For more than a decade, most of you know that I worked for a publicly traded company, spending a good chunk of my time climbing the corporate ladder. And like any job, some years were good… and some years were bad… Some months were up and some months were down… Sometimes corporate loved you – other times, not so much.
I remember one year (yes – an entire year), which was particularly difficult.
I was managing 5 different departments and during that year, each one of my departments took a major hit. Not little stuff either – We’re talking big things, crazy-unexplainable things, aka “significant issues” that were never part of my original plan.
Allow me to explain…
We went nearly half the year without one of the most visible staff members we desperately needed to have. Not because I couldn’t find the right person, but because I couldn’t get the approval to hire that person. I had someone file an age discrimination suit against me because I didn’t hire her for a certain position (never mind the fact that she didn’t actually apply for the position and never spoke to me about it… so… ummm… yeah…).
We also had employees leave unexpectedly, parents of employees pass away, and I even had a brand new hire freak out about a fairly simple misunderstanding and call the corporate HR office on her second day with the company (good times)…
Further, lightening stuck our company property, and I had to foot the bill for replacing EVERYTHING it hit. Oh – and there were some additional expenses thanks to a reckless idiot who decided to crash his car through our property later that year as well.
There were also bomb threats in our building, client cancelations due to “success” instead of failure, and the ever present “frustration” from corporate regarding the fact that we were inconsistent with our ability to reach our revenue goals.
Like I said, it was tough.
At the end of that year, I decided we needed a rally cry… something that reminded us that we were still capable of success. In reality, I didn’t want to let mediocre finishes become the norm – So I went searching for inspiration.
In January, I found it.
The luxury cruise ship called, “Costa Concordia” suffered a pretty public disaster in January 2012. Over 4000 people were on board when the ship began to sink off the coast of Italy. At that time, everyone knew about the ship itself… But what what grabbed me, was the communication between two Captains… One was the Captain of the Ship… The other, the Captain of the Coast Guard.
I gained my inspiration from this motivational article written by Darren Hardy (read it here)… To summarize, the conversation between both Captains goes like this…
Ship Captain: Please …
Coast Guard: There is no ‘please’ about it. Get back on board.
Ship Captain: I am here to coordinate the rescue.
Coast Guard (interrupting): What are you coordinating there! Get on board! Coordinate the rescue from on board!
Ship Captain: (inaudible)… there is another lifeboat…
Coast Guard (interrupting, yelling): You get back on board! That is an order! There is nothing else for you to consider. Now I am giving the orders. Get back on board, dammit! Is that clear? Don’t you hear me?
Ship Captain: I am going aboard.
Ship Captain: Look, chief, I want to go aboard but the other lifeboat here has stopped and is drifting. I have called …
Coast Guard (interrupting): You have been telling me this for an hour! Now, go aboard! Get on board!
From that moment on, “Get Back on Board” became our rally cry.
And the good news is, it worked.
The next year, things weren’t perfect, but our team came together in a stronger and more productive way. In fact, we had several additional things go wrong that year including a flood in our office (thanks to the tenants upstairs) and a major wildfire that forced the evacuation of several team members from their homes (and nearly our own offices), but we produced strong financial numbers and won national awards for the team’s performance. In addition, people began to grow professionally in a way that caused the entire “ship” to rise. 🙂
Now – perhaps we could’ve done all those things without our rally cry – But I’m not so sure we would’ve been quite so productive. It was that single phrase, “Get Back on Board” that was a constant reminder to each and every one of us that, “this is not the end” and we can do better.
When you find a phrase like “Get Back on Board” – There are a couple of things it does for you… Including the following…
YOUR DISAPPOINTMENT DOESN’T WIN
Trust me… You’re going to have plenty of things in life that will disappoint you – nobody gets out of life without being disappointed. However, the trick is, not to let your disappointment become a permanent state of being.
If you’re constantly walking around thinking things like, “what if” or “it’s not fair” or “it’s not my fault” – then you’re not ‘working through’ your disappointment. Instead, you’re actually prolonging it. And the more you prolong it, the more it begins to win.
Disappointments are meant to remind us how awesome our achievements truly are (you can’t fully appreciate the high unless you’ve felt the low). If you let the disappointment win, you’ll eventually forget what it’s even like to achieve something in the first place. And believe me – the only thing worse than being disappointed, is settling for less than what you’re capable of achieving.
That’s exactly why you gotta own your part of what’s disappointing you, learn from it and move on. It’s actually quite freeing – and allows you to beat disappointment every time.
PICK YOURSELF UP, DUST YOURSELF OFF…
It’s easy to identify disappointment on TV or in the movies… I frequently think of Elle throwing her chocolates at her television, yelling out, “LIAR” shortly after Warner dumped her (lol!) 🙂 Now – there’s nothing wrong with having a couple of hours (or even a day) when you do the same… But when “disappointment” becomes the norm, it’s time to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and “Get Back on Board.”
It’s not always easy to ‘lick your wounds’ and move on – but staying in the same place of disappointment doesn’t lead anywhere. It’s like you’re going round and round in circles, replaying the situation over and over, desperately hoping to get a different/better result.
Unfortunately, we can’t change the past. That’s why it’s imperative to create a new future (a la – Elle Woods getting into Harvard Law!). And believe it or not, the best way to create a new future, is by picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and, say it with me, Getting Back on Board.
FIND A FRIEND TO HELP
Sometimes, the kick in the pants we need doesn’t come from our own internal motivation – It needs to come from someone we know and trust.
In the conversation that started this whole post, the ship’s Captain obviously knew the situation was pretty bad. I’m guessing he had no idea what he could do to change the situation and was seriously overwhelmed. All he wanted to do was abandon ship and give up. However – It was the Coast Guard Captain who intervened and told him (repeatedly) to go back to his original post.
Having a friend pull you forward is essential to not just getting back on board, but staying on board as well. Even if you’ve pulled yourself out of your ‘funk’ – It’s pretty easy to fall back into it from time to time. That’s why having a close friend play the role of the Coast Guard Captian in your life during this time, is super important. Friends can often see when we’re struggling and have a way of ‘pulling us through’ the tough times, even when we’re still trying to decide if getting ‘back on board’ is really worth it or not.
ALWAYS DO THE RIGHT THING
Shortly after the disaster, an Italian boy named Salvatore Garzillo tweeted: “The next time someone asks me what I want to be when I grow up I am going to say: ‘a man like De Falco.’” (the Coast Guard Captain on the left). In Italy, this example of the 2 Captains – is now legendary.
Perhaps you don’t know – but the Captain who left the ship, never actually went back on board. He was seen taking refuge on a rock at 12:30am. Witnesses say he didn’t return to the ship – even though rescue operations continued until 6am.
The ship’s Captain was eventually charged and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Twelve people died because of the disaster and part of his sentence included 10 years for manslaughter. During the trial, the prosecution stated, “The captain’s duty to be the last person off the ship is not just an obligation dictated by ancient maritime rules, it is also a legal obligation intended to limit the damage to those on the ship.”
That’s why Getting Back on Board is a big deal.
It’s not just about you – It’s also about other people around you seeing you come out of your struggle/disappointment. They need to see you doing the right thing, bouncing back and finding your way. Other people around you need to remember your example when it’s time for them to do the same. After all, it’s a whole lot easier to move forward when you know you’re not the only one who needs to do so.
So – if you find yourself or someone you love in need of a rally cry, I’m more than happy to suggest the phrase, Get Back on Board. Again, all of us go through difficulties and disappointments – Perhaps you need to use the phrase to help you continue your workout, or redeem a relationship, or to get ‘back in the game’ after you suffered an ugly defeat. Whatever the case – Feel free to use the phrase Get Back on Board for however long you might need it. 🙂
Honestly – I’m certain “Get Back on Board” will be a mantra I continue to follow for many of the good years and the bad years to come… Always reminding myself of this…
The end, is never the end – As long as I choose to move forward. 🙂
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Carrie Lakey is kind of obsessed with Miss America…
So are 18,000 of her closest friends.
As an avid fan of the Miss America Organization, Carrie began
publicly predicting pageant winners over 10 years ago.
Now, she’s galvanizing an online movement of fans
known as “Pageant Junkies”.
Learn more about the Junkie Nation
by clicking here.