What the Ocean taught me about Leadership

by DBL Chairman, Gary Lear
Have any of you thought of doing something just to challenge yourself? The question might be, “Why would I? I’m good.”
Recently, while visiting with Richard Branson at his home on Necker Island for a Game Changer Rule Breaker week, I was inspired by “Dr Yes” as he calls himself. In one of his talks to our group he said something to the affect, “If you get an opportunity, and you believe in it, say yes. The worst that can happen is you’ll get a whole heap of learning.”
So the opportunity was swim 3.5km in open water from Necker Island to Moskito Island, Richards other home.
For me, this challenge provided some important leadership outcomes as well as great life experiences.
The time was set for 9.00am on Wednesday 30th May. It was now Monday so I had 48 hours to find a way, an excuse not do it. All Monday and all Tuesday I keep telling myself I was going to do it and there was a little voice saying, “You’re crazy Gary, you’re 70 years old”. Now I could do one of two things. The first was to accept this concept. The second was to use these thoughts as motivation for “Just doing it”. I chose the second one. So all day Monday I kept looking at that island in the distance and saying to myself, “I’m going to do it. I can do it.” After a while there was no battle and I started to visualise myself swimming to the island.
I can see the negatives as things that stand in my way or I can choose to make them a motivator.
Then came Tuesday night and I was the only one going to attempt that swim. I thought I can still do it, but I would like at least one more to swim with me. That way we could work as a team encouraging one another. I did the rounds of the others on the island and found one game guy, Ben Bowler who said “If you can’t find anyone else I’ll join you.” We now had a team of two to do the swim.
You can do it on your own but it is much more rewarding if you take others with you.
The day came and to my surprise so did Ben. What a champion. We got to the water’s edge and I found my business partner, Josh Mackenzie and our General Manager, Angela Hands were coming along in the support boat. Now I had no excuse, I had to do it. I had to go all the way, there was simply no opportunity to opt out.
Teams can motivate each other if you all have the same end goal.
It took me a little while to get in the water, Ben had set off at a pace. We had to wear an inflated belt so we could be seen by the support boat and several large ferries. Mine kept falling down around my legs, slowing me down further and making it simply dangerous. I had to make a decision to take off this life saving device and trust myself and use another strategy. I knew if I got into any trouble I could just float. So I got permission and removed that hindrance to my swim.
Don’t rely on others to know what works best for you, identify your strengths and use them. Realise what might stand in your way and free yourself from what hinders you in achieving your goal even if it might sometimes be your life raft.
I won’t say the swim was easy but it was fun swimming alongside Ben, with both of us keeping an eye on each other was comforting. The currents were strong. More than once they took us off course, so we had to correct the course we were on. More than once we could not see the channel markers that were to guide us. Often, because of the current, we had to swim in a direction that seemed illogical when we looked at where were heading for. We simply had to trust those in the support boat to give us guidance. If we did not have that support I would have missed the island completely.
Realise the value of your support people and listen to what they have to say. Often they have a better line of sight than you.
Well, we got there after 1hour 43 mins in the water. We swam in together side by side. We both shared the joy of making our day memorable. Thanks Ben.
Remember when its all over, you all did it together and it was not just you it was the team. Ben for sure and the support boat. Thanks Josh and Ange.
And while the ocean taught me these leadership lessons, it highlights even more the importance of protecting our oceans so my grandchildren, and yours, can enjoy and embrace the ocean. www.oceanunite.org

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