We were a crew of four on a 30-foot sailboat. A round little bathtub meant for slow cruising and not ocean racing. It was week one of what turned out to be a 30-day sail from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro. We were slowly settling into our four-hour-on, four-hour-off watch system. Every day, we received weather predictions and our updated race positions. Being slow and heavy, we expected to be mostly in the back of the fleet.
Then we received a position report informing us that our boat was among the front-runners on the leaderboard.
We were exhilarated. I thought that just maybe we would be able to show the big boys a thing or two. But then we realized that our skipper had made a decision to skirt the outside edges of a large weather system. In non-sailing parlance, he took a shortcut that could never work out longer term. We caught a few really strong winds for a short time. But as the weather system moved, it left us with more of a problem than we had started with in the first place.
For 7 painful days, we were stuck with no wind and no ability to do anything to get back into the race.
Our opponents, the larger boats, had decided to position themselves not only for the current system. They had also positioned themselves for its consequences. Ultimately, they determined their strategy by positioning themselves for the next expected weather system. We maximized the now, while they positioned for the now and the next.
In our rush to make the decisions that business and life throws at us daily, it is so easy to pick what works now, and put off the long term consequences. Let us re-focus not only on what is good today. But let us ask ourselves how we can prepare our companies for great tomorrows. Let us extend our time horizon a little bit, look out for those good winds, and start to build momentum beyond today.