5 things about business I learned from Open Water Swimming

I’m now a successful open water swimmer but this wasn’t always so. First time in, I was terrified. The second I was engulfed by water I had brain freeze. Ideas had deserted me.  It reminded me of how often this happens in a business context.  Which then got me thinking of the parallels………

  1. Fear of failure is paralysing.

Sometimes you just have to try. What you achieve may not be perfect but practice makes progress. Besides if everything went swimmingly first time (forgive the pun), you probably wouldn’t learn to embrace continuous improvement.  After all when you’re swimming its inconceivable that you would just stop, for obvious reasons!

2. How do you reach clear water?

Anxiety levels are palpable before the race. The gun goes off, the churn is immense – Sometimes we are so caught up in the moment that we don’t look to clear water but stay “in the churn” This is hard work and results in swallowing a lot of water and battling with your fellow swimmers in a combative way. How much better to work with them, find your space and move forward effectively?

3. How do you get from start to finish efficiently?

The direction is impossible to pick out – This is most disconcerting, you’re in the middle of a large lake, how do you navigate the course and find the finish?

The answer is simple – look up – often. Don’t expect to put your head down and stay in a straight line. By taking stock of where you are, you can adjust your plan, keep yourself on track or adapt to a better one. When you’re under pressure this can get forgotten and soon you’re miles away from where you should be, battling to get back.

4. The environment will always be unpredictable

So what are your options? Accept it and work with it, or don’t, and fight against it. We can control and influence certain factors; others we cannot.

Imagine arriving lakeside ready to fly round for a personal best and finding that the weather has turned, the rain is intense and the wind and waves are high. Do I stick to the plan or adapt to the changed conditions?

Flexibility and adaptability are critical to success. Challenge yourself to use, to your advantage, those things you can control. Set aside those things you can’t influence, your energy is better spent elsewhere.

5. The overall goal needs support

– are your team inspired to help you deliver the vision? I learned the hard way when announcing my most exciting challenge to friends and family and meeting a distinct air of apathy. Why?

Well, I hadn’t bothered to share my vision to engage their support and involvement. I literally just landed it on them – which took some coming back from!

In the end though my husband was nutritionist and kayaker, friends were support crew and training partners and so it goes on. I would never have made it across that lake without them. We were a team and celebrating together was one of my most rewarding experiences.

It was worth learning that vision, goals and objectives are unlikely to be delivered by one person. The team makes it happen, your engagement with them is critical.

It took me 12 months to master the art of open water swimming, conquering my fears and successfully navigating across Windermere in a respectable time of 4 hours 29 minutes. This reminded me you can’t always achieve your goals overnight – you must be realistic; you should regularly set small goals to celebrate.

Since then, I’ve met many people who would love to try or should try the open water but are too scared. I’m proud to now provide guided swims – sharing the learning I’ve gained to help people before they even start their journey. It’s fabulous to see people develop skills and fulfil their potential – so much talent may otherwise have gone to waste.