happy with where I am at right now

I've been a bit stressed out recently - probably a combination of many various things. My son is leaving us this summer for Duke University and it is going to be really hard to see him go. Helen is swamped with her new job as the race director for the Calgary Marathon which is only about a month away, and she's working her brains out. I think the biggest stress for me lately has been the agonisingly slow progress of the PedalTheOcean project. I would make faster progress if I sat with my chair facing the wall and spent a few hours smashing my head against it.

However, right now I am feeling very happy. It took some thought as to exactly why, and I think I have made some valuable insights:

1. I need to have a worthy goal underway. It must be challenging and it must involve a physical component that requires demanding physical training. The challenge must be difficult, and it is OK if it is impossible. It is also very important that the challenge require plenty of CREATIVITY. Trying something that hasn't been done before, or finding new ways to solve problems.

2. I need to have more than one worthy goal underway at the same time. I am a huge believer in focus, but I also see tremendous value in balancing a couple of different projects at the same time for the simple reason that at least one project is always running smoothly when the another might not be. When I was running my companies way back in the early 90's, I could stay very motivated in pursuit of my challenges if at least one of my ideas, ventures, companies, or projects was working out the way I envisioned. Small successes always provided the fuel that kept me plugging away at the day to day, mundane stuff.

3. I need to structure an environment where failure is a viable option. I believe in sticking to a plan and accomplishing my goals, but I believe it is very unproductive to continue to invest time, money and resources into a project with diminishing returns - or something that has turned into major UN-FUN. Serious challenges always involve periods of agony, stress and disheartening failures. I am NOT advocating giving up at all! It's just sometimes when everything is going against you, you need to take a step back, pause for a while and reconsider the whole concept. The reason it's all 'going against' you is probably your own fault. Stop, step back and re-think your approach.

4. I need to structure an environment that is conducive to allowing me to focus what I am good at, and for others to contribute their expertise to the project. I get very frustrated when I feel like I have to do something that I don't want to do, or feel like I am incapable of producing the level of quality required.

I'm sort of at insight #3 and #4 right now with PedalTheOcean. Not that I am any where near quitting, but I do need to take a step back from the project for a while, and do some serious thinking about what exactly I want to achieve from it. I need to contemplate how to restructure the project environment to best take advantage of what value I can bring to the table, and structure an organization that works and makes me happy and confident that we can achieve the end goal.

With PTO right now, I feel like I am pushing a 2 ton piano up a steep hill. Every time I stop pushing, the piano rolls right back on top of me. The moment anything abut PTO exits my immediate consciousness, everything grinds to a screeching halt. These days I am constantly on the phone or emailing to keep things moving along. Push, push, push, push, push all the time. It's really frustrating and becoming very un-fun in a big way. Everything from getting the naval architect to finish the final drawings to finding a boat builder to resolving my support boat issues to getting help with equipment purchases. If I'm not actually doing it, NOTHING gets done. And unfortunately, the project is way too big for me to do everything.

I need to find a way to structure this project in a way that involves a TEAM approach - not just the one-man-band. I can't do everything myself, and I am sick and tired of begging, pleading, bitching, harassing, etc. This is not a safe way to set an ocean crossing speed record.

I also realize that finding a support/safety boat is NOT going to be easy! I am faced with probably having to buy my own boat and manage crewing it myself, and I don't have the financial resources or expertise for that. Sailing across the Atlantic in a yacht is an expedition in and of itself! It was always my objective to find a corporate sponsor to help offset costs like support, and so far I have only been able to raise a few thousand dollars from small companies and individuals who are interested in what I am trying to accomplish. I have also received plenty of sponsorships in the form of gear and supplies, but this is only a very tiny portion of what I need to pull this off, and finding those gear sponsors is very time consuming.

I am totally psyched about Ocean WiTHiN which is mostly Rick Willoughby's design. I think it is a really promising concept and we have come so far with the WiTHiN prototype - testing, sea trials, training and learning. This is going to be one VERY cool machine, and I think the technology developed as part of this project can be applied to many areas to improve energy efficiency. As an example of what Ocea WiTHiN should be capable of, in April during my second sea trials with WiTHiN prototype, in only 4 hours I managed to journey 35 km directly West into the Pacific off of the Tofino BC coast, and 35 km back again. If I had been going one-way, in 8 hours I would have traveled 70 km due West and probably well over 100 km that day, and that was against the prevailing currents and weather. This is not intended to diminish in any way the challenge my friend Roz Savage has on her hands, but a few days ago, she was on day TWELVE of her California to Hawaii rowing expedition and she was about 100 miles from the coast. Yes, Roz was and is currently battling some pretty fierce winds and sea conditions, and she has to spend most of her time these days locked in the cabin waiting for better weather rather than rowing. Roz is an inspiration to me, but these behemouth, ocean rowing boats are just not the most efficient way to travel across an ocean on human power. Ocean WiTHiN is not only far more efficient and faster, but it is designed to continue to make way in adverse weather. If you try to do so on the open, exposed deck of a rowing boat, you are risking your life. The caviot, of course, is this has yet to be proven, but I firmly believe that I am on the right track.

I have so much more to learn and I am really looking forward to gaining more ocean experience and training. I am also really excited about the challenge of crossing the Atlantic ocean in less than 40 days, and I think we can do it. But, I realize that I cannot do this myself and I do need help. I need to take a break from the project and do some serious thinking about how I can structure it in a way that makes it a REAL team effort. Pursuing some major corporate sponsorship funding is probably that place I will have to start, and maybe I should follow in the footsteps of Pete Bethune from Earthrace who hired a CEO - Fiona Clark. I like that idea.

For now, I am VERY happy just focusing on the 24 hour human powered boat distance record attempt. I have a boat (Rick Willoughby's V11 design) that I believe is probably the fastest boat powered by a human (for distances longer than a few km). The challenge is VERY daunting! I need to beat a world-class kayaker by the name of Carter Johnson who owns the current record of 242 km in 24 hours. He is a beast and this is going to be TOUGH.

I am happy now because V11G is very close to design specification speed, and very close to fast enough to perhaps challenge Carters record. I am at the fine-tuning phase, and I have a very accurate testing protocol where I feel confident that I can measure very small changes in efficiency due to experimental modifications to the boat. This is fun because it invites some creativity on my part.
  • What effect does waxing the hull have on the speed?
  • How about lighter outriggers?
  • Would Styrofoam planing skimmers be faster than the outrigger floats?
  • What effect would different shaft materials have on speed? (spring steel, aluminum)
  • Can I maintain a faster average in windy conditions if I added a fairing?
With my pre-set loop course, GPS and SRM power meter, I can answer all of these questions and continue to fine-tune the boat into world record speed territory. This is the fun part! Plus, I know how hard this challenge is and that really lights a fire under this aging butt regarding my training.

It looks like the weather is going to break tomorrow, so I will head back to the lake for more testing. I made a couple of skimmers to replace the outrigger floats. The weather looks very good for Friday, so I am planning a fast 100 miler training ride on the M5.

Have a great day and a fantastic weekend!


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1 Responses to “happy with where I am at right now”

  1. # Blogger Alex

    Greg, I so know what you mean, I'm going through the exact same thoughts at the moment about my own project, and feel that my PC, phone, desk and sundry cardboard boxes are all that it consists of, when it should be about people pulling together. I've taken a break, at first I felt guilty, but now I know when I come back I'll be insoired and motivated and able to pass that on to other people.

    I'm very interested to see what comes out of the PTO project even if you never cross the Atlantic in it. I've always wanted a self-sufficient day/cruising boat mainly for all the inland waterways here in Europe and whilst OceanWithin doesn't suit all my parameters I can learn many lessons from what you're doing.

    And everytime I see OceanWithin I can't help but think, hmmm if it's this good with human power alone, what could we learn for maybe solar/electric assist?  

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