We love college football here at ICON. In fact we spend a few Saturdays together in the fall tailgating and cheering on the Oregon Ducks in Eugene.
One of the most sought-after coaches this past season was P.J. Fleck. A young high energy leader, who is probably most well-known for one phrase that he used to help turn around Western Michigan’s football program.
“Row the Boat”
Plenty of programs have catchy slogans intended to create a sense of unity— the Ducks have used “Win the Day”, that lead them to two national championship games.
But this puzzling catchphrase was born out of a tragic death.
The two time MAC coach of the year relied on the “Row the Boat” mantra to endure the death of his second son Colt, due to a heart condition in 2011. As he explains in an ESPN video.
“As you hold your son as he takes his last breath, that’s pretty tough to go through — and your whole life changes. … You’re living your life for someone else. He’s on my back, always. So there are no bad days. There is no low-energy day. No negativity. Because that would be a disservice to Colt and his life.”
Coach Fleck used the motivational phrase to overcome his personal loss and to lead his football team to a 14-1 record in 2016. The three steps contained in the “Row the Boat” mantra can be applied to anyone to help them reach their goals whether it’s on a football field or in your career.
There are three components to Row the Boat:
Oar – The Energy
Boat – The Sacrifice
Compass – The Vision For Success
According to Fleck, the oar is the energy you bring to your life, your family, your spiritual life, your work and to those around them.
“You choose whether your oar is in the water or out of the water. If your oar is out of the water, you’re not going to go anywhere,” he explained. Choosing to have your oar in the water shows you are a person who is ready to move forward in life.
The boat is the sacrifice — what are you willing to give up for something you’ve never had? What sacrifices are you willing to make for the sake of those around you?
“When you’re rowing a boat, you can’t see where you’re going. … Your back is toward the future, you can’t control it. You’re rowing in the present, which is the only thing you can control. But you’re looking at the past, which is the only thing you can’t change — but you have to learn from it.”
Fleck says the compass is the direction you choose to take your life, leading you to a positive destination. In order to move in the right direction you must surround yourself with the right people.
“We don’t know if there’s a waterfall ahead of us, rocks, smooth seas or sunsets. We have no idea. We just have to keep rowing.”