Last month I was invited to an event where Jessica Watson was speaking and while I was only vaguely interested in the overall topic of the day, I was super keen to Meet Jessica. She truly is an amazing young woman and her solo journey around the world holds so many analogues for starting up and being in business.
Who doesn’t remember what this young woman achieved by sailing around the world solo? And who doesn’t remember that day in May 2010 when she sailed into Sydney harbour?
The first thing that struck me when I met Jessica last Saturday is just how tiny she is. I knew she has a petite build from reading about her and seeing photos, it’s when I stood beside her that I felt like …. Well I felt like Gigantor! How did some one so petite survive out there in the ocean for 210 days completely alone?
So here is the very first lesson about business I learned from my time with Jessica; size doesn’t matter, and tiny is strong!
It is so easy in business to think that we need to make ourselves look bigger than we are. Be inspired by the growing trend for customers and clients who want to work with small, individual businesses who are able to be responsive, to act quickly, to be flexible, to really listen and be able to work with nuances of what the customers are seeking to achieve. Be small and be proud!
And this brings me to the second lesson from Jessica. Clients want you to demonstrate that you know what you are doing, they want to feel they are “in good hands”
As soon as Jessica Watson starts to speak you know you are listening to a woman with strength; her confidence is palpable. I would go to sea in a very small boat with Jessica at the helm, in a heart beat. She knows what she is doing.
Jessica talks about that first day at sea after departing Mooloolaba, during the initial sail from Brisbane to Sydney. Maybe you remember, she sailed out that first night and collided with a large ship and her boat was dismasted. The 2 vessels Ella’s Pink Lady at 10.2m (33.6 feet) and the Silver Yang 225m and 63 000 tonne bulk carrier collided.
How many of us would have just stopped in our tracks? Packed up our “bat and ball” and gone home? Jessica says on her blog in 2009:
“Up to this point I had only ever been able to read about and discuss what to do in such a situation. So in many ways it was really comforting to know that I was able to keep a completely cool head and instinctively know what needed to be done.”
And last Saturday Jessica described how that incident gave her enormous confidence that she would be able to cope with anything that might happen to her at sea. Imagine seeing such a huge incident as being some thing to increase confidence!
So often when we are in business we receive harsh set backs, things don’t go the way we want, the way we plan, our actions don’t lead to the outcomes we imagine.
In business it’s critical to be able to pick ourselves up and carry on, learn from what happens, develop resilience and see adversity as being what makes us stronger and more confident as we can carry on.
I know that many of you reading this, whether in your own business or working in some one else’s business or corporation have experienced that sense of being hit sideways. Can you imagine what it would be like to be in a boat 10.2 meters long and be whacked by some thing 22 times your size! And survive! And then see the event as a gift to increase your confidence?
When I start working with new business startups we talk about building resilience and increasing the ability to suffer knock backs and see them as beneficial. We say “Fail often, Fail Fast” and similar.
New business startups who have had previous sales experience often seem to do better. Those who have played team sports where the team didn’t make the premiership seem more able to take the setbacks “on the chin” and carry on.
I have some serious advice here. If you want to be successful in business find a way to put your self in situations where you need to build resilience. Where things don’t go the way you want, find ways to face disappointment and carry on.
Jessica’s family spent 5 years living on a boat. As a family they are very close. When you live on a boat, you get to hang out with other people who are involved with boats and meeting people who in fact were sailing around the world. Jessica read Jesse Martin’s book (he sailed around the world at the age of 18) and this inspired her idea.
Rather than ask her parents “I told them” she says. Once Jessica had decided to sail around the world she started to learn how to do everything she would need to do; celestial navigation, navigating by the stars using a sextant, sea survival, using radar. Jessica had to wait till she was 16 to gain her sailor’s liscence.
There are 2 business lessons here: learn what you need to know and surround yourselves with like minded people.
The more time Jessica spent hanging out with other sailors, sailing families and adventurers the more she learned as they chatted and shared information. She found she was meeting people, adventurers who had already sailed around the world and everyone was willing to share their information. These people inspired her that her idea, her dream was possible. They had done it and so could she.
Preparation was critical. Jessica sailed up and down the eastern coast of Australia, down into the Antarctic – all with the purpose of gaining experience of as many different types of ocean possible before setting out. Then sailing on her own completely she started small. Single overnight trips on her own, staying unmoored overnight and “keeping watch”. Sailors learn to sleep in short spurts, waking up, checking things and going back to sleep again.
How does this relate to business? What’s the equivalent of a “short overnight sail” in business? There are lots of ways to prepare yourself for starting a business:
- Go and work part time or full time in a similar business to gain understanding
- Read blogs, articles, books about business and business people
- Watch videos, TED talks and other on-line content about business. Most of the TV channels now have TV shows: Shark Tank, SBS Small Business Show, Kochie’s Business Show etc
- Subscribe to podcasts where business people talk about their business niche
- Talk to people who are already running businesses, people are incredibly willing to share information and especially talk about themselves and their experience
Not only did Jessica hang out with inspired and inspiring people and so learn from being around them, she also asked for help when she needed it.
I see far too many startup businesses trying to do everything themselves and not asking for help.
Jessica put an advertisement in a sailing magazine and was completely surprised by how generous and willing people were to help. People travelled from all across Australia and further to offer their assistance and to work long days to make the boat most ready for the solo voyage.
If you are starting out in business or thinking about starting out in business consider who you might ask for help. And not in a “do this all for me” approach. Start doing some things yourself, be involved, have your thoughts and plans and then say “Here is what I have done, am doing and here is where I need help” and go out and seek the help you need. You just might be surprised how much others want to help you.
Once Jessica was out to sea she was would be completely on her own. Anything that needed to be fixed was for Jessica to fix so everything that was installed on the boat was kept as simple as possible.
So often I see business startups making things too complex and not keeping things simple. Make and keep everything as simple as possible. What is the simplest way to achieve the result you want? When I’m working with a business startup I talk about MVP – Minimum Viable Product. What is the simplest form of your product that you can create to take to market? Test this out before spending huge amounts of money on creating some thing complex that may not be wanted/ needed.
Jessica talked about Risk Management – what will she do about every single potential threat? They listed every possible threat and then figured out how to mitigate every risk. Jessica admits to being very risk averse. This feels like such a contradiction when she sailed solo around the world at the age of 16. Depends on your definition of risk.
In business there are numerous threats at every stage whether being startup or during growth phase or when more fully established. Risk Management = Identify the treats to your business startup and figure out how to deal with them. One of my favourite examples from Jessica is about Pirates. There are real life Pirates sailing around out there in the ocean. Jessica knew that they would be a major threat so decided to avoid the part of the ocean where Pirates are known to be. Simple really.
Without doubt, this is an amazing achievement for such a young woman and the welcome home was more than she anticipated. That moment on the stage and disagreeing with the Prime Minister of Australia saying “I don’t consider myself a hero. I’m an ordinary girl who had a dream. You just have to have a dream and set your mind to it.’’
Jessica emphasizes that young people – especially girls – can achieve anything ‘‘if you want it enough’’.
‘‘People don’t realise … what girls are made of,’’ she said on the day she returned
I’m inspired by Jessica’s ‘‘you just need the passion to want something bad enough and a way to make it happen’’ Jessica is herself inspired by a quote from Hellen Keller ‘Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing’.
Right now Jessica Watson is the Communications Manager for the Deckee, a review website for boat owners to find businesses, boats, products and locations they are interested in, read what other boat owners have said about them and share their own experiences and from listening to Jessica this seems to be a perfect fit.
What are you passionate about? What are we going to make happen? As I write this it is almost the end of August in 2016 and 2020 is just over 3 years away.
Three years is a great time line to make things happen. Where will you be when 2020 starts?
We can achieve anything if we want it enough ….
I’m Ingrid Thompson and thank you for reading this post.
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