Review: Will It Make The Boat Go Faster by Ben Hunt-Davis and Harriet Beveridge

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Carrying on from my last post’s theme on cross-training, this is one of my favorite strategies-and-motivation books of 2014.

This is not a writing book. Instead, an Olympic rowing champion turned business coach and his partner take some established strategies for winning in sports and translate them into advice and exercies to take to your business practice. It can be anything – multi-million transnational corporation, an SME, or even, yes, writing. From motivating yourself, through realistic goal setting, through dealing with set-backs, all the way to actually winning, this was a treasure I was lucky to come upon while working this summer, and not just because it was well-written.

Each chapter starts with Ben talking about a certain episode from his journey to becoming an Olympic rowing champion, and is then followed up with the lesson he learned and how it can be applied outside of the world of sport. And those segments (as Harriet herself remarks) are intense – you literally feel like you’re there, which I think is a great plus for the book. A lot of writing advice (or life advice in general) that you get sometimes can be too dry and alienating to truly take on; but the way this book takes you straight into the middle of the action really makes you sit up and take notice. We may not all aspire to be Champion Rowers, but we can sympathize with someone being chewed out by their coach, being afraid of following up after an amazing performance, or having difficulties when you feel that all the sacrifices you made might have been for naught, (or, even better, when things spiral out of control because someone else was a tw*t.)

And the advice you get here is solid, as well. Some of it is “tried and tested” (like setting SMART goals,) but the book goes a step further by actually getting through the “how” as well as the “what” of the problem, and showing a concrete example. (After all, some of us like to put things into perspective.) As with everything, you can decide for yourself what parts you’re willing to take on board and which ones you’d rather leave by the wayside. Personally, I found most of it quite useful.

A personal favorite of mine was “Don’t Talk Bollocks to Basil” from the chapter on motivation (I think.) An old Oxbridge saying (I believe) it stands for: “Don’t let negative people in your life, or at least near your work; limit negative influences as much as you can.” What I especially liked about this is the way the authors acknowledged that sometimes good people can be Basils and it can be hard to keep them out (like your well-meaning parents or best friends who love you to bits but really don’t understand why you would give up your day job, daaaaahrling.) Sometimes our writing (or business, or sports career) is a tender thing that needs a lot of love, patience, and nurturing, so we shouldn’t be afraid to tell someone off (gently) for bringing bad energy to the mix.

At least that’s the way I see it.

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