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Staying on Course Is Tough. This Age-old Way Can Improve Your Odds.

The lesson of a single letter, and a shared purpose.

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She goes by Beverly G—not Beverly, not Beverly George, not even #Bev. The G matters. It’s powerful. And it’s a modern-day reminder of an ancient practice for staying on course, one that if you have any designs on being successful at anything, you just might want to consider.

A Rising Tide Above Pure Process and Procedure

The Beverly G is a boat. Boats as you might have noticed, are always given names. Why? Well, there are of course the functional explanations. For example, when vessels are far at sea, names enable boat captains to easily identify and communicate. Names bring order too. Along with their home port and flag of registry, a boat’s name helps it fall into line for land-bound things ownership, licensing, storage… the formalities go on and on. But the truth is none of this describes what a boat truly is—it’s uniqueness, it’s soul, the intangible essence that guides its journey, in other words, what it is that makes all the logistics meaningful and more, effective. That’s what’s in the name, and it’s why the Beverly G is particularly special.

A Vessel for Meaning

The Beverly G isn’t some massive cargo ship, luxury liner, or navy craft (though she does do battle). She’s a 9-person high school crew racing scull, operated by 16 to 18-year-old teenage girls, and named for the mother of the team’s head coach. At an impromptu ceremony he explained why he named her the Beverly G. The first and most important reason was that the human Beverly has long been a steady, sometimes quiet, always persistent and powerful force of nature—as a woman, a mother and wife, even as an early environmentalist long before such a term existed. “I like knowing that a powerful woman will be empowering a new generation of women every time they row this boat,” the coach said. “I hope she inspires you as she, and you, inspire me.” Then he explained the G …

Note that the G doesn’t have a period after it. Maybe if it stood for one thing it would, but it actually stands for two: ‘Go’ is the first, ‘George’ the second. The Go meaning may seem obvious, but that’s precisely the point. It’s so obvious as to be misunderstood or worse, forgotten. This meaning of G is designed to point out a shared purpose. Every time the girls take the boat off the rack and put her in the water, whenever they grab the oars and tiller and move her down the river, and each time they put her back up for the night—they’ll see the G. It stands as a reminder of why they do any of it—a larger purpose amidst a sea of process in which it’s easy to lose your way.

As they grow as rowers, as they mature as young women and indeed as humans, ‘Go’ doesn’t just remind them to go for it and to pour in all they have into the task and each other. Combined with Beverly it reminds them of why. On days when they’re at their best and the boat seems to float as if on air, Go is obvious. But it’s written there on the boat just in case, and for the more frequent workaday or just darn hard life moments when things don’t float on air. In the end, it’s not a command so much as the point—to figure out how to go no matter the circumstances.

But the G stands for George too. More than a middle name, it’s a reminder of the ever-greater context within which any shared purpose must be achieved. The George meaning helps the girls and their leader to remember that. “My mom is tough, often right, and sometimes stubborn… just like me,” the coach confessed. “My dad is the patient one and the steady source of perspective,” he continued. “In those times when my mom would get doggedly stuck on her target,” a very human condition, “my dad would calmly, wisely, pull out the George. ‘Now Beverly George,’ he’d begin. Over time it became our collective cue to pause, take stock, and consider another point of view,” the coach shared. “I think of it as my own little reminder that even the leader always has something more to see and learn.” Coach, founder, or leader of any sort, neglecting that truth is often our greatest undoing.

It’s Not About the Boat

The Beverly G reminds us of an ageless practice for fulfilling a goal and realizing purpose, but that practice isn’t the naming of boats. It’s the custom of carrying with us a simple yet powerful talisman, a touchpoint to remind us of who we are, why we do what we do, and of what we might yet become. Such a simple yet all-important thing is remarkably easy to lose, especially in a world that seems to spin on its axis a little faster and a little wobblier every day.

Over millennia, talismans have often taken form as a thing—a boat, a symbol, a charm. But they can be a person, a team, or language and be just as potent. Function trumps form. Our talismans bring us back. They keep our horizon and our perspective clear, even as they anchor us to this moment. In other words, they remind us to keep the long term right up front, to feel and feed the purpose even as we chase the immediate. 

If you think about it, it may just be the thing that keeps your boat afloat. G. What a concept.

A version of this article first appeared in the writer’s Inc. Magazine column, The Innovator’s Edge. Photo credit and copyright by Larry Robertson.

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