Letting Go of the Wheel

By: LUMO Leaders

- Publish On: December 2, 2021

Hello everyone!

LUMO Chief Creative Officer Anna Conathan here, coming to you from South Portland, Maine. One of the things I love most about where I live is walking along the bluff over Casco Bay and watching all manner of vessels motoring hither and yon: ferries scuttling around the islands, lobster boats pulling pots, giant ships steaming into harbor from the Atlantic. It’s fascinating to watch. Like an aquatic world created by children’s book author Richard Scarry, sans Lowly Worm on a jet ski.

Recently, my husband pointed out a boat to me that I had never noticed before: the pilot boat. A small, sleek craft navigating purposefully to open water where a giant container ship awaited its arrival only a short distance from the famous Portland Head Light. It carried the Portland Harbor pilot, a skilled navigator with a comprehensive knowledge of the craggy bottom and unseen shoals unique to Casco Bay. It’s the pilot’s job to meet large vessels – oil tankers, preposterously large yachts, cruise ships, all manner of large crafts, really – and navigate them safely through the harbor and into their slip.

 How badass is that? The pilot is a Rockstar. You know, for NOT hitting rocks.

In so many ways, we ALL need a pilot to join us in the wheelhouse of our lives, in those stressful and pivotal moments, to help us steer around the craggy outcroppings and unexpected reefs. 

The pilots in my life have been many: my coach who guides me through the choppy waters of start-up life, the couples’ therapist who steered me and my husband into life-changing compassionate communication, or my son’s preschool teacher who held the wheel steady during some category five potty training. All of them have made me a more able captain as well as a wiser parent, partner, and leader. They have converted me into someone who is eager to enlist the expertise of people who can improve my quality of life. 

To be partnered with a compassionate, helpful genius is the mother of all tender trust falls.

So why does it feel so uncomfortable to accept help? Why can’t we release control? 

Why do we judge ourselves for not being perfect at things we have only just begun? Like becoming a parent. Or taking on a new leadership role at work. 

What has us viewing collaboration as some kind of failure or erosion of our worth? What’s with the nagging toddler demon that lives inside us and screams, “I DO MYSELF!” What is that even about? It’s a very stressful and disconnected way to live, ain’t it?

When the pilot comes a callin’ at the edge of the harbor, does the container ship captain blame himself for not being enough? (No.) 

Does the pilot secretly judge the captain for not being able to finish the job? (No.) 

Does the crew smack talk about the captain for relinquishing control, or push back against the pilot’s authority and lash out because he invaded their turf? (NO!) 

Does the captain get all precious about how the pilot changes his crew’s diapers? (Wait, what? Still no!)

 Why is this, do you think? 

Because EVERYONE involved has the SAME GOAL: Safe harbor at the end of a successful mission. There’s plenty of room on the ship’s bridge for a little expert assistance in times of extreme need, and at the end of the day, when the pilot’s shift is over, the captain is still the one with responsibility for the well-being of the vessel, crew, and cargo. 

 How’s it looking in your wheelhouse? A little lonely at the helm? How tightly are you clenching the wheel, cap’n? If the pilot of your dreams were to board your craft, what skills would they be bringing to support you?

Well, heave ho that ego, my friend, because that help exists and you have the power to create it.

The only thing that stands in the way is your nasty internal demon toddler.

Need support? Ask for it! Or, if you’re lucky, take it when it’s offered.

Yours in leadership and parenting,

Anna & the LUMO team

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