A Lesson in Life

Last week I completed my second Sydney to Hobart yacht race. I was invited to join a crew of Australian and international business people, not for my sailing expertise, but as a politician with experience as part of a sporting team. The group of sixteen had varied sailing experience ranging from world class yachtsman to novice (that was me!).

The crew was put together by a trained psychologist and offshore racing enthusiast as part of a team-building exercise to see how a diverse group of individuals would bond and deal with the rigours of offshore sailing.

Once the excitement of the start had dissipated, the individual personalities began to exert themselves. One crew member, a senior executive, told me he was happy to follow the skipper’s orders as it was the only time he didn’t have to make the critical decisions all year. It was an interesting comment and made me consider just how important this might be.

For many people, everyday life is filled with stress and pressure. Work and family decisions, money worries and social pressures apply a steady and unrelenting weight to our shoulders. It is rare that one can actually extricate themselves from the normality of everyday life to such an extent that these pressures are removed.

In all likelihood, to actually remove these pressures completely from your mind you need to replace them with something more akin to ‘survival mode’ than a simple holiday.

That is part of the majesty of an event like the Sydney to Hobart. For four days, everything you do, say and think relates entirely to your welfare on the boat and that of your crew members.

Now, this is easier when the seas are calm and the winds are favourable. After all, ‘do your job’ and ‘don’t fall overboard’ are pretty simple instructions to follow. But when the wind climbs to 45 knots and the seas rise violently, even the simple can become difficult. Fear grips each of us differently and some rise to the occasion while others succumb to the near paralysis of indecision.

Whatever the individual reaction, one thing appears to be common across the entire crew. When things are really tough and you fear for your personal safety, you become acutely aware of what is truly important in your life.

In a team situation you also become aware that little can be achieved alone. The welfare of all depends on everyone doing their job successfully and to the best of their ability. Thus you have leaders lifting laggards, the strong encouraging the weak and the more experienced sharing their wisdom.

It was a wonderful demonstration of how we should strive to be helping our fellow man, not just when our survival is at stake, but every day of the year.

Happy New Year and best wishes for 2010.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to Confidential Daily.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.