A Boat With Ten Anchors
I recently heard a beautiful metaphor, originally relating to chronic fatigue syndrome, which I’ve paraphrased here:
“Imagine you have a boat with ten anchors hanging off the side.
If you pull one anchor up and nothing happens, you do not throw it back.
It is not a useless thing to have done.
You can do all the right things and nothing happens, then pulling up the final anchor is very impressive.
What’s important is identifying what the anchors are and pulling them up one at a time.
The thing someone did last is the one they perceived as having fixed the problem.”
This analogy applies to our lives and businesses more broadly.
We’re often restricted by a range of factors, like a boat with ten anchors hanging off the sides.
When we make positive changes and our boat doesn’t move, we get discouraged.
Even worse, we hear stories about someone else pulling up that last anchor and suddenly accelerating, then become discouraged when the same doesn’t happen for us.
Here are some examples of pulling up anchors in your business:
· Building an audience on social media
· Conducting customer interviews
· Building a healthy team culture
· Changing your pricing/cost structure
· Setting up an online store
· Changing how you hire and fire
· Creating a personal brand
· Switching to a new software platform
· Developing new products through a hackathon
· Creating new industry partnerships
Or in your personal life:
· Joining a networking group
· Changing your diet
· Buying a fancy pillow
· Committing to an exercise program
· Joining a book club
· Creating an online dating profile
· Reconnecting with family members
· Taking a short course for professional development
· Taking up a new hobby
There’s an infomercial in every single one of these.
Somebody bought a new pillow and it changed their life.
Somebody started a Shopify site and it transformed their business.
Somebody took a course that changed their career.
Somebody met their future spouse through bizarre circumstances.
By no means will these things happen to you.
These were all someone’s final anchor, the last remaining piece of the puzzle.
You might pull up this anchor and still have four more in the water, two of which you haven’t noticed yet.
That doesn’t mean you should throw the anchor back.
Personal development is the long term commitment to keep trying good things.
If you’re expecting instant results, you’ll end up disappointed.
If you tell yourself that you only have one anchor holding you back, you might be blind to the other three that are still pinning you down.
This also goes the other way.
Beware of being the spokesperson for a miracle cure – just because it was your final anchor doesn’t mean it will be magical for everyone else.
It was the thing you did last.
Please don’t discount all the work you put in beforehand, when you pulled up the other nine anchors.
Each of those were just as influential as the final anchor, even if it wasn’t clear at the time.
When I heard the analogy, it really resonated with me.
It made sense of why progress felt slow and lumpy, as well as explaining the “growth spurts” that seem to come out of nowhere.
It reminds me that the actions that improve us aren’t immediately recognised, and when we finally reach a resolution we should remember all of the work that went in, not just what we did last.
Here’s what I would think about next if I were you:
What are my anchors? What might be holding me/my business back?
Am I happy to commit to a strategy of pulling up all the anchors I find, irrespective of the immediate results?
Who can help me identify the anchors in my blind spots?
Who can help me stay motivated as I keep trying new things?