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clocked in

This month, Kevin Hall does a little comparison shopping. Brought to you by Mauri Pro Sailing

I’m going to run with the family theme again. My sabbatical from the Cup combined with the fact that my cherished wife, Amanda, works full time mean that I have been working in the home for the past few months. Phone bill. School lunches. Tennis pickup. New gymnastics leotard (too small oops). Homework. Getting a serve from the my son’s 3rd Grade teacher for not writing down which book he read. Groceries. Laundry (wash, and fold)…you get the picture.

I’ve always thought the phrase “preaching to the choir” was a little off. I mean, if the choir is busy singing like they’re supposed to be, they can’t hear you preaching, right? If this comes across as preachy, I apologize. Want I want to say is this: it is a lot harder than it looks.

Many of you will have read this somewhere. I had. Or maybe heard it from a mate. I had. Or even had a little glimmer of it when you took care of the kids for a whole weekend while she went to the spa with the girls. I had. None of that begins to shed actual light on the reality that when it’s you, day in, day out, trying to keep the wheels near the car after they’ve fallen off again, you finally come to appreciate just how good you had it when your biggest worry was having left the Medium in the chaseboat when the seabreeze really kicks in.

In fact, that little glimmer of light you think you have is far worse than no light. Those couple days give you the false impression that you can extrapolate from your fun daddy weekend: We went to the movies in our pajamas! We had pancakes for dinner! Daddy gave me a sip of his beer then we watched Star Wars!… Just stretch that out to a month instead of a weekend, and that’s what it would be like. Right? We might think being on duty for a long weekend provides legitimate insight into what it’s really like running the household. I thought it did until very recently. I can assure you that it doesn’t. So if you haven’t for a while, thank her. Don’t buy her roses though, she’ll wonder what you’ve done wrong.

I have had one small victory. For years I have been frustrated by the amount of my waking life I spend looking for the correct Tupperware top. When we moved back home to NZ two months ago, I claimed two entire drawers in the kitchen. The Tupperware now goes in those drawers assembled. Not nested with tops flat against the side of the drawer. Each little box all put together with its top on it. Yes, it takes up more space. But I’m into time efficiency now, anything which will provide a predictable sequence of events. The fact that I have to walk down the hall to get a pan doesn’t bother me. I can count on exactly how long that will take, and it’s always less time than it takes my six year old to tie her shoes.

Some days I’m on fire. Treat in the lunches, nail the afterschool snacks, remember the playdate, everything. Those are usually the same days the kids pull clumps of hair out of each others’ heads just before dinner.

If you’re on a big sailing team, there will be days you have done everything right in your particular role, and the race still doesn’t go well. I’m glad I knew about this before parenting. Not that I had so many days that I did things right out there. I did see firsthand how possible it was for it to seem everything was going OK but the wheels fell off or the bows went in anyway. It’s an odd kind of frustration. Could one or should one have tried to help one of his teammates with his bit?

I think this is where it gets quite tricky. There’s no right answer. People with high confidence, which is a big part of why they are there in the first place, are often at risk of inadvertently letting the ball in their own court drop while trying to help others keep their balls in the air. The teams with longer-standing, stronger cultures have feedback loops which help facilitate getting information around the place to provide the necessary support for the struggling members. Newer teams may not have those loops. Whether they are explicit or they happen by the espresso machine and in the bar, they are extremely important.

Maybe new guy just doesn’t realize that the stopper knots he keeps putting in the end of the kite sheets not only have to be taken back out, but they also set off the moody bowman for the whole day. Or maybe someone who has been doing pro gigs for years and should probably know by now but for whatever reason doesn’t, still leaves the rubbish loose in the cooler even though every day there’s a rubbish bag right there. Things like that.

If you’re in the wonderful and thrilling part of your career where this all sounds like an armchair has-been typing boring words, I envy you. Racing sailboats is a wonderful sport with unlimited room for learning and challenge. Don’t get too distracted by this stuff (although being the guy who tidies the cooler and always carries sails shouldn’t hurt your reputation). If some of it sounds familiar, look hard for ways to help spread the issues and the load around the team you’re on. I recon the good old fashion piss-up can provide far more measurable benefit to team performance than you might think. If you were needing an excuse to grab a second or fifth drink with your mates while she’s home holding the fort down, tell her you’re working.

Title inspiration thanks to Black Flag

March 18th, 2014

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