Owning your own business is a journey. One that requires two pieces of navigation.
Knowing where you’re going. And knowing where you are.
In that order.
In between, the trick is keeping one eye on the road ahead and one eye on the horizon. Avoiding potholes while seeing all the possibilities makes for powerful businesses that make people’s dreams come true.
Standing at the bow of the Nantucket ferry on Sunday night, Chris was absorbed by the lights that emerged from the mist at regular intervals. Depth perception at sea is difficult at the best of times. On a fog shrouded evening, with only a narrow moon-lit path to guide you, it’s impossible.
Several times we were convinced that a particularly bright light was Sankaty Head Lighthouse on the island’s eastern tip, only to discover as we passed it ten minutes later that it was in fact a buoy, set to mark the shipping lanes on this busy stretch of water.
Finally I pulled out my iPhone and Google mapped our location. The power of hand-held, battery powered, GPS technology. Three hundred years ago, men drowned because there was no way to tell the time at sea. Time being a key determinant of position. Today, the risk is falling overboard while texting.
The answer, in case you’re wondering, is 6.7 miles. The distance at which Nantucket’s lights emerged from the fog on this particular evening.
At 6.8 miles, there was nothing. Thirty seconds later the entire island lay before us. We knew it was there. We could see it on the map on my phone. We were looking for it. And yet, it still caught us by surprise.
Which is how the future works. Here before we know it. A problem for most business owners, who spend today acting as though they control tomorrow. Too late, they find they don’t. The best we can do for what comes next is prepare. There are no guarantees. Only the inevitability of change.
For today’s success to mean something tomorrow, we need to build platforms and develop strategies that maximize the possibilities that we will reach where we’re headed.
On a fog-filled evening in the Atlantic, the Nantucket ferry provides a reassuring platform. And the lady captain had clearly done this before. As an alternative strategy to rowing ourselves across, it had one obvious downside. Expense. $446 round trip with a car. We thought three benefits more than compensated for the cost. Speed, quality of life and probability of outcome.
As we got closer to the harbour, the captain turned on a massively powerful spotlight and swept the water immediately in front of us. As the outer wall came into view she kept the light fixed to a point at its base. The opening was narrower than I expected. Nantucket’s dimensions have changed little since its days as the home of the world’s whaling industry, and both its nautical and land based infrastructure struggle to accommodate the modern trend of bigger modes of transport. At some point one or the other will have to change.
Building infrastructure that can support unforeseeable growth is a long-term view that requires short-term investment. And commitment. It's easier to just keep going. It's also, inevitably wrong.
Safely into the harbour, there was one last manoeuver to undertake, and she turned the ferry on its considerable axis before lining up the bow of the ship exactly in line with the disembarking ramp.
With the gentlest of thuds we came to rest. 27.8 miles from where we had started. Precisely where we had intended. And fifteen minutes early. A snip at $223.
As we left the ferry and headed into town to find some dinner, we were greeted by streets filled with people busy with their own lives. Which for many meant getting ice cream at the juice bar - the crowd outside the door spilling into the road as we drove by.
Building a busines well, is a microcosm of a life well lived. A clear sense of where you’re going, fueled by a personal journey of self-discovery to which we remain ever open.
We ate leisurely, and wandered the shops for a while, eating our own ice cream. Chris radiated contentment - a sense that has come more easily in the past few years as we exchange years for perspective.
Life lessons are hard earned. As I turned the car into the quiet country road that led to The Wauwinet, I had no way of knowing that tomorrow was going to provide me with one of the most meaningful of my own.