How to keep your mental boat afloat

I have often heard the phrase “whatever floats your boat” and never gave it much thought. During a recent period of reflection I gave the boat metaphor some more thought and found that it might be a good way to describe each one of us in our lives and our careers. Let me take a few moments today to describe what I know about boats and keeping them afloat and headed in the right direction. By adopting this kind of mindset I think each one of us might have a better idea of what we are trying to accomplish and what direction we are taking in our lives.

My nautical knowledge is negligible, but I think this analogy will be simple enough that any one of us can understand. Let’s use the simple picture of a rowboat to get started:

There are a few key items to keep in mind when rowing a boat across a body of water:

Where are you going?

What/who is in the boat?

What are the conditions around you?

What is your timetable or schedule?

Let me compare the items above with a simple SWOT analysis one might use in a strategic planning activity:

S-Strengths (internal) What do you have or possess that benefits or makes you better or stronger

W-Weaknesses (internal) What issues do you currently have that may impede your progress?

O-Opportunities (external) What is going on in the market around you that will affect your progress in a positive manner

T-Threats (external) What is happening in the external environment that could challenge or keep you from reaching your intended goal

Back to the boat; Strengths could include your skill and experience in rowing and also in using the equipment. Weaknesses would include your lack of the items listed above as well as the state of your overall physical and mental fitness (these could be a strength also). Opportunities could include a tail wind or a favorable current headed in the direction you are headed. Threats might entail a headwind or current that opposes your direction. One other factor to consider on the internal side is the load you are carrying in the boat. If you are strong and light in weight, that load is minimal. If you are not as strong and larger in girth, the load could be more formidable.

For myself and many others I know and work with, we never give enough thought to thinking about the four questions listed above about direction, load, conditions and schedule. Each of these play a key role in determining our ability to complete the tasks we set forth to accomplish our goals. I would venture to say that many of us may be rowing in circles rather than taking into account our internal and external challenges (weaknesses and threats).

One other factor to consider is that I am only talking about rowing your own boat. When you are leading others, the ability to know the internal and external challenges and strengths/opportunities is even more important because your decisions affect others as well as yourself.

What should you do to keep your boat afloat? Here are a few thoughts?

Understand the condition of your boat? Is it seaworthy and is it rigged appropriately for the journey ahead? Do you have the proper skills, knowledge and experience to undertake the journey you are about to embark upon?

What is the load in your boat? Are you trying to move to much of a load and do you need to consider “lightening your load”?

Do you know your destination? How are you checking your progress? How do you know your career destination and what intermediate goals have you set to reach the ultimate destination?

How will the external environment affect your journey? Are there head or tail winds? What does the job market hold for your targeted role? Is the demand high or is the role in a declining mode? The worst feeling of all is rowing hard to a destination that holds no promise when you arrive.

None of us wishes to set off on a journey that does not reach the promised land. Columbus had some idea of where he was going, but he also had Faith in his belief that going west would help him reach the east based on the belief that the earth was round. Having a strong Faith in our Lord is also a component I encourage each voyager to have as they row each day toward their career goal.

My prayer for you is calm seas, a tail wind and a clear view toward your intended destination.

Best wishes for a smooth journey!

In his role as Principal at Ryan Search & Consulting, Dan leads the Talent Acquisition and Talent Development processes for the firm. This includes Retained Executive Search, Facilitation, Leadership Development and a wide variety of other group process activities. Dan’s search work focuses on mid-to-senior level leadership while his consulting work includes Executive Coaching, Organizational & Leadership Development, and Group Facilitation. His primary market segments include Engineering, Construction, Architecture, Manufacturing, Healthcare, Life Science and Economic Development.

Dan has earned a MEd. from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University, an MBA from Tennessee State University, and a BS in Engineering Physics from Murray State University. He is an adjunct faculty member for Peabody College of Vanderbilt University and has also taught at Belmont University.

How to keep your mental boat afloat

This project is an introductory investigation of buoyancy and the shape of different boats for different purposes. The goal is that the student will learn through their own experimentation the reason boats are shaped and engineered the way they are and gain scientific knowledge around a real-world concept.

Research Questions

  • What is buoyancy?
  • How does density affect buoyancy?
  • What is drag and what shapes might affect drag?
  • How does a boat carry weight?
  • What are the different shapes of boats that people use? How is each of these types of boats used?
  • What boat shapes perform the best when you want the boat to move quickly? When you want to carry cargo? Which is best for stability?

Boats serve many purposes: carrying cargo, rescue or wartime missions, recreation, etc. The shape of the boat helps to determine its effectiveness in completing different tasks. Some of the parts of the boat that play a role in the way the boat moves are the hull and keel. By experimenting with the shape and materials used to make these parts of the boat we can determine which shape is best for what purpose, and understand science concepts such as buoyancy and water displacement.


All materials can be found at a craft store or around the home

Small objects that can serve as weights (pebbles, metal washers, etc.)

Aquarium, kids swimming pool or bathtub

Experimental Procedure:

Fill up a bathtub, pool or aquarium with water to test your boat shapes in.

You will need to know where the hull and the keel of a boat are. For a labeled diagram click here:

With an adult’s help cut different hull shapes from balsa wood, cardboard, or Styrofoam trays. For ideas on different shapes, see Figure 1. You can also try basic shapes like rectangles, triangles, etc.

Experiment with each to see how quickly they can move across the water when given a little push. Write down observations in your notebook. Use a chart like the one below (Table 1) to keep track of your observations.

Experiment by adding weight to the different hulls. You can use modeling clay or whatever you have collected to serve as weight. Which hull moves best as you increase the weight? Make sure you keep track of what you find out!

Once you have completed your exploration of diffe rent hull shapes experiment by adding keels.

Cut two identical hull shape s. Cut a narrow keel and a wide keel. Glue them to the hulls with a hot glue gun. Be sure to get help from an adult.

Test the different keel shapes. Which moves faster? Which moves straighter? Create a chart like the one you used in your hull experiments to keep track of your tests and observations.

If you are interested in experimenting even more with your boats you could investigate rudders and tillers. What could you use to make a rudder or tiller? Be sure to continue to write down your observations.

What other things could you add to your hulls and keels? Sails? Try it out!

You may want to take photographs as you complete your experiments to use for your science fair poster or presentation.

Research the different types of boats. Which types are shaped the way your experimental boats were? Do your results make sense?

How to keep your mental boat afloat

Material used

Shape of Hull

long and narrow

Easy to move, stable

Terms/Concepts: Buoyancy; Density; Drag; Boat parts: hull, keel, rudder; Water displacement


  • Buoyancy B rainteasers
  • Science Fair Project Encyclopedia: Boat Building
  • Macaulay, David. The Way Things Work. Houghton Mifflin , Boston. 1988.

Disclaimer and Safety Precautions provides the Science Fair Project Ideas for informational purposes only. does not make any guarantee or representation regarding the Science Fair Project Ideas and is not responsible or liable for any loss or damage, directly or indirectly, caused by your use of such information. By accessing the Science Fair Project Ideas, you waive and renounce any claims against that arise thereof. In addition, your access to’s website and Science Fair Project Ideas is covered by’s Privacy Policy and site Terms of Use, which include limitations on’s liability.

Warning is hereby given that not all Project Ideas are appropriate for all individuals or in all circumstances. Implementation of any Science Project Idea should be undertaken only in appropriate settings and with appropriate parental or other supervision. Reading and following the safety precautions of all materials used in a project is the sole responsibility of each individual. For further information, consult your state’s handbook of Science Safety.

How to keep your mental boat afloat

I was sitting in the back of a bus with some friends recently as the driver wound his way through some narrow streets in downtown Tel Aviv. One of these friends told a story with a closing line that caused others of us to erupt with laughter. It’s hard to double over in a bus seat, but this was the kind of side-splitting laughter that caused the rest of the passengers to turn around just to see what was happening to us. They started laughing themselves, even though they hadn’t heard the story or the punch line. They simply laughed because we were laughing, which made those of us in the back laugh all the more. For good reason, we describe laughter as contagious.

For all of us, laughter is medicine for the soul. I’m no expert at managing stress, though I live with a fair amount of it. But what I’ve discovered over time is that spontaneous, unexpected laughter is a great release from the pressures of life. It may not heal or relieve all things. It certainly doesn’t solve many problems. But it alters perspective, introduces humility, and cultivates relationship. I’m not thinking of the polite chuckle that accompanies awkward conversation, or the cynical laugh that may be at someone else’s expense. I’m just talking about the kind of deep laughter that triggers those feel-good brain chemicals called endorphins.

Actor Alan Alda encouraged some college students one time to laugh for their own well-being. “There are people who think that the only thing that separates humans from the rest of the animals is their ability to laugh,” said Alda. “I’m not so sure anything separates us from the rest of the animals except perhaps our extreme egotism that leads us to think that they’re animals and we’re not. But I do notice that when people are laughing, they’re generally not killing one another. So, keep laughing yourself and if you can get other people to join you in your laughter, you may help keep this shaky boat afloat.”

The shaky boat he was speaking of is our fragile and fragmented society. Evolutionary psychologists believe that laughter was an early bond that helped bring human groups together. If this theory is true, it would help explain why we’re 30 times more likely to laugh when we’re with other people than when we’re alone.

Laughter has not fared well in Christian history. Part of the reason may be that the New Testament has scant evidence of laughter except for the scornful variety with which some people targeted Jesus. I wonder more, though, if Christianity isn’t made up of a lot of serious people who believe their seriousness is part of their righteousness. In other words, we tell ourselves not to get too frivolous with matters of the soul.

If that thinking is in play, we should challenge it by laughing more. After all, we have a shaky boat that needs our help in staying afloat.

3 Comments on “Keeping this shaky boat afloat”

Pat Fennnelly

Thank you for mentioning this page at services this weekend. As one other person commented each offers a lot to think about. I could reply “thank you” to many but want the authors to know my comment is truly sincere. It takes a lot of courage to post your thoughts and feelings.

Jeanne Ann Elkin

I recently lost my husband and it dawned on me last week that what I miss so much is our laughter! We laughed at everything and it really takes two or more to laugh at something.

We all know that cardboard boats tend to bob, sink, and generally fall apart faster than you can say Trojan Homecoming. That’s part of what makes this Friday’s Cardboard Boat Regatta so entertaining – that we get to see these marvels of engineering hold up as long as they do before they become jetsam themselves.

So how do you build a perfect vessel? We asked and got some “Lighthearted Tips for Designing a Cardboard Boat,” courtesy of Philip Persson and Kari Payton.

In the interest of competition, we’ve only given a few of the many tips offered.

How to keep your mental boat afloat

The basic concept of a boat is that it is a structure that resists the forces of water when it is pressed into a body of water by gravity and the weight of the boat’s contents. The water wants to collapse the sides and rupture the bottom of the boat. So, the shape of the boat needs to keep water out of the space it occupies below the surface of the water.

How to keep your mental boat afloat

Another way that the boats will fail is that water will find a hole to flow through, or make one in a weak joint. So, use plenty of duct tape on your joints, and use long pieces that stretch at least six inches past your joints.

How to keep your mental boat afloatHow to keep your mental boat afloat

The wider a boat is, the more stable it will be to rolling over, which we don’t like to do. Getting your hair redone is expensive. Having sharp ends makes the water flow around the sides, rather than pushing against the front. So it’s easier to go fast, which is more fun than going slow.

How to keep your mental boat afloat

Keep your seats low, so you don’t rock the boat as much. Also, keep them wide. This makes it more comfortable, and keeps the boat stronger. As cardboard gets wet, it tends to break where the weight is concentrated in small areas. Keep your weight spread out, and have places for your feet. This makes paddling easier, and faster. Everybody likes fast paddling.

For those of you riding in this regatta, good luck. For those who will be watching, we’ll see you poolside!

How to keep your mental boat afloat


Previously, we mentioned how important it is for one to stay active and moving even with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, that isn’t the only thing you have to take care of; your mental state of health is equally important to your overall well-being.

At a time like this, feelings of impatience, stress, anxiety, irritability, frustration will all start to rise. As a result, we may fall back into bad habits such as a change in eating or sleeping pattern, worsening of mental health conditions, panic and worry over the health of your loved ones and your own health. Especially with the isolation and the feeling of uncertainty about the future ahead, one’s mental health may be heavily affected.

While some of us may not be able to contribute our efforts into slowing the spread of the virus directly the way frontline and essential workers do, we all still can play a part by taking care of ourselves and our cherished family members first.

So, instead of talking about how furnished apartments for rent may be a good accommodation choice for you; we’re going to move away from that and discuss how you can keep your mental health at its best state amidst the COVID-19.

Maintain a regular routine

This can never be emphasised enough; a regular schedule is optimal for excellent mental health.

It means you should eat your meals, bathe, work or study, exercise and sleep at consistent timings. Let your body be adjusted to the standard daily routine, so you don’t ever feel unproductive or lethargic.

Meanwhile, it’s also a great opportunity to throw a couple of activities that keep you brimming with joy. Whether it’s gaming, reading, or dancing – do whatever you must to keep yourself happy!

Keep exposure to news media to a minimum

While it is good to stay updated and read up on the news relating to COVID-19 from time to time, too much information can backfire on your mental health.

It can start to be upsetting once you hear of how damaging and consequential the crisis is to everyone, and even begin to heighten fears about the disease. Especially when the news can be from unreliable sources and are all complete rumours, anxiety levels will go through the roof.

So, estimate how much news and information you can take in daily, and try to stick to that limit. That way, you’d be able to keep calm and not panic over the crisis.

Create a ‘“worry drop” journal

Have too many worries accumulating within your head? Is it starting to take a toll on your mind?

Then, maybe penning down your fears and thoughts in a book may help to ease the anxiety. Meanwhile, you can also jot down the good things right now, and know them by heart. The smallest things can keep you feeling positive with a cheery mood all day long!

On the other hand, if you currently have a mental health condition; you should follow this step closely. Make an appointment with your therapist if need be as well; it can be as simple as a video or phone call.

Stay occupied

It’s always great to have some alone time to yourself, chill a little, and take a break from all the socialising.

However, too much alone time can do the opposite effect; causing you to overthink and have the cycle of negative thoughts repeat over and over again. So, unless you’re a mega-introvert – it’s probably best that you keep yourself busy to rid yourself of such bad thoughts.

Explore new hobbies or activities or maybe even do some chores or DIY a new pencil holder – there’s a whole list of things you can do as long as you set your mind to it!

At the end of the day, it’s all about engaging in something positive to keep your anxiety at bay.

Positivity is the best remedy

As simple as it sounds, it’s a lot tougher to do.

Rather than dwell on all the grey pessimistic thoughts, it’s really about focusing on the bright side of everything. If such thoughts are starting to pile up, call up a buddy or talk to your family member to release all these thoughts and doubts.

A little chat can go a long way in easing your anxiety and boosting your mood. So, start out every day by thinking of the different things you should be thankful for. With a little bit of effort and positivity, your mental health will be at its best for sure!

Right now, the COVID-19 situation is gradually worsening while measures being put in place are getting a lot tighter. While that is the case, with unity and responsibility – it is possible to slow down the spread of the virus.

At 85Soho, existing housemates will still have access to our fully serviced apartments and business operations will still proceed as per normal. Residents are encouraged to keep up with the rules and measures, so as to lend a helping hand in fighting the virus. We all have a role to play, and as long as we stick to it, it is possible to beat the crisis together!

Sailing & The Sea is Therapeutic for Our Mental Health

How to keep your mental boat afloat

Lydia Millar afloat and enjoying her university sailing

Lydia Millar, a final year student at Queen’s University Belfast, joined the university’s sailing club to help improve her mental health.

Describing herself as ‘an emotional sponge,’ Lydia believes that no matter how cold you may get on a winter sail, nothing warms the soul and puts the ease as much as sailing. She has since become part of a community and gained a sense of belonging, daring others to ‘try it’ and give sailing a go. She also rows at Belfast Boat Club on the River Lagan.

Lydia says “I got involved in sailing through my dad. When he was a boy, his dad handmade him a boat called Sea Hawk which he sailed at Killyleagh on Strangford Lough. Due to a busy work schedule, he stopped sailing for decades; however, in 2006 we got a cruising yacht and I’ve been sailing ever since. Last year, I also joined Queen’s Sailing Club and we sail Firefly dinghies at Ballyholme Yacht Club”.

She admits that she has always been an anxious person and after leaving school her anxiety became a problem affecting day-to-day life. “I had to make the decision to leave my dream university and dream course to come home and reset. At the time, the pressure of fitting a mould, pretending everything was fine and “sucking it up” was too much. I couldn’t lie to myself like that”.

In her second year at Queen’s Lydia joined the Queen’s Sailing Club. She remembers being nervous joining but knows it was the best decision.

She continues “Escaping the city and being thrown into a boat with likeminded people did, and continues to do, much for my mental health. First and most importantly, sailing gave me a sense of community and belonging. A group of people all sharing in the freedom that sailing allows is amazing. Secondly, it changed the direction of my focus from inward to outward. Both mind and body are engaged in sailing which can be a welcome distraction, helping to get out of your head. As part of this, you learn to embrace all kinds of weather thrown at you, from sunshine to torrential rain (and sometimes even snow). However, trust me when I say, nothing warms the soul and puts the mind at ease more than a bracing winter’s sail followed by a warm shower and cup of tea. Try it, I dare you. The sea is so therapeutic, and the sound of a boat gliding through the water. now that’s bliss”.

Lydia is convinced that sailing has definitely improved her problem-solving skills as you have to be on the ball for potential mishaps, and when they occur you have to be quick to respond.

The sport has also she says, improved her creativity – trying new things to get better results has helped with her studies and in finding unique ways to answer legal problems.

Sailing gets you into the open air

She concludes ” Sailing gets you outside and into the open air, bringing you movement and freedom. And so, if you’re feeling stuck or have felt out of sorts or you would just like to challenge yourself with something new, I’d highly recommend getting in touch with your local sailing club and give sailing a go”.

The Sport Northern Ireland Sport Wellbeing Hub is a valuable online resource. It was formed in response to the COVID 19 challenge and provides instant access to helpful information, guidance and resources that can be tailored specifically to help care for our wellbeing needs.

How to keep your mental boat afloat

Navasana also known as boat pose is not one of Bob’s favourite poses. Whenever he attempts this pose, his back starts to round and both his legs and torso gradually sink towards the floor.

There are three things that Bob can do to keep his boat afloat.

What is Navasana

Navasana is one of the seated pose that occurs in the middle of the Primary Series of Ashtanga Yoga. The pose is repeated five times in a row with a lift of the body off of the floor in between each repetition.

There are several benefits to practising this pose including:

  • Strengthening the muscles of the abdomen, hip flexors, and spine
  • Stimulating the kidneys, thyroid, prostate glands, and intestines
  • Helping to relieve stress
  • Improving digestion

How to do Navasana

How to keep your mental boat afloat

keep your back straight when you do Navasana

This is a fairly easy pose to enter. There is no binding or twisting that you need to do.

You start in Dandasana, seated on the floor with your legs together and straight out in front of you.

Next you start exhaling and you lift your arms up parallel to the floor with your palms facing each other.

Then you lean your torso back to about 45 degrees and lift your legs up between your hands.

Now you gaze towards your toes and hold here for five or more breaths.

There should be just enough space between your hands for your legs to fit between them and your feet should be about the same height as your head.

As you can see this is a fairly simple pose to enter, however a lot of people complain about pain or discomfort in their lower back when they do this pose.

Why does Bob’s lower back hurt

This pose requires a lot of support from your core and your back. If your back muscles are weak or your back and hips are poorly aligned than you could cause a great deal of pain in your lower back muscles.

Fortunately there are a few things that Bob can do to get rid of this pain in his lower back.

What can Bob do to protect his back

Both of the tips below will help Bob to better support his back and relieve the pressure on his lower back muscles.

  1. Straighten your hips and back
  2. Hold on to your knees

If the first one does not work then you move on to the second.

1 – Straighten your hips and back

There are many things that you do to support your lower back.

First you tip your hips up towards your legs. Bob needs to be balanced on his sitz bones of his hips and not on the back of his hips.

You do this by bringing the top of the hips up away from the floor. Eventually the spine will be rising straight out of the hips. The back of the hips and your spine will be in a straight line.

Next Bob needs to engage Uddiyana Bandha. This is the lower abdominal muscle lock. You engage Uddiyana Bandha by drawing your belly button in towards your spine and then up towards your ribs. This is a gentle but firm movement that brings firmness to the lower abdominal muscles and to the lower back muscles as well.

Once Uddiyana Bandha is established we move on to the next support action.

Lift the ribs up away from the hips. You want to create more space between the hips and the ribs. This will reduce compression on the abdominal organs and start to straighten the spine.

Continuing on, you drop your shoulders down your back towards your hips. This movement will engage the muscles of the upper back and they will add their strength to supporting your back in this pose.

Finally lift your chin slightly until the back of the neck and the back of the head are an extension of your spine.

All of these movements will result in your spine rising straight out of your hips and all of the muscles in your back being engaged. Usually this is enough to remove the discomfort from the muscles of your lower back.

How to keep your mental boat afloat

Hold on to your knees to protect your lower back

If your lower back muscles are still complaining there is one more action that you can do in combination with the steps that you have just taken.

2 – Grab your knees

If after straightening his back, Bob discovers that his lower back muscles are still complaining he can hold on to his legs just below the knees with his hands coming from the outside.

These two separately or in combination will remove the strain from his lower back.

But my tail bone complains when I do this pose

While straightening the back will sometimes fix this problem there is another solution if that does not work.

If your tail bone continues to bother your after you have straightened your back then you can place a thin pad made from a blanket or small foam block under your hips. This padding will make the floor softer and give some comfort to your tail bone.


Navasana is simple posture to enter but you can suffer from pain in your lower back while you are in it. Bob can do two things to remove this pain.

He can straighten his lower back and engage the muscles of his core and lower back. If this action does not work then Bob can hold on to his legs just below his knees.

Next Steps

If your lower back is bothered when you do Navasana work with your teacher to implement the suggestions above. Your teacher will be able to help you to make Navasana a fun posture that you look forward to rather than one that you dread.

Written by Jack

Jack teaches Ashtanga yoga exclusively at Sunrise Yoga Studio in Dartmouth NS. The studio also offers prenatal, Kripalu, Yin, and Power yoga classes.

Like any good leader, however, a captain also willingly listen. Captains will take advice from their advisers in certain situations, and then balance the advice against their own experience. A good captain is able to take all of these sources of information and synthesize them to come up with the best possible solution.

As a business leader, you must be willing to do the same. Strong leaders unabashedly listen to those around them while also using their own experience and wisdom to make decisions for the benefit of the company. They don’t shy away from making firm decisions, nor are they so concerned for their own power that they neglect to listen to what others have to offer.

Dedicated workers

Ships have always required dedicated crews to keep them afloat. The ships of old required crews of men who would paddle the ship or control the sails to keep the boat moving. Crews today might man the sails or the engine rooms. No matter where the crew is working, however, they have to be prepared to give the boat 100 percent.

The employees you select for your business must also be fully dedicated to your company. You should be able to trust that their skills and experience will help them move the organization forward. Running an efficient business means not having to look over everyone’s shoulders, but instead establishing goals and having your employees work to meet you there.

Choosing a direction and sticking with it

When sailing a ship, the boat has a concrete destination. The captain and crew might have to adjust their route slightly if a storm comes up or another obstacle crosses their path, but they always know where they’re going and how they plan to get there.

Your business must have the same foresight. Successful organizations don’t set vague goals for success. Instead, they lay out concrete, measurable goals they want to achieve. When the goals of the organization are clearly laid out in front of everyone, it’s much easier for each person to know exactly what they’re supposed to do and how that fits in the broader picture.

Keeping a ship — or business — afloat requires strong leadership, a dedicated staff, and concrete goals. When you manage to keep these three ingredients in mind for your company, you’ll be well on your way to success.

Last weekend I had the privilege of watching people attempt to do exactly that. Join me for a video of what happened, and some thoughts about how to keep your LeaderShip afloat, even if it seems to have turned into a Great Wallowing Pumpkin.

How to keep your mental boat afloat

This past weekend the town of Stillwater, Minnesota, held its annual Harvest Fest. What makes this event different from so many others? Gia-normous pumpkins. In past years, the fest has been a showground for some of the largest pumpkins in the world.

How to keep your mental boat afloat

But impressive as they are, it’s what they do with these giants that interested me.

People climb into these babies and race them. Down a river.

So Sunday afternoon, we drove to Stillwater and joined a throng of humanity down at the Saint Croix river.

As we maneuvered for a good viewing position at water’s edge, four athletic looking men squeezed by in front of us. They were clad in black wetsuits and carrying kayak paddles. When the crowd caught sight of them they let out a big cheer.

The men lined up next to massive hollowed-out pumpkins sitting on pallets. It was hard to see the process from where we stood, but one by one, these intrepid pumpkin jockeys mounted their spherical orange steeds and floated out into the river.

If you happen to be up on your pumpkin facts , you already know that these orange beauties are about 90% water. So even hollowed out, with a full grown pumpkin pilot on board, they ride very low. Just a few inches makes the difference between floating and floundering.

How to keep your mental boat afloat

And when I say “floating,” maybe a better mental image of these giant squashes might be “bobbing” or “wallowing.”

The person with possibly the coolest job was the guy in full SCUBA rig who helped ease these giant veggies into place.

When the ponderous pumpkins were finally lined up, the airhorn blared, and the race was on. The finish line was 100 yards downstream. Better than words can describe, this video gives a good sense of what happened next.

Great fun, but what’s the leadership angle in all of this, you might ask? I was wondering that myself. Here’s what I came up with.

If your leaderShip feels like it has somehow morphed into a clumsy orange gourd wallowing unresponsively in the middle of a river, here are four ways to improve your pumpkin propulsion.

  1. Paddle intentionally. The way to keep your pumpkin afloat and moving in the direction you want is with deep, intentional strokes. Lots of shallow, frantic flailing will dump you in the drink faster than you can say, “Bobbing for pumpkins.” Especially in times of crisis , stay calm, be deliberate, and make each stroke count.
  2. Stay centered. If you get out of balance with your pumpkin, and especially if you get top-heavy, sooner or later, you’ll get dumped. Stay low, be humble , and you’ll get there eventually.
  3. It’s not about you. Keep in mind that ALL parts of your pumpkin are essential; if it weren’t for the parts below the waterline, there would be no floating, and certainly no racing. So be sure to show some appreciation every day to the people who keep your LeaderShip afloat; especially the ones out of public view .
  4. You need a keel. People who make boats put keels on them so they go straight. Without one, every paddle stroke can send the boat in crazy directions and it’s hard to know what to do next. A clear, shared vision , and cornerstone values are like the keel for your LeaderShip. They help you steer a straight path, and simplify your decision-making. If you don’t have a keel for your team, that’s a good place to focus.

Lead with these four ideas in mind from day one, and whatever vessel you are piloting should float high and run straight.

If your boat is already wallowing, the first thing to do is to check for leaks in your trust gap. Get those plugged ASAP. Then work on the list above. With time, persistence, and patience you’ll be able to get your LeaderShip afloat.

As fun as the Pumpkin Regatta was, there was one other thing that was pretty fun to watch. Did you ever wonder what it looks like when 1,000 pounds of pumpkin fall 50′ to the ground? Enjoy! The mad scramble afterwards is people who want the seeds so that maybe they can grow a monster of their own next year.

How to keep your mental boat afloat

Closing thought: I’m thinking of applying for the job of SCUBA Pumpkin Machete Guy next year. The job description includes chopping holes in the bottom of swamped pumpkins so the water can drain out when the crane lifts it out of the water. It just looks cool.

Question: How do you keep your leadership afloat?

Here’s a simple four-step process that can help you get engaged. It’s called BOAT (Breathe, Observe, Accept, Think) because it can keep you afloat during turbulent times and help prevent you from sinking into the energy draining patterns of resistance. The BOAT process can be used during times of duress and throughout the day to keep yourself on-board, so to speak, so you don’t feel washed out when it’s time to go home.

1. Breathe

While keeping your spine upright, breathe deeply and slowly. Expand your belly as you breathe in. Relax your belly as you breathe out. Breathing in such a way lowers your blood pressure, helps rid the body of toxins, strengthens your heart and lungs, improves digestion, and increases mental clarity. Make it a point to simply breathe fully and slowly throughout the day, especially during times of stress.

2. Observe

Keep breathing. Internally, observe any thoughts, images, emotions, and physical sensations that occur. In times of duress emotions or thoughts can seem overwhelming, as if they are the whole truth. Continue staying open to them and those thoughts and emotions will pass. Externally, observe what occurs separately from internal reactions. Picture a two-column list – the first for internal events, the second for external events. If you can, actually write this list out when things get stressful.

3. Accept

Keep breathing. Simply accept the truth of the moment, both external and internal events, as you observe them. If you are experiencing a deluge of negative thoughts and emotions, the following may be helpful:

Ask, objectively, “Is this true?” Take the stance of an independent investigator.

You could also start a list of positives – starting with something ridiculous like, “It’s a good thing that I am not being eaten by giant carnivorous watermelons right now” or something basic like, “Hey, I’m alive!” Keep going and list more positive things in your life. For this to work your sense of gratitude must be authentic. If you find that you are thinking you “should” be grateful, pause for a moment and see if you can think of something for which you actually are grateful. If this doesn’t work, try a different strategy. There is no sense beating yourself up with gratitude.

It often helps to move your body if you are struggling with acceptance or having trouble thinking. Lots of people have sitting jobs. Movement can help create mental flexibility while improving health and well-being. It counteracts the stagnation of sitting.

Now, try accepting the truth of the moment again.

4. Think

Keep breathing. What is the most powerful thing to do in this moment? The answer will vary depending on your circumstances. Once you have accepted the situation you can consider what to do next. Use the GROW process (below) to arrive at your best approach.