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Thats Outside My Boat

Letting Go of What You Cant Control


Charlie Jones and Kim Doren
Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013
199 pages
[@] getab.li/24120
Book:

Rating

9 Applicability
8 Innovation
8 Style

Take-Aways
Focus on what you can control and not on what you cant control.
As Olympic rowers put it, pay attention to whats inside the boat; ignore whats
outside the boat.

Stop worrying about whats beyond your reach, and concentrate on whats within
your grasp.

Focus

Dont only try to accept the troubles in your life; celebrate them, learn from them, grow

Leadership & Management

Be optimistic, and keep faith with yourself.

Strategy
Sales & Marketing
Finance
Human Resources
IT, Production & Logistics
Career & Self-Development
Small Business
Economics & Politics

from them and turn negatives into positives.

Unexpected events can lead to success.


No matter how tough things may get, keep trying. Let good things happen.
You cant change the past, so forget about it. You can only shape the future.
Ignore distractions, and focus on your goals.
You may think youre out of options, but youre not. Life offers many choices.

Industries
Global Business
Concepts & Trends

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Relevance

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What You Will Learn
In this summary, you will learn:r1) How to apply the whats outside my boat philosophy; and 2) How Olympic
rowers, professional athletes, CEOs and other people apply this philosophy to achieve success and happiness.
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Review
What do Olympic rowers, a radio host, a TV producer, three NFL players, a sailboat skipper, an explorer, a sports
columnist and a golf-course architect all have in common? They operate according to the same principle: Dont
worry about what you cant control; focus only on what you can control. Like the rowers, winning people ignore
whats outside their boat and pay attention only to whats inside their boat. Charlie Jones and Kim Doren offer
an anthology of 55 vignettes written by a cross-section of people who put this practical philosophy to work with great
success. Most of the tales are compelling and meaningful, making the collection a warm, worthwhile and enjoyable
read. getAbstract recommends these inspiring stories to readers who are ready to embrace a single idea: Focus on
whats in your own boat, and row.
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Summary

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The 80% of your life
that doesnt count is
outside your boat.
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Dont Worry About the Wind


In 1987, the rowing World Championships took place offshore near Copenhagen, a difficult
rowing venue because of its notoriously heavy winds. A line of tall trees protects the rowers
in lane one from the usual gale, but wide-open lane six takes the brunt of its force. In
that outside lane, rowers must battle not only the heavy winds, but the big waves that the
wind creates.
The day of the finals, the wind whipped up 18-inch waves at the starting line. In the nextto-last race, the Dutch womens team had the bad luck to draw lane six. To protest, they
quit rowing with only 300 meters to go, yelled at the officials and gestured angrily at the
TV cameras.
The US womens team drew lane six for the finals, but didnt protest. Despite the
treacherous position and despite being seriously outsized by the strong Soviet and East
German rowing teams, the US women held first place after 500 meters. They finished
second, behind the Romanians, who edged them out near the end of the race.

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The past is outside
your boat. Nothing you
can do can change the
past. Everything you do
changes the future.
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After the race, US crew members said they hadnt focused on the heavy winds or the waves.
Instead, they locked their attention on Betsy, their coxswain. OK, she exhorted, were
at 1,000 meters and weve got three seats (the length of three onboard seating sections) on
the Russians. Give me another 10. Lets take two more seats. The US rowers proved the
value of staying focused on what you can control and ignoring what you cant control.
Rowers dismiss extraneous factors by saying, Thats outside my boat. When a reporter
interviewed rowers at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, this attitude prevailed. What if its
raining? Thats outside my boat. What if the wind blows you off course? Thats
outside my boat. What if you break an oar? Thats outside my boat. Great rowers pay
attention to whats inside their boat. Everything else is superfluous.

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The following vignettes illustrate how people from a variety of professions and
backgrounds focused on what was inside their boats and carved out their own winning
philosophies to conquer daunting challenges:
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The more you can
focus on whats inside
your sphere of control,
the bigger your sphere
will get. (Michael
McNeal, vice president,
PureCarbon Inc.)
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Major successes are
built on failure, on
frustration, sometimes
even calamity and how
you deal with it, and
how you turn it around
from a negative to a
positive. (Sumner
Redstone, CEO,
Viacom)
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When it gets so tough
and it doesnt seem as
if theres a reasonable
answerits time to
quit trying to control
the situation and just let
things happen.
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The pendulum will
swing, and there will be
another day. Youkeep
on keeping on, because
you must. (Anne
Evans, chair, Evans
Hotels)
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Entrepreneurs in Rough Seas: Chart Your Own Course


When Colleen Moorehead launched E-Trade Canada, she went into competition against
large, well-established Canadian banks. Early on, she decided to keep our competitors
outside our boat. She didnt build a network of branches like other Canadian banks. She
decided that her company would become the first, foremost electronic bank in Canada and
would position itself as a customer advocate, which meant that customers should be able
to do everything themselves. Her formula worked, and she now says, Were very proud
of our rebellious streak.
Dion Julian Lattimore and Scott Torrellas were the top salespeople at a mens clothing store
when the company fired them. They had no money and no tailors to make any customized
clothes they could sell. Undeterred, they decided to open their own clothing store. To start,
they bought 50 cloth swatches from a local fabric store and created their own swatch book.
That day, they sold $50,000 worth of clothing to NBA players. At first, they worked in
Lattimores apartment. Their first year in business, they sold $1 million worth of clothing.
They did $2 million their second year. Now in business six years, they have more than 2,000
clients. Lattimore explains, The company is growing, and were operating in the black
because we take care of what is inside our boat.
Los Angeles businessmen Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank did a great job running
the Handy Dan Home Improvement Centers. They realized $155 million annually in
gross sales. Then Sandy Sigiloff, CEO of Handy Dans parent company, fired them.
Moving on, and focusing on what they could control, they decided to create a discount
home-improvement warehouse store. They asked Texas magnate Ross Perot, former vicepresidential candidate, for a $2 million investment in exchange for 70% of the stock.
He turned them down. They found other investors and started Home Depot. If Perot had
invested, his $2 million would be worth $58 billion.
When David Wolper produced the TV miniseries Roots, he had no control over how the
ABC network handled its programming. ABCs Freddy Silverman informed him that the
episodes of Roots would run on successive nights without a break. Wolper thought this
was a terrible plan, but he couldnt do anything about it. In fact, televising the show night
after night proved to be the best possible decision. Roots became one of TVs greatest
hits because it was on every night. Wolpers story offers a great example of the way
unforeseen waves may carry you to success.
From the Football Field: Control What You Can Control
The Cleveland Browns were Willie Daviss first team when he played in the NFL. Then
the Green Bay Packers traded for him. At first Davis was upset; hed wanted to spend his
career as a Brown. But he quickly realized he couldnt control which team picked him up.
Davis changed his attitude, played hard and did his best for Green Bay. Hes now in the
Pro Football Hall of Fame.
When he joined the Denver Broncos as a rookie free agent in 1991, Reggie Rivers didnt
think he would make the team, but by his second season, he was the starting fullback. His
third season, the teams new free agents included fullback Robert Delpino. Although Rivers
was outplaying Delpino, the Broncos benched Rivers and let the higher-paid Delpino start.

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It takes a lot of guts to
say, You know what?
Im leaving the boat,
take your toolbox
and head off in a new
direction. (Cameron
Hall, management
consultant)
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The measure of a
person is not what he
does when hes standing
on top of the world, but
what he does when hes
standing on the deck
and his ship is sinking.
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When a market
condition changes
or a competitive
environment changes,
those things are outside
your control. But what
you must control is your
attention to them. (Liz
Dolan, president,
Dolan St. Clair Sports
Marketing Consultants)
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Control is about
having the courage
to let certain things
go. (Dr. Joyce
Brothers, psychologist)
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At first, Rivers sulked and quit working hard in practice. But, after thinking about it, he
went back to giving 100%. Once he decided to control what he could control, Rivers had
his best NFL season and made the Pro Bowl as a special-teams player. He learned, You
can control how you react to others decisions.
In 1974, KGB, an FM radio station in San Diego, hired recent college grad Ted Giannoulas
for $2 an hour to perform as the Famous Chicken mascot at San Diego Padres baseball
games. Though he had no experience as an entertainer, Giannoulas was happy to put on the
uncomfortable, unwieldy chicken suit and act goofy for the teams fans. He had no control
over any aspect of his job. He wanted to get in with a major radio station, and it was a
start in broadcasting and he worked hard at it. Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner offered
him $50,000 to leave the Padres and come to work for the Braves. When KGB learned of
Turners offer, it agreed to match it. Turner doubled his offer. Loyal to his team, Giannoulas
decided to stay in San Diego. Padres owner Ray Kroc gave him a $10,000 bonus all this
for a man in a chicken suit who was willing to work hard every day. As he says, Count
on your work ethic.
As SeaWorlds vice president of marketing, Jan Schultz decided to introduce SnowWorld
to kids in southern California. He imported 400 tons of snow right before Christmas, but
a heavy rain hit on the day of the opening. SnowWorld quickly turned into SwimWorld.
However, Schultz was not dismayed: Whether it rained or not was outside his boat. He
contacted his snow supplier, who agreed to make more snow right away. The plant had to
produce it quickly; the line of children at the front gate many holding sleds stretched
for half a mile. By noon, the company had made enough snow to let the children frolic
in southern Californias dazzling new SnowWorld. This singular attraction remained a
SeaWorld specialty for 15 years.
On January 14, 1993, Sunniva Sorby and three other women explorers became the first
female team to reach the South Pole without sled dogs or motorized vehicles. Pulling
heavy sleds, the skiers traveled 700 miles in 67 days, in weather that sometimes dropped to
minus 50F (minus 45.55C). Sorby became ill during the ordeal. She trusted her teammates
to help her, and they did. When I got out of my own way and I let go of my own desire and
willingness to control myself, when I let go of all that, says Sorby, I built a community
of strength around me with my teammates. She found new strength by letting go.
The sports business is cyclical, as George Montgomery, former president and CEO of
TaylorMade Golf, knows. In 1998, the golf-club business fell 20% after five years of
double-digit growth. Leaders cant control such circumstances, but they can control their
level of inventory risk, receivables risk andspending.
Never Lose Sight of Where You Want to Land
Too many managers focus on the little things, says Candy Lee, president and CEO of Troll
Communications. Managers like to pay attention to minor details, which can be readily
controlled. But Lee believes that small things should be out of managers boats and that
they should focus on the big picture, like making sure their boats are heading in the right
direction. For managers, thats what being in the boat is all about.
Craig Masback, CEO of USA Track & Field, flies constantly. To deal with the unpleasant
glitches that accompany flying, like cancelled flights and lost luggage, he uses a technique
he calls travel without emotion, or T.W.E. It involves taking a deep breath and doing his
best to be calm amid logistical nuisances. Masback compares T.W.E. to T.O.M.B.: Thats

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outside my boat. T.W.E. doesnt always work, but its a real help most of the time. T.W.E.
enables him to follow his own advice to keep your emotions in check.

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Theres something
deep and enduring
within all of us that is
so strong that unless we
have been challenged,
wed never have known
we have it.
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Being laid off is
like getting thrown out
of a boat. You know
you can swim, but you
dont knowhow far
the shore is. (Mike
OConnor, former retail
chain VP)
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The only philosophy
of lifecompatible
with sanity is optimism.
You cant really
succeed unless you
are optimistic and
have self-confidence.
If you lose confidence,
youre done. (Sumner
Redstone, CEO,
Viacom)
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Be Ready to Alter Your Course


After the birth of their third child, Tom Sheridan and his wife decided to make some
changes. Sheridan had a job he loved as a sports columnist. His wife was a physician. But
somebody had to stay home with the kids. Sheridan became Mr. Mom. He found that
changing course has its rewards, and this turned out to be a great move for him. He hosted
a weekly radio show and became a part-time newspaper writer. Gradually, by throwing
my old career outside my boat and letting go of my doubts, Sheridan says, I built a new
and even better boat for myself.
Cameron Hall was agrochemical giant Monsantos worldwide head of consumer
products. Due to his excellent work, Monsanto promoted him, but he didnt like his new
position. So, he quit. As Hall puts it, he fired himself. Dont be afraid to change boats, he
advises. Then he joined E-Trade Canada, stayed for less than two years and fired himself
again. If you feel trapped in your boat, you can leaveat any time, Hall says. In business
today, you have a lot more options than you think you have. Youre in your boat, but you
can be in another boat in a second.
When Ron Gidwitz became the CEO of Helene Curtis, the company was not doing well.
It marketed a wide variety of mostly undistinguished beauty products. Under Gidwitzs
direction, it eliminated a range of second-rate products and focused exclusively on what
was inside its boat: its hair-care business. This strategy worked so well that the firm will
soon have the second largest market share in the [US] after Procter & Gamble. Gidwitz
learned that sometimes it pays to toss things overboard.
Silver-Medal Sailor: Sail Your Own Boat
While competing in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, J.J. Isler, a US silver and bronze medalist
sailor, realized she was worrying too much about the other three teams that were tied with
the Americans for second place. She changed her focus. I realized whatever happened
in this race was going to happen and I should just relax and enjoy it, says Isler. Thats
what she did, and the US won the silver medal. Once I freed my mind to spend more time
looking at the patterns we were seeing in the wind instead of worrying about the other guys,
I could think about where we were going.
For actor and motivational speaker Tom Sullivan seeing things has always been outside his
boat: He was born blind. Sullivan compensates using his other senses and has learned to
celebrate what is inside your boat. On a typical morning, his guide dog Partner licks his
face to wake him up. Sullivan smells the fresh ocean air of Santa Ana as Partner guides him
to the beach. Thanks to his astute hearing, he says he can sense 15 kinds of waves and
enjoy the applause of the crowd of sea lions as he and Partner run on the beach. Sullivan
cant do anything about his lack of sight, but he focuses on the things he can control. He
says, Im an able-bodied sailor inside my boat, and I love it.

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About the Authors

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Charlie Jones, a network sportscaster, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Sportswoman Kim Doren
has worked as a marketing director and media consultant.
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