4 Lessons From Sea to Boardroom

Finding Meaning in Mom's Crazy Trip Part 2

Since returning from our voyage, and now officially divorced, so much of what was learned from working off the grid paralleled boardroom life as I experienced it. As an advisor to companies who are interested in connecting to their consumers with emotional branding, I often speak to groups about my own entrepreneurial story and share lessons learned at sea. Here are just a few of my favorites that may save you some time and effort:

1) Stretching your comfort zone grows self-confidence

Being off the grid forced a "new normal" and connected me to myself. On the long crossings I found clarity and calmness with no wifi, cell phone, or sight of land. I was the only one on the boat who didn't enjoy seeing the odometer getting smaller.

By swapping my Armani suit for a wetsuit, I was able to swim with a humpback whale the size of a school bus and witness its eyes pass just a few feet from my face. This adrenaline rush was empowering and provided a sense of assurance.

There is a confidence acquired when arriving at countries only reachable by boat. It became incredibly easy to subsequently walk into the unknown of a high pressure boardroom and understand that what I had accomplished with my trip was much more difficult than whatever was going to happen at work.

The ocean provides perspective: when you are in the middle of the sea you can see the curve of the planet and realize how big it is and how small you and your problems are.

2) People will perform to your expectation

Since my crew was small and consisted of children, I had to believe in -- and rely on -- my kids to play a role in safety, fulfill basic needs, and perform volunteer work discovered along the way. I witnessed my 9-year old call out our depths to avoid hitting reefs outside Tahiti. My 11-year old reeled in a yellowtail that fed us dinner for three nights (sashimi, panko-crusted, and tacos.) My kids taught English at the local school in Sri Lanka and scooped elephant poop in Thailand for days in extreme heat, eventually laughing and feeling proud of their efforts. The iPads were gone, and the kids eventually hunkered down to make their own fun by creating puppet shows and Lego movies with underwater cameras.

3) Let it go: you are not in control and that is a good thing

Initially, I was trying to control how I moved around the boat, realizing by day four that I needed to stop resisting the waves and allow my body to roll with it. I learned to accept that when there are no birds in sight for days, there will be no fish caught for dinner. In the middle of the ocean, you must respect Mother Nature. Embrace what is happening. Departure delays with no weather window meant staying put and provisioning more. Waves higher than the top of the boat meant tying down furniture and eating crackers in bed for dinner.

Discovering that I was not in control was rather freeing. After seven days at sea, we approached an island in Kirabati with one caretaker we were excited to see. I had submitted the necessary paperwork and inspections required to dock; yet at the last hour, we were turned away, told to keep moving because of an accident with nearby shark researchers.

We were so disappointed! The anticipation of running around, eating fresh fruit, and taking a break from tight living quarters was crushed. It forced us to ask why this could be a positive turn. We came up with several possibilities -- maybe somebody would have gotten hurt on the sharp reefs, bitten by a black tip shark, or stuck in this strange area dubbed the Bermuda Triangle of the West.

4) Chose your words carefully and take the emotion out of it

Everything is extremely exaggerated at sea. Happiness, sadness, hunger, pain, relationships, and most important, state of mind. Words need to be chosen carefully when sharing a small space with crew and family -- especially when you may be four days from help. There is no time for petty disagreements when respectful words translate to safety.

On a boat there is a hierarchy of what you want to say or do versus what you should say or do based on safety protocols. I would tell the kids "no," explaining it isn't a parental "no," it's a captain's "no" to prevent losing you overboard.

You realize how important connection is with the people close to you. How important it is to trust each other, to be disciplined and prepared, to work together, removing emotion from decisions, especially in extreme weather conditions. By removing the emotion, we can be our calmest, smartest self both in the boardroom as well as at sea.

Bio: Renée Frigo Graeff and her children now reside in Sarasota, Florida, enjoying their own rooms until the next adventure. During her journey she sold Lucini, the company she co-founded, while anchored in Tonga next to Paul Allen's preview yacht, Medusa. She currently advises celebrities, restaurants, and consumer product companies on emotional brand strategy. She is also an active investor in emerging companies and helps non-profits in her local area. From 2011-2013, she was president of Slow Food Miami.