Row, row, row your boat

Image shows a six-seater boat on the pond with the oars up, rowers and coxswain at the ready.

Two days ago, had COVID-19 not intervened, our annual Regatta would have gone ahead.

I was lucky enough to row with a team for two years in the Regatta, almost 15 years ago now. We acquitted ourselves well on the water and it’s one of the many fitness experiences I’ve had that I treasure.

There was lots of discussion about the Regatta’s absence this year, and it gave me a chance to recall good memories and to reflect on some important lessons.

The first is teamwork matters. Our success in the boat depended on all six of us pulling together with our cox’s direction. There’s no room in a boat for a diva, or as my friend puts it, there’s no shade where you can hide. We would be successful because we all worked together. In looking at my work life, the most successful projects have been so because we had a shared vision of what we wanted to achieve and we were committed to it.

The second is that we had one job. That was to make the boat go as fast as it could when it needed to. While where we sat in the boat gave us certain responsibilities — steering, setting the pace, handling the turn — we all rowed in unison and in the same direction. Our commitment to performing that role well made a difference in the outcome. If one of us lost an oar, we learned how to get it back and hit the water in time for the next stroke. We bring different skills and knowledge to a project and that matters. At certain points though, there’s only one outcome and the work you do has to take you there and not somewhere else.

Third, balance is critical. My team mates and I came in all shapes and sizes — tall and short, lithe and muscular, curvy and lean. Our first month in the boat meant playing around with seating to get the balance right so that when we really rowed in earnest, we were each in the best place to achieve our goal. So too with work. If I look back at some of the projects which had good results instead of spectacular ones, I realized it’s because we didn’t have the right mix — too much of one kind of skill and not enough of another.

Finally, we had fun. Rowing is hard work, but we also had fun together. We took time to celebrate milestones, to give high fives, to go out together and be social. If all you do is work hard, and you don’t stop to see the good things and to do the fun things, work becomes meaningless. I worked with a very wise woman once who told me when things stop being fun, it is time to give them up. There may be times you may have to step back and gain perspective, or you may have to leave altogether. Work can be hard; the issues can be challenging; the process can be difficult. But you have to make space for the joyful and the affirmative.

Although I don’t row today except on an erg, I look at the work I have put in over the last few years in powerlifting, and I can see all four of these lessons as key to my continued success. I can also see the role these lessons have played in my work success. What lessons have you learned from your sport(s) or fitness activities?

— MarthaFitat55 lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.