What I Learned from a River Boat Captain

by Dave Jackson

Many of you know, I grew up on the Amazon River in Brazil. As a kid, I had none of the fears we as adults demonstrate. Every day was filled with fun and adventure.

The Amazon was our Interstate. Mom and Dad owned no car, had no TV’s. We made our way from the big city of Manaus to our home up the Negro river – some seven days away – by motor launch.

Anavilhanas ArchipelagoJust northwest of Manaus is a beautiful part of the Rio Negro called the Anavilhanas Archipelago. It is a huge area of island and sandbars, lakes and streams all coming together, yet flowing down to meet the mighty Amazon. To navigate this area, I remember Dad always had a river guide. You had to. Without knowledge of how to go upstream through the maze, you’d run out of fuel – even though you were less than a day from civilization (Manaus).

Even so, there were times when the seasoned river guide would miss the entrance and we’d head an hour, sometimes more, up a dead-end inlet. Frustrated, we’d turn around and travel that same hour plus back to where we started and work another path.

I learned from those experiences that first, you can’t make it alone on an unknown tributary even when the path looks beautiful. You have to have enough information, or “data” as we now call it, to get you safely from point “A” to point “B”. One rapid way to get acquainted with the way is to get a “guide”, someone who has been down that path many times before.

Secondly, even a seasoned river guide makes mistakes now and then. I learned that I shouldn’t criticize the guide for making a mistake, but that I should respect him or her for all the knowledge they have, and are willing to lead me with. We’re all human.

Lastly, I learned at a young age that you shouldn’t “reinvent the wheel”. Had Dad tried to navigate through the Archipelago with just my Mom and I, we’d probably still be there. Dad was great, it’s just he didn’t know the way and was smart enough to hire someone who did – and learn from them.

And that leads me to another thing Dad always did. I realize Mother’s Day is coming up, but Dad had a keen sense to delegate his weaknesses. He didn’t go to Brazil to be a river guide, so why spend time trying to become one? He knew where his strengths were and he capitalized them.

So do this with your business. Are you lousy with taxes? Find someone who does them naturally. What about organization? Can someone on your team help you? Yes, you’ll need to learn how to file and what receipts to keep – but just learn to “drive the car” and forget about trying to figure out how to “replace fuel injectors”. You leave that to a pro.

Don’t work on your weaknesses. Work on your strengths.

Happy prospecting!
Dave in Naples

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