I’m a week out from starting the 4 am giddy up for  the new rowing season. I often parrot the line “god, I don’t know” when asked why I continue to row, how I manage the early morning training sessions and then devote slabs of weekends to what is essentially a 4 minute or less race.  But the truth is, I do know what compels me to row.  I love it and the lessons delivered enhances my career as a designer and project manager in the area of 3D marketing.  Here’s what I have gleaned:

Photo by Peter Wilkinson

 1. It’s not about you, it’s about the crew.

Straight up, I am not a single scull rower and I don’t particularly love a double or a pair.  No, I am much more at ease in a 4, quad or 8 where more personalities are in play. I love the feeling when a crew is in sync, swinging along with blades cutting through the water simultaneously. This fluidity can only be achieved through the crew feeling what is happening in the boat and continuously making small adjustments to keep course and technique. It is not only about what you are doing in the boat, it is how you gel as a crew and tackle issues such as balance and leg push that get you vital headway in a race.  This is the same in the exhibition industry where as a solo operation, Diva Works would have limited achievements but when I bring in my suppliers and partners, the projects I can take on and deliver are so much greater. I am in the ridiculously lucky position of always having rowed with gals better than I and in the exhibition and display field, my good fortune with having the best partners and suppliers has also held.

 2. Little adjustments can have a big impact.

God love Koach Kim, my patient and endearing rowing coach these past 6 years.  Never to shy away from a challenge, he has worked with me to refine the dropping of my outside wrist, the rocketing into front chocks, leaning too far back, not lifting my hands at the catch…anyway, the list of stuff to fix is long and impressive. By trying correct this unwieldy long list of stuff, I am finding that rowing is becoming easier and I am not wasting precious energy in doing all the whacky stuff that were hallmarks of my rowing style.  I’ve also used this focus on small adjustments into how I encourage my clients to work on their trade show a presence.  By stripping away too much copy on a stand, reducing the amount of widgets on display and thinking about the numerous ways to engage a visitor and continuing that conversation post show, my clients are getting better results with their trade show presence.  Whatever is working well is kept and what is dated or not serving a greater purpose is turfed.

 3. There is no finish line.

Oh yah, with 2 silvers and a bronze in the 2012 NSW Masters I was riding high with my chest puffed out. Coming back from regatta with the sound system cranking Foster the People, I was happy in the knowledge there was not another moment I could have found in my stacked schedule to do more training. Then a thought occurred to me: could I have used what time I had more efficiently to achieve an even better result? Ah crap….yes.  So with a wonderful 3 day break from doing any training at all, I came face to face with Nathan, my new demonic personal trainer who has set a kick arse regime in place for the next season.  Just like rowing where crossing the finish line only means you need to carb load for your next race, trade show success only means that you have something further to build on and the next event is coming up fast.  Exceeded your ROI?  Congratulations, let’s step it up again next show. Have gathered record leads on the stand? You’re so brilliant, let’s actually follow all those priceless leads up. Celebrate you success for sure, but stay hungry and agile.

4. The brain is your built-in self limiter.

I get 400 meters from the finish and I hear that internal voice tell me I can’t make it. I have a god awful training session where nothing I do is right and I kick myself for ever thinking I could row. I look at a brief for a sales office and match it against the budget and think it can’t be done, that the task is impossible. Both on an off the water, the grey matter can work against you. But it is precisely at these moments that a spark within is lit and the internal resistance is galvanized. Yes I can make the last 400 meters, I will have a better training session next time and hell yes, there is a clever solution to this low-budget brief. Never give up and keep striving for the better result or solution.

Beyond these 3D marketing lessons that rowing had taught me, I was gifted something even greater: enduring friendship. I landed in both Melbourne and Sydney at different stages of my career knowing no one and I have had the good fortune to fall in with some of the best people I have ever met. Perhaps it is only being clad in lycra at 5.30am that strips away any ability to yourself seriously. Whatever, I look forward to more life and 3D marketing lessons delivered via a fiberglass hull and the tapping down of the outside wrist.

Photo by Peter Wilkinson

Do you have a lesson leant about business, delivered from en entirely different source?  Please share in the comments below.  Now it’s time to relive the barnstorming glory of the Masters and Foster The People’s “Helena Beat”.