Back in Sweden, back at work, and halfway through the cold that seems to be my “welcome back to society”-gift. With a busy time at work I haven’t had time to reflect much, but I remembered that several months ago I wrote a text about sailing and flow that I would like to share with you. It started with Jens daydreaming about a faster, leaner boat that you could just land on a beach. He read a quote from a boat designer out loud:
“I have yet not met a person who thinks that it is more fun to go slow than to sail fast”
And I think everyone who knows me know that I am a rather impatient person. Which holds true also for sailing. Yet, maybe it’s my stubborn soul but something inside of me would like to protest against that statement. Because there is nothing like a really slow sail that enables me to think to the thoughts end. And isn’t that exactly what people are saying they miss out on these days? People go to yoga classes or a retreat, run miles in the rain or mow their lawn to get some space to think. Sailing slow will give you just that.
Racing, or sailing through the night, will typically give you the opposite experience – a total focus on here and now. When you are racing fast with the boat you are occupied doing just that – all attention on the compass, the sails, the waves and the wind in your neck. When it requires just the right amount of focus, skill and attention you get a sense of flow.
I think that the reason it’s much easier to get flow when sailing than at the workplace is that you seldom get disturbed. It is monotonous enough to get you in the zone and you can always find a way of challenging yourself. The challenge could be trying to steer an exact course, getting the perfect angle towards the wind to fill the sails, or facing the waves and surfing down fast while still keeping a nice motion of the boat.
On the same time, you can also often decrease the difficulty if it gets too hard. If the wind is too strong and its force on the tiller makes your arm go numb you can decrease the sail area. If you have trimmed the boat as good as you can and it’s still too challenging it may be possible to lower the goal instead, e.g. change the course a bit so that it is easier to surf down the waves without the risk of a gybe. Or have a star as your guide when it’s too hard to see the compass in the dark.
This creates the perfect space for flow. That magnificent space of full concentration that distorts time and make you live only in the here and now. If there is one thing I know about this year it is that my comfort zone in sailing has been heavily expanded, and I can now for instance enjoy sailing through the night or racing with more than 10 m/s in the back.
Now I’m not the first person to think about this connection between flow and sailing. I found a blog on “The Psychology of Sailing” that had a post on this very topic, but from a sailing athlete point of view.
When sailing is all you do day after day, month after month, the sailing in itself is not enough to entertain and stimulate the daily life. Probably your partner is not enough either 😉 You need to find some other source of entertainment and new perspectives. Listening to some good music during the night can both speed up the time and with the perfect soundtrack big scary waves in the dark can be transformed into a thrilling ride and enable a sense of flow. But then of course, there are lots of times when it’s too easy to sail and therefore easy to get bored. The perfect activity then (except for making an apple crumble) is listening to a podcast. And to all our fellow sailors out there who are continuing their journey (or friends at home who want entertainment for their commute), here comes a list of some of my favourites:
TED Radio hour at NPR “a journey through fascinating ideas, astonishing inventions, and new ways to think and create”. I’m a real TED geek, but I realised years ago that the radio hour can be even more interesting than the talks since they combine a number of speakers surrounding a specific theme. Try the episode on Failure is an option or The Hero’s Journey to get an idea.
Radiolab could be described as documentaries on various topics produced in a similar way as TED radio hour. The last one I listened to was on the subject of “K-poparazzi” which gave some interesting insights on cultural differences, but you can also learn about the story behind Candid Camera (Smile my ass), the world of hackers in Darkode or Patient Zero which tells the stories of how they have backtracked to the very first person with HIV.
One of my favourite radio shows in Sweden is “Sommar i P1”, a show where celebrities, scientists and entrepreneurs get to have their own show on a topic of their choice. It’s in Swedish but you can listen to a couple of episodes, including an inspiring talk by Johan Rockström, Professor in Environmental Science and the artists Lars Ulrich from Metallica, the global superstar Maher Zain and Tobias Forge, the singer in Ghost. For geeky Swedish-speakers I also recommend the podcasts “Snedtänkt” or “Allt du velat veta”.
What are your podcast favourites?
All the best from the cold land up North!