienced. All of you have raced south with the trade winds when every thing you did worked, your presentations were powerful, your finding fruitful and your case credits amazing.
I am confident that you have also have sailed into the business Doldrums when it feels like your presentations are spiritless, your finding fruitless and your case credits suspect!
So as Captain of your business, what are you going to do when the wind of your business dies away temporarily? You can let your morale plummet and your progress languish in the rolling tide or, even jump ship. Or you could be just like those sailors and fall back on the routine and the exactness of getting to work and becoming experts at your trade. You should make sure that you are who you need to be. Are you learning, talking to people, sharing the product, sponsoring and constantly looking on the bright side? Are you working hard and smart? If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, then you may need to get back to the basics. What a perfect time of the year to reset!
But even in the quietest and toughest moments of your business, you are still making incredible progress. The current beneath you is moving you to a better place and more importantly to a better you.
Don’t ever forget that we are always making progress in Forever. Sometimes it is harder to measure, but we are always moving forward.