Cowboys and Sailors

bearLast August a whole gang of fun, typically far-flung families on my wife’s side gathered to reunion in spectacular Wyoming.   I was an out-law who lives for the ocean and our short New England sailing season.  I had never.. ever… even been on a horse much less ridden up hills and through streams.  I thought, well,  I’ll give it a try but prepared to read more than usual in what I knew would be beautiful country.

You can guess the rest — we rode horses every day and loved the openness, the smell of the earth,  the crisp winds and the occasional cool raindrop.  We felt grateful to be open enough to love it, even embracing the challenge of getting my horse, Bear, to walk in equal proportion to chomping grass.  Who knew Bear would be so good for my triceps.

In music, there are beats per measure and tempo to set the mood.  The calendar has the same power over me and mid-August brings me to a wistful place.  We’re relaxed from the summer’s warmth but also pensive and excited about the demands of the coming season. We long to go backward and forward all at once.

The first day at the ranch we were told that we would be asked to contribute a short poem or song at the final campfire.  It feels like a good mid-August thing to share it.


Cowboys and Sailors

Daybreak had barely broken, safety talk just complete

Piper threw out the challenge, Cowboy poetry was Friday’s treat

Oh great, I sighed, another test, didn’t we come here to relax?

I’ll have to ride Bear up the mountain, then make the verses poetically wax;


Now, I’m a sailor not a cowboy, I think that’s plain to see

I ride horses in foul weather gear, giddy up and hard -a- lee!

But high up on the Mesa, where the breezy silence sings

You trade yesterdays and tomorrows for a moment…and it’s the moment that gives you wings;


I’ll miss Elvis, the Brits, even Bear,

I’ll miss the blues, grays and purpely greens

Cool mornings, kick-the-can evenings,

Halbys, Schaefers and cousins in between;


And I think sailors and cowboys are alike much more than not,

A weather eye, a ready knife, and a clove hitch in a tricky spot

And we both seek the far horizon, where the open wild beckons

One rides, the other sails toward it, we’ll meet there again someday I reckon


Attend Reunions / Go Heels!

An excerpt from “Airplane Letters” — letters to our young sons down the road.

Dear Henry and Owen,

Attend your reunions, at least the “big” ones. Here’s why:

1.) You will reunite with old friends; people you knew well a long time ago who are at once exactly as they were and also changed in interesting ways;

2.) Life doesn’t always afford you the luxury of second chances but reunions are pretty much engineered for them. You will enjoy time with people you hadn’t known well in school and will feel grateful for the chance to connect;

3.) At a certain reunion mark you will give yourself permission to max out your phone’s font size because you realize everyone else has. My texts make more sense now. God knows what autocorrect has been up to these last few years;

4.) At last weekend’s Business School reunion, I really did experience tear-producing laughter 30% of the time – now that is what I call a great ROI;

5.) Like birth order in families, so too at reunions you will forever be the character you played while you were at school. Good friends allow you to Meryl Streep the range and show your fuller, more complicated self;

6.) People get better with age. They are less self-absorbed, have earned their humility and are confident enough to share some of the absurdities of their lives. Remember, vulnerability and capacity to inspire are positively correlated so yo, keep it real;

7.) Focus on your class but don’t miss the dinner with the goofy alumni awards – endless snark material for sure but they provide useful context to the event and the advancement people bust their ass to herd you cats together. Oh, and be a net-giver, forget the excuses and just make the annual fund gift;

8) Be generous of spirit and inclusive to all your friends’ spouses and significant others because that can be a heavy lift. Anyone who can pull this off with a genuine smile and have fun is someone worth knowing;

9.) Learn something, teach something, walk around campus, pack ibuprofen. Bring home tee shirts, new ideas and an open-er mind.

Author’s note: Thanks to my classmates for inspiring me to post. Love me some kenanflaglers! #funsters #olderandwiser #drinkingjourney #namaste


Take Credit for Nothing / Tom Duggan

Tom Duggan PhotoTo run sailboat races well at the highest levels of international competition is a tricky business with a lot of personalities and moving parts.  You need the command and credibility of Head NFL Referee Ed Hochuli, the communications skills of Ronald Reagan and an Arthur Fiedler-like touch of achieving symphonic accord among your own team, the competitors, jury members, coaches and organizers. In short, it’s wicked easy to suck.

Tom Duggan and I first interacted in 2006 around the (very fun) Buzzards Bay Regatta.  As organizers, each time we tried to button up or close a loop with him by phone or email, we essentially got a “Don’t worry, it’s going to be great”.  We laugh looking back at it but we admit we thought, “Who is this guy? He sounds so calm.  Is he ‘that’ good,  or is this just a disaster in slow motion?” I didn’t know it then, but our event was almost certainly the most casual on his summer dance card. It turns out he is world class. Why so?

What sailing leaders told me about Tom:

“Great listener.”

“Strong-willed and opinionated with but with no ego, how often do you see that?”

“He’s just so far out ahead of what is happening at the time.  It’s his ability to anticipate that allows him to be calm.”

“He’s so approachable at events, he’s genuinely open to criticism and feedback and willing to poke fun at himself.”

“If you disagree with a decision he makes, he tells you what he was thinking at the time and then leaves it at that.  He doesn’t NEED to be right. He doesn’t NEED to prove you wrong”

“He takes credit for NOTHING, it’s always about the team.”

Yup, that’s the guy I know.   Here’s an interview “Two Things” recently did with Tom.


2014 Interview with Tom Duggan

DC: Happy New Year, Tom. 2013 is in the books, how many boats do you think you finished last year?

TD: Just did some quick math- about 4,000.

DC: And an equal number of polite “Thank You’s” as they crossed, right?

TD: Actually, no matter what the level of event- the first few boats are happy as hell and always say ‘Thank You’. Then the next level are a bit less happy and tend to be quieter. Then, the folks towards the back always say ‘Thanks’. After the last race of a series, when the pressure is off (and if we haven’t screwed up too badly during the week), almost everyone goes out of their way to say ‘Thanks!’.

DC: You’ve been around the world working a ton of events, what’s the best pure race track/body of water factoring breeze, depth, current, lack of commercial traffic, aesthetics and room to work?

TD: I’m sure there are a bunch of places on the planet that fit here – but from my experience it’s Biscayne Bay, Miami. Reliable breeze, flat water, no commercial traffic to speak of, negligible current, 10′ of water everywhere. It’s like running races in a petri dish. Pure fun. Limassol, Cyprus is second for me- you can almost drop the marks before the seabreeze arrives- it seems that reliable.

DC: “In my best McLaughlin Group voice” The correct answer is Buzzards Bay but hey, this is a fun one to debate at the bar.  Speaking of that, what’s “Sailing’s Best Yacht Club Bar?

TD: Not that I spend much time in yacht club bars, mind you – but it’s hard to beat sitting on the dock with an ice cold beer at Edgartown Yacht Club in July, or sitting by the pool with an ice cold beer at Coral Reef Yacht Club in January, or just hanging out with an ice cold beer at Sarasota Sailing Squadron in November, or catching the last of the afternoon sun with an ice cold beer in the Saloon at Goldminer’s in Alta in March- oops, wrong sport- and yes, Mom, I see a pattern here.

DC: Note to self, bribes to Duggan take form of ice cold beer. Best Race Officer lunches?  How about the worst?

TD: Honestly, I don’t have a real opinion on that one. I usually only eat a couple of bites at a time while races are going on, so I don’t really notice. But I do remember warmed-by-the-sun rabbit legs in a cardboard box in China, and a Volvo In-Port Race in Baltimore on a beautiful startboat with a built in grill on the afterdeck where the boat owner surprised us by grilling prime rib sandwiches during the race. Although I most certainly appreciated the thought, I passed on the rabbit legs in China- but I found a number of excuses to wander to the afterdeck in Baltimore…

DC:  Tell us which fleets do you think have their &^&% together in terms of leadership, organization, and the right combination of fun and great competition?

TD: I don’t usually get too involved in class politics (you know, like making sausage, I don’t need to see it) but I guess I most enjoy working with fleets who work hard to maintain a high level of sportsmanship and make sure there is a place in their fleet for amateur sailors- while attracting competitors of the highest caliber possible. I know, easy to say, not easy to do- and many classes do well at this- but the Etchells class comes top to my mind. Also, you haven’t really lived till you’ve been a participant in a ‘Butt Darts’ competition at a Sunfish Worlds.

DC: Etchells are a great fleet for sure. I’m going to have to ask my friend Lee Parks about the Sunfish shenanigans. What draws you to spending your time in service to competitive sailors, beyond the drink tickets of course?

TD: Short answer- because it turns out to be challenging, fun, and rewarding. I know, silly, huh? Who knew?

DC: Your mantra has always been “It’s all about the sailors.” That’s music to sailors ears of course and the right mindset.  But given that, what do you tell clubs struggling to recruit, train and hold the attention of volunteer race officers or is the answer hiring a professional PRO who can be a pied piper and lead and teach the volunteers?

TD: Ha! You know this is my favorite topic. I have given talks on this subject to both sailing and business groups. And I always start the same way, “I’m not going to tell you anything here that you don’t deep down inside already know.”

When people volunteer their time, to either be part of a racing crew, or part of a race management team- they must feel rewarded. Otherwise why would they volunteer? In most cases in sailing, we cannot reward with money – so we need other currency. It always impresses me to see the kind of people we have working on the water for free- doctors, engineers, lawyers, business leaders, etc. These people can buy their own drinks- they don’t give up a day’s (or several days’) income or vacation time for a couple of drink tickets. So what’s the currency they are willing to trade their time for?

I think it is appreciation, hard work that results in accomplishment, and challenge – and the fun that comes from all of that.

The hard work (and it is just hard work, not magic) is creating an environment that fosters individual and team successes among your volunteers. This is done through leadership. And I mean leading, not ordering people around. Recently I saw two drawings that contrasted leadership styles. One drawing was of a group of ancient workers with a rope, pulling a block of stone up a ramp- the boss standing on the block, yelling instructions. The other was of the same group- the boss holding the rope, pulling and collaborating with his men. Who would you be more willing to contribute more effort for, to be more willing to learn new skills for, to ‘up your game’ for?  Like I said previously, nothing here you don’t already know.

Why don’t more people lead this way? I don’t know- maybe because quite often the rewards aren’t as obvious- or as immediate. It takes more time, effort and patience to develop volunteers who can work on their own than it does to just tell them what to do. More work for the group leader, yes- but team members need to feel ownership in order to extend their best efforts. Remember, in the entire history of the world, no one has ever washed a rented car.

Every organization has members who fit the leadership profile. They don’t necessarily need to be the best race managers- they just need to be allowed to work to develop them.

I do enjoy being the ‘Pied Piper’ PRO brought in to a club to help manage a high level event that a club might not be ready to handle on its own. But a large part of the ‘Pied Piper’ gig is teaching.  Clubs often ask me, “Can you bring some people in with you because we are not quite sure we have enough experience to support you.” My response is always, “Not unless I absolutely have to. How will your people learn if we don’t let them try?” It’s the Catch 22 that we’ve got to overcome when developing volunteers. They have to stretch to truly learn. We have to have the nerve to let them stretch. Sometimes a club will be offered an event that is a bit of a reach for its volunteers. That’s the perfect situation to bring in an accomplished PRO to help. But clubs who do this should make sure that the race officer they bring in is truly willing to put the effort into leaving something valuable behind- not just a plaque to hang on the wall.

DC: Pretty timely advice for a lot of clubs, maybe most clubs, looking to develop a new generation of confident, knowledgeable and user-friendly PROs. Thanks for your time, Tom.

TD: Thanks Dan.

Give More / Santa Claus

Last night, in a (finally) quiet Christmas Day moment, we recounted favorite presents and how good Santa and family members had been to us. Without prompting, the seven year-old said,  “I want to give more next year.”

Yes, that made me proud but that’s not the point of sharing the anecdote. Our Christmas was overwhelmingly happy and full of little quips we might or might not remember like “Did Santa clean our basement?” and a three year-old that repeatedly SHOUTED, “I always wanted that for Christmas” each time he opened a gift.  It was full of belly laughs and loud-talking Cooneys (Portland and Boston editions included), Dark ‘N’ Stormies, “Oh My God” Key Lime pie, the best seafood in America and Amazon Primed remote-controlled Ford F-150’s.  Gratitude abounds.

Facebook-land was a mirror of this good fortune yesterday as most of you celebrated similar blessings with at once similar, yet unique traditions. So much fun peeking in on your day from Australia to Germany and up the street.

It was “All good” except we know it is not “All good.”  How do we reconcile this luck, this warmth and love with so many others who are hungry, cold, lonely and broken?  Those here and surprisingly close to us, and those so far away, like Syrian refugee moms and dads worried about a path forward for their families.

“I want to give more next year.”  That’s a really reasonable intention for 2014.



Love and Death / Forrest Church

Forrest_Church_2008A Person: The late Forrest Church, Unitarian minister, author of “Love and Death.”

An Idea: Death is hard and unwelcome and yet it is the piper that will be paid by each of us.  At the same time, the “impermanence and fragility” of life is what makes it such a wondrous gift. Sooo… why can’t we talk about it? Forrest Church tells us in his beautiful final sermon of a book that “The only taboo left, the only subject almost no one dares to talk about in polite company, is not politics or sex or religion but death.”

Taboo or not, the bell tolls crisply into the big chill for people we love — family, parents of friends, our parents’ friends, friends and even, most tragically, children of friends. So how can we make the high price of our life worth it?  How can we live a life worthy of our death?  Forrest Church tells us that a life can only be measured by how much love you give away.  By how much love we give away. Yes! Not only do I buy it, I want to give Church a Big Papi hug for the simplicity and clarity that this yardstick offers.

The rest of Church’s mantra:

Want What You Have: Don’t focus on the sleep that you missed when the human puppy of a three-year-old comes into to your 3:00am bed and nuzzles into your armpit (and simultaneously kicks you in the ribs).  Just listen to every sweet breath and let your gratitude wash over you.  And when the real rain in your life comes, don’t let it crowd out all that is still good.

Do What You Can: Not climb every mountain, but first, climb ONE mountain. Be ambitious but focus on the attainable.  Do what you can, not more and not less.

Be Who You Are: Be your authentic self, not somebody else’s version of you.  Respect and use your own talents and don’t waste time envying the gifts of others.


My favorite Forrest Church Sermon — worth it!

The book “Love and Death”




This Time Really is Different / Bob Rice

Bob Rice“Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back.”  We have been hearing about disappearing middle-class jobs even before Bruce Springsteen danced with Courteney Cox in 1984. An old theme? Well, some say this time really is different.

A Person: The words below are from Bob Rice, Managing Partner, Tangent Capital, from an extraordinary Bloomberg radio interview.

An Idea: “The problem is that we are coming into a period in society, I think, where, not everyone needs to be fully employed all of the time to make the economic output what we want it to be”  

“This time really is different…there’s never been a period in human history like this so people can’t just point back to the industrial revolution and say, ‘Well that only changed the nature of the jobs, it didn’t eliminate jobs.’  It’s true, in the past it’s always been true, that’s why the economists are discounting this phenomenon right now.”

“I’m afraid that we’ve hit an elbow curve in the technology revolution that is irreversible” 

I agree with Rice — technology is awesome, enhanced productivity and profits are great. As usual, there are winners and losers in economic shifts but how do we deal with a new normal of broader underemployment and lower-wage employment?

The dots are easy to connect.  Formerly middle-class dads and moms having three and four jobs combined just to pay the bills. The empty neighborhoods in bankrupt (and technology rich?) Detroit and 13% unemployment in Puerto Rico.  Like Rice, I’m an optimistic guy but sound the Scooby alarm (Ruh-Roh) and Listen to the interview.


Bob Rice Bio

Follow Bob on Twitter

Follow on Bloomberg

60 Minutes Piece on Technology Innovation

Why Workers Are Losing to Machines


Once Should Be Enough / Bryan McSweeny

bryan mcsweeny at wheel An Idea: If you do it right, once should be enough!

A Person: Bryan McSweeny played third base for the defending Pony League World Champion Brockton team in 1954 and headed north to Bowdoin College a few years later on a swimming scholarship. In Germany, he and his Army buddies would fill a VW Bus full of wine every weekend to ski Austria hard and après ski it harder. He has won a ton of sailing races in a Shields named CUCHULAIN and a custom Baltic 50 named BULLY.  He also won all the joke telling competitions at the bar.  Ask him about “Deducibility” or “51!”.

In addition to the athletic gifts, Bryan retired after building a successful orthodontic practice and is a proud father of four great kids.  He speaks with an easy command (taste and knowledge without the snobbery) about the model-year Porsche 911 you want to own, great wine you can get at Costco, the best place to see the impressionists in Philly and the symphonies that will knock your socks off.

At his freshman Bowdoin Convocation, he recalls a Dean welcoming his class to the college. “Gentlemen,” the Dean solemnly intoned, “You only go around once…but if you do it right, once should be enough!”  Marvin Hagler was marvelous but it’s Bryan “Once will be Enough!” McSweeny that put Brockton on the map for me.


bryan mcsweeny photo of tree

Bryan is a talented photographer – technically advanced with a great eye.  Check out his work here.  A show of his new works will be on display at Uncle Jon’s Coffee in Marion, MA this fall.

Hey everyone, Carpe Diem with Green Day!


Every Day / Anna Tunnicliffe

Anna CrosfitMia Hamm, two-time soccer World Cup winner, Gold Medalist and winner of four NCAA Championships, had this to say about confidence, “Confidence takes constant nurturing. Like a bed, it must be remade every day.”  How could one of the most accomplished athletes of our time not feel deep stores of confidence that she could draw upon at will?

I’ve been grateful to be around some of our country’s top sailing talent and know that the best of the best approach their game in an every day workmanlike manner.  They understand that they live and compete in an ultra-competitive environment.  If they don’t take deliberate steps forward each day to improve their game, they will have fallen behind other competitors.  Mia Hamm and other elite athletes embrace that cold reality and it drives them.

Anna Tunnicliffe has been competing in that world long before her Laser Radial Gold Medal in the 2008 Olympic Games.  After a 5th place Women’s Match Racing finish in the 2012 London Games, she is campaigning with Molly Vandemoer in the 49er for the 2016 Rio Games. She has long-term goals but goes to work every day with a calm intention and focus.  She pays attention to constructive criticism but remains overwhelmingly positive.  Bad days and mistakes simply inform eventually-improved technique and solidify preparation. If we mortals were to pay close attention,  this level of achievement looks less like a rocket’s glorious ascent and more like a tank that slowly, but inevitably, will grind you down.

Anna, always committed to an elite level of fitness, took up CrossFit less than two years ago and placed 9th in the CrossFit Games last week.  I caught up to her (well, you understand that she had to let me catch up to her) for this short interview: Post CrossFit Games Interview with Anna Tunnicliffe.

Also check out great video interview from CrossFit games.


Post-CrossFit Games Interview with Anna Tunnicliffe

Anna HandsDC: Anna, congratulations on finishing 9th in the CrossFit Games. You are arguably the 9th fittest woman on the planet. What does that result mean to you?

AT: Thanks Dan.  It was an amazing experience.  Our goal was to qualify for the Games and then we made a goal of top 15 once we were there, so to finish 9th was an amazing end to 9 months of hard work.

DC: Is there a lesson that you have learned from sailing at a world-class level that helped prepare you for the CrossFit Games?

[note color=”#78BEED”]AT: I think the biggest lesson was to just move on from event to event.  No matter what the result was, it ultimately doesn’t matter until the end, so we just focused on the workout of the day (WOD) at hand and let the results sort themselves out.  Also, we focused on having fun, definitely a lesson I learned from sailing![/note]

DC: How about the other way around, beyond the obvious physical advantages that you bring to the 49er, do you think there is a mental edge or mindset from CrossFit that influences your sailing?

AT: Besides the physical aspect, I think CrossFit has helped me push my pain limits and mental toughness.  But mostly it allows me to stay mentally focused on long days.

DC: OK, consider this just a beer tent question — give me the sailor versus CrossFit stereotypes?

AT: Pass.

DC: Strong and smart. Ok, what’s harder — sailing a Laser naked for an ESPN photoshoot or walking 80 feet on your hands at the end of a full-on WOD?

AT: Well, one turns my brain upside down and the other turns everyone else’s upside down.

DC:  So true. Will you try to get back to the CrossFit Games next year?

AT: We will see how training goes.  I committed to working towards a Gold medal in Rio 2016 and this year was a planned light year for sailing.  So that said, I will continue training hard in CrossFit, I will compete at the Opens, Regionals, and hopefully I qualify and then yes, I’ll go to the Games next year.  But we will see, I would love to go back!

DC: For those of us just trying to get to the gym on a somewhat regular basis, can you give us some insight on how you stay focused and motivated.  Is it ever hard for you to get to workouts?  What does the self-talk sound like?

AT: The great thing about CrossFit is the community and the constantly varied factor.  You go to an hour long class, and you build relationships, that eventually gives you the guilty feeling if you don’t attend.  Also, you never really repeat anything, so every day is different.  That’s how I love to go back day after day.  But mid-WOD when things get hard, my self-talk goes something like, “It hurts for everyone, and the faster you go, the sooner it will be over.”

DC: Will you and Molly Vandemoer be gearing up for a full-on sailing schedule in 2013-2014?

AT: Yes, we will have a much busier schedule starting in December.

DC: I know you guys are still new to the boat and learning a lot,  but what’s an area of strength (other than fitness) in the 49er right now?

AT: I think our starts are quite good.  We do a good job holding on the line and getting great lanes…it’s just shortly after that that we run into problems at this point.

DC: Finally, as a former sponsorship guy, I’m interested.  Who are your main sailing sponsors right now?

AT:  We are supported by The US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider.  We also have Carmeuse signed on again with us for another quad.  They have been an amazing sponsor over the last two quads and we are so excited for them to be with the team once again.  We are also looking for additional companies to join the team.

DC: Thanks Anna, and best of luck to you and Molly in your campaign.

AT: My pleasure.

Read Dan’s recent Two Things about Anna Tunnicliffe