Earlier this year Kevin and I joined the Northern Lights Sailing Club. (http://nlsc.org) One nice feature of being a new member is being assigned a ‘navigator’ to help us meet fellow NLSC sailors and learn about the club. Our navigator, Keith Holloman, suggested I read the book, Saving Sailing.
I read the book and turned around and re-read it. The first half was good, really good, but the second half blew me away. The author did a multi-year in-depth scientific study of sailing and sailors to understand why sailing is losing participants. What’s interesting is his analysis applies to any long-learning-curve, lifelong pursuit. He breaks free-time activities into two categories: charter experiences or time-investment. Charters are any activities where we are consumers of the experience rather than shapers: movies, cruises, all-inclusive resorts, watching television, going to professional sporting events. These are experiences where we pay and we expect to be entertained and if we are not entertained it’s someone else’s fault.
Time-investment activities are those that we create and shape ourselves and we are responsible for their outcome: going for a walk with friends, going sailing, going fishing, going to dinner together, going on a vacation we planned ourselves, cooking together, singing in a choir or playing in a band. And he argues it’s these time-investment activities that truly enrich our lives.
He also wrote about the consumerization of free-time activities using his grandfather as an example. When he was a child his grandfather took them fishing. They would get their tackle and bait, drive to Wisconsin, rent a boat and spend a week fishing together. It wasn’t about the boat or specialized gear, it was about the experience together. Now boat manufactures have created brand loyalty and fishing clubs based on boat brand. Fishing resorts have become places where the kids can play in video arcades and mom can have a spa experience while dad goes out on his fancy boat and fishes. Now days it’s less about fishing and bonding with the people you are fishing with and more about the pride of having a particular boat and feeling good about that. Very interesting.
I realize I escape to charter experiences when I’m tired or stressed. And then it becomes a crutch, an easy habit to expand because it requires nothing of me. I am a passive observer of life as I sit in front of the television. This morning I was reading the news and it struck me how boring and unconnected to my real life so much of what I do on the computer is. It’s another distraction to consume my time.
So, this needs to change. I am going to spend considerably less time on charter experiences and more on three activities. First, more cooking. I want to eat better and to do that I need to cook more. If I spent half the time I waste on the computer in the kitchen cooking we’d be eating delicious food every day. Second, creating mosaics and tile. I’ve let this whole part of my life slip away as I’ve been consumed with saving the Phillips Pool. I’m going to start in again making things. I like the zen-like process of mosaic — it’s restorative to my mind much more so that mindlessly sitting in front of the television. Third, I’m going to learn to sail with Kevin. Northern Lights Sailing Club had it’s annual trip night last night and I am excited there are many opportunities to race. I didn’t have much interest in racing until I read Saving Sailing. Sailing is a life-long learning experience because it is difficult and requires a lot of knowledge. It’s outdoors. It’s green. It’s technical. I am looking forward to Summer 2013 as the year we learn to sail.