Anchors, away

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Captain Jim teaches his deckhand the finer points of “anchor management.”

My friend Jim captains the beautiful sailing vessel, Shamrock, whose home port is the Masonboro Inlet near Wilmington, North Carolina. (Shamrock rode out Hurricane Florence a few miles upriver and both she and her captain came through unscathed.)

Last year, happily serving as a “guinea pig” for a sailing-based leadership program that Jim has developed, I spent a few days onboard. During our time together our small crew took turns playing various roles and learning and applying new skills.

One day, we anchored in a harbor for lunch and conversation and when the time came to get underway again Jim asked me to raise the anchor. He cautioned me that it was heavy, that the chain was long and that it would take a considerable effort to get it back into place. I strode out to the bow of the ship, took hold of the chain and gave it a good pull. Nothing doing. I repositioned my grip, more firmly now, and steadied myself for an even stronger pull. No chance.

Seeing my struggle, Jim throttled Shamrock forward to relieve some tension from the chain but this only increased the urgency of the moment as I had to get it up before it came in contact with the hull of the ship. I gave it all I had, with legs, back and arms fully engaged and finally, up it came.

I was thinking today about how I sometimes allow my higher aspirations – assuming the best, seeing the positive, building on strengths – to be anchored by the comforts of cynicism, negativity, and even well-intentioned realism.

I was thinking today that those comfortable attitudes keep me securely – much too securely – in place, defenses against the strong winds and rough seas that sometimes accompany my vulnerability.

I was thinking that, no matter how hard I pull to free myself from those defenses, sometimes I need a hand in getting aligned and ready to fully apply myself to the challenge.

I was thinking that there’s a good reason it’s not called “anchoring” or “harboring” or “motoring.” Shamrock, like all sailing vessels and like all of us, is built to harness the wind and cut through the water.

We are made to be free of our moorings and navigated out to the edges of our potential.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

Do the Work

“If we do not transform our pain we will most certainly transmit it.”

Richard Rohr


There’s a line from the poem “Out on the Ocean” by David Whyte that conveys Rohr’s meaning with visceral urgency:

“Always this energy smoulders inside, when it remains unlit the body fills with dense smoke.”

That unlit energy is the potential and possibility within each of us to transform ourselves from who we are to who we want to be.

If it is not activated it turns into acrid smoke that at first only chokes us, but in time finds its way to others in the form of resentment, jealousy, harshness, impatience and intolerance.

It can be grueling to bear our own pain, the wounded, unrealized or unfinished parts of ourselves. So we either keep allowing it to spill over onto loved ones and colleagues or we decide to do the work to transform it from an anchor to a sail.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.