by: Eric Wagaman
Living in Kalamazoo, Michigan, “Row the Boat” is not just something you hear on the news nearly every day. Western Michigan University’s (WMU’s) head football coach, P.J. Fleck, coined the mantra, “Row the Boat” for the university’s football program. Most restaurants in town even have oars with the WMU logo on them signifying this phrase. Within the past year, Kalamazoo has been a town in headlines regarding tragedies, but P.J. Flecks’ metaphor has brought us all a sense of hope and restoration to our community. This mantra did not just build the #14 ranked college football team in the country, but has also become a blueprint of how to lead with purpose.
What is “Row the Boat”?
A common question I get as a student of Western Michigan University is, “What in the world is row the boat?” The first part of the mantra is the oars, which represent the energy a person brings to those around them, including positively affecting their career, academics and overall well-being. Electing to put the oar in the water shows an individual is pushing forward in their life, while having it out of the water means remaining stagnant. The second part is the boat itself, which represents the sacrifices a person is willing to make in order to achieve their dreams and goals. Lastly, the compass signifies the direction of the group set by the leader. When you “Row the Boat” the entire team, or community is working together trying to achieve the same goal in unison.
How can you “Row the Boat?”
Whether through business or in your own community, find others with a similar vision and come together to work towards a common goal. Cleaning up your neighborhood, volunteering for a local non-profit, putting a plan in place to increase revenue for your business, or coaching your child’s sports teams – are just a few examples.
“If you surround yourself with turds, you’re headed towards turdville. If you surround yourself with elite people, you’re headed towards elite things.” – P.J. Fleck
Put all your oars in the water, in unison, to start moving towards the desired goal. Sacrifices will need to be made, such as fiscal sacrifices, reputation and time. Goals are not meant to be a cakewalk, they take a tremendous amount of determination and grit. When a group or community comes together to meet the goal put in place, keep true to the compass and move in the right direction. As Coach Taylor said on NBC’s, Friday Night Lights, “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”
P.J. Fleck has brought unprecedented life and energy back to the city of Kalamazoo and WMU. The love and respect he has for his players is unlike anything I have ever seen before across all sports. If you have never seen the energy of P.J. Fleck or his players, you are missing out. Even ESPN sees what the Western Michigan University football program is doing and is filming their acclaimed college football show, “College GameDay” at WMU’s campus Saturday, November 19th.
Final Thoughts, Take Two. . .
I encourage you to reflect back to this mantra the next time you create a business plan or strive to make a difference in your community. When you see someone struggling in your group, pick them up, encourage them and “Row the Boat” together. If you strive to be a leader, follow the compass and lead your team to victory by working toward the common goal. Setting goals and striving as a team to achieve them yields greater results than going with the flow, which can often lead to stagnation. When a team has clear eyes and a full heart, losing is not in the picture.
LOCAL.FRIENDLY.INSURANCE www.WhitakerLaChance.com (269) 324-7700
About the Author: Eric Wagaman focuses on Brand Marketing and Development at the Whitaker LaChance Agency in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He is a Senior at Western Michigan University in their top rated Sales and Business Marketing program. Eric is a driven individual who is passionate about meeting the needs of others by going beyond their expectations. During his free time, Eric enjoys golfing, hiking, attending sporting events and indulging in new restaurants.