Monday, March 9, 2015


Image credit: Fpound at the English language Wikipedia

I recently watched a very enjoyable "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee" episode by Jerry Seinfeld with Bill Burr as his 'vehicular guest'. Early in the show Bill espouses a philosophy of life that was passed down to him by his financially astute brother. It goes something like this: "You don't want to be the guy that owns the boat. You want to be the friend of the guy that owns the boat. Let him deal with docking fees and the barnacle cleaning. You just show up with the beer and you're the hero. You get on the boat, you enjoy it and when it's done you can [wipe your hands of it.]" 

You can see the clip for yourself by clicking here and fast forwarding to around 3:50 minutes.

On the surface that seems like a perfectly good, perhaps even admirable, way of living your life. You get all the benefits with none of the inconveniences. But I'm not so convinced. While you may enjoy many of the advantages with fewer burdens in the end you are not the master of your own destiny. You are completely dependent on your friend to want to take out the boat which he or she will do on their schedule and at their convenience. You may be enjoying the ride but it's likely not when nor how often you want it.

When discussing a complex situation with a mentee there sometimes comes a time when the mentee wishes someone else would be stuck owning the problem. I gently remind them that all problems have gifts hidden in them. If the fear of making mistakes comes up I gently remind them that their decisions will either be correct or they will learn something - all positive outcomes. The joy then comes from owning the issues and having the independence to make decisions and reap the benefits whether they be success or learning. Independence and the ability to control your own destiny are precious qualities to cherish.

I'm not suggesting to shun the help of others. Few of us advance without the friendship, encouragement and guidance of family, colleagues, friends, managers and mentors.That's equivalent to getting help picking out the boat or maintaining the boat or steering the boat. It's not the same as just going for a ride.

All this talk of boats and sailing and destiny brings celestial navigation and the following quote to mind:

"It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves."
- William Shakespeare