The Mobile CEO Where Are They Now – Follow Up

By Scott Leonard with Zoe Alexander
From January/February 2012 Issue of MULTIHULLS Magazine
Released: 2/21/2012
Balancing Act

When was the last time you played hide-and-seek? Or built a sand castle? Imagine your daily calendar as follows: snorkel, read the morning paper, e-mail office and clients, build sand castle, conference call, play hide-and-seek. That’s my work/life balance.

It’s easier than I thought to mix work and family. And, as our lives are much simpler – no after-school commitments, TV, or play dates – we have more time to spend together. After dinner we take walks along the beach

Technology has really liberated me in how I approach a work/life balance. My office on the boat resembles a little nook at the Mac store. I am connected to the California office via my iMac, iPad and iPhone. Being connected this way enables me to handle the boat and the kids while being available to the office. This multi-tasking energizes me because it keeps my contact with the business lean and focused and I am able to participate in most of the boys’ daily activities. Our days are structured around their school, which starts promptly at 8:00 AM. Jake and Griffin have Math first, so I sit between them, read the Wall Street Journal on my iPad, have coffee, and help them when needed.

A big part of our days are spent at the family table, either with school or meals; and it is where the Leonard family multitasks best. We eat most meals together, so we use that time to review school assignments. Many of the boys’ assignments provide discussion sections, so Mandi and I lead the discussion topics, and the boys bounce ideas off of us as well as each other. This process has helped build critical thinking skills in the boys – a valuable skill to encourage at any age. The “round-table” nature of these discussions also really helps ensure that they grasp the material.

We have always been an active family, and discovered that morning exercise helps the boys sit through school. That job has fallen to me. Also, during the school day, we try and take a recess to expend some more energy. Again, my job. And it’s a win-win because I get to exercise with the boys. Yeah, I could drink coffee and greet the day in front of a screen, but this routine brings harmony to the day. Some of the activities we enjoy are walking around the local towns, kayaking, stand up paddleboard, Pilates on the boat, swimming, snorkeling and water polo.

One of the best parts of our trip is that there are so few distractions that we can spend time together. I love walking down the beach, holding hands with my boys. Or when we sail at night and watch the stars and contemplate life on other planets. After we put the boys to sleep, Mandi and I have time to be together to talk. Sounds simple, but we rarely did that on land – we were either too busy or too tired. Striking a work/family balance involves navigating each day by what is truly important, and being able to wear many hats. You’d be surprised how efficient balance is if you take time to think it through. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Four Months in Stormy Weather

You know when you’re trying to get the family out the door to go to a birthday party… you’re in the car with the motor running but perhaps your wife forgot her cell phone and she has to run back inside. Then, one of the kids needs to change a shirt because his brother spilled his juice box. And then, finally (ten minutes later) as you’re pulling out of the driveway, someone has to run back inside and get the gift, which is (naturally) never where you left it – that’s what it’s been like navigating our trip, except the delays aren’t as simple as grabbing a cell phone or a birthday present – we’ve been waiting out tropical storms and hurricanes. Even though you’re ready to go, all you can really do is muster patience and wait for the right conditions to get on your journey.

I knew there would be lots of unforeseen variables when we planned to sail around the world. So far, the biggest variable is the weather; and not only because we’re ship-bound, but because every time we wait for a storm to pass, we’re delayed in our route.

I made some assumptions about how quickly we could sail from place to place. The goal was to be in the southern Caribbean by September, possibly Aruba. This location is out of the main hurricane tracks. However, we’ve been in Salinas, Puerto Rico, which is right in the midst of those very hurricane tracks. The area has had two close calls already. We spent them in a “hurricane hole” – a supposedly safe place to ride out a hurricane, if there is such a thing. What I’ve truly learned to appreciate is that even when you have ideal conditions, the weather is always shifting. The rule is that you never “need” to be someplace, so if the weather is not good enough to sail through, then you wait. Similarly, you never need to “stay” someplace either, so if you have an opportunity to make a passage, you take it. As a southern California native, I am used to the weather being fine or stormy. When sailing, we actually need some storms to change the general trade winds and current. And when the trade winds come through, it is NOT good sailing weather. You need to adapt to the fact that the weather is always a work-inprogress and factor this into your route. What I also learned is that while I can accurately plot the time it will take us to get from point A to point B, I was ignorant of the downtime we’d encounter as we waited for decent weather to depart from point A. Initially, we planned to sail from Florida toward Puerto Rico, and from there we would make a big jump south. However, as that track is mainly east, it places us right against the trade winds. So not only did we sail slower than I’d hoped, we had to wait out for little lulls in the prevailing conditions in order to move on. The wait was usually only 1 to 4 days, but that adds up. Also, since we were anxious to “stay on track,” we didn’t really enjoy the locations as we could have, since we were always waiting to leave. In addition to Mother Nature, the other issue is timing. We either started too late, or too early – depending on your navigational perspective. So now we’ll wait out the rest of hurricane season where we are. And in November we will be on track with the more “typical” cruising plan. While I always knew the trip would be dictated by weather, I was not aware how much it would affect our day-by-day sailing. This is a factor especially when heading east (which will be seldom from this point on).

Why Become Intentionally Irrelevant

Let’s admit it, most of us wouldn’t work unless we had to. And, if we work willingly – not for monetary gain – our work life would be very different. The goal of creating a work/life balance is to design your job as if you don’t have to work. Sounds pretty good, right?

As the CEO of my company, I have to work – and I will for many years to come. However, I have designed my work schedule to allow me to pursue my dreams today, not years from now, and spend quality time with my family. I was able to do this because I made myselfIntentionally Irrelevant to the day-today operations of my company. Specifically, I made myself Irrelevant Day-To- Day. So while I still “need the money,” even if I didn’t, I would most likely still work the way I do today. (I would work from a larger boat with a crew, but my actual “job” would not change.) Interestingly, when I began designing my company to allow me to spend three years sailing the world with my family, the intent was solely to sail with my family. Back then, if “retiring” was an option, I probably would have! However, now that I’m actually doing it, I’ve realized that I have created a great job for myself; one that I would do even if I didn’t need the money.

How did I design my business to allow me to be Intentionally Irrelevant? The overriding business principles I put in place are those anyone would learn while getting an MBA. While they are not revolutionary, the implementation of many business school strategies can be very difficult, especially for the entrepreneur or small business owner caught up in the day-to-day aspects of running a business. Tasks that are truly important are often not urgent, so they get pushed aside.

Had I understood the full advantage of becoming Irrelevant Day-to-Day I would have done it years ago. Looking back, a big reason I started my business in the first place, and one of the reasons most business owners start their own businesses, is to have the freedom and flexibility of not working for others. However, as is common with most successful business owners, because I called the shots, I was critical to the day-to-day operations. As a result, I didn’t have the freedom and flexibility I wanted in the first place.

Fortunately for my family, business, clients and myself, I had this Big Audacious Goal of sailing around the world with my family. This goal forced me to do what was important, even if it wasn’t urgent. It forced me to look forward and put specific goals and timelines down on paper; ultimately making myself irrelevant in the day-to-day operations of my company. I created a concrete plan for where my business needed to be and when. I found that the family and business goals fused, allowing me optimum freedom and flexibility. It wasn’t always easy, but I truly have a job I would do whether I needed to or not… and I get to sail around the world with my family.

Visit: www.facebook.com/MobileCEO to learn about many of the tools and techniques I used to successfully become irrelevant to the day-to-day operations of my company.http://vimeo.com/20934573

Papa Sherpa’s Five Golden Rules of Traveling with Kids

One of a Sherpa’s jobs deals with the logistics of moving all the “stuff” necessary for an expedition. In our family, that role falls to me, hence the term “Papa Sherpa.” We have traveled a lot as a family, ever since Griffin was 6 months old when we took a two-week surf vacation to a remote part of Mexico. Our boys have club membership on an airline and are already on their second passports. This experience inspired me to create my Five Golden Rules of Travel for our family.

    1. Never miss an opportunity to use the bathroom. I know, sounds simple. Whenever we pick up a rental car with bathrooms nearby and I ask if anyone needs to use the restroom before we leave, I hear “No, were fine.” Then, ten minutes later when we’re on the road the kids chime in, “I have to use the bathroom!” You can imagine the conversation from there, “We were at a bathroom 10 minutes ago!” “I didn’t need to go then…” “Then you mustn’t need to go that bad, you can wait.” “No, I have to go really bad!” So, if we pass a bathroom, everyone goes, whether they have to or not.
    2. If you like it, don’t ask what it is. This rule, as with the rest, relates to food. If you have done any international travel with small children, you will embrace this one quickly. Keeping young kids fed while traveling can be very difficult. And nothing is more defeating than having the kids try something new, like it, but then discover what it is, and suddenly state that they can no longer eat it. There is a (Scott Leonard and his brother, David, at the summit of Mt. Rainer, where they played Sherpa to some climbers who should have never tried to summit. The genesis of Scott being a Sherpa.) reason we don’t tour a sausage factory, or when visiting a farm, go to the slaughterhouse. If your child eats a food they like, encourage them to just be happy and eat it. And the next time your child asks you what they are eating, reply, “Chicken.”
  1. Don’t fight the menu. If there is a Chef’s Special, it is usually pretty good. So don’t try and redesign it because it’s been prepared a certain way for a reason; be open-minded and experiment. The locals know what is good and fresh. If you try and customize your order, it should be no surprise then – especially when language is an issue – that it never comes out right. Just point to the Chef’s Special and you’ll be fine.
  2. Lime fixes many ills. I learned this one traveling around Central and South America. Lime kills germs, which is why it was rubbed around the lip of beer. It also has a pretty distinctive flavor, which can mask many bad tastes. When the “Chef’s Special” (prepared by the mother of a local family that has invited you to dinner) is different than what you are used to, lime can really help. Order lime with your beer, and keep it around for dinner.
  3. Bacon makes everything taste better. I don’t think this needs any explanation. If it is on the menu, and it has bacon in the description, it trumps the Chef’s Special. Eat it.

Is There a Doctorin the House?

It’s time for me to address one of the most frequent questions I’ve gotten so far: “How did you convince Mandi to sail around the world with your three boys?”

Actually, Mandi was onboard with the plan from the beginning. But she did have one essential requirement – that we get prepared for any medical situation. Requiring medical care at sea was also one of my main concerns. With all the hype about pirates and storms, there is real danger in facing a medical issue in a remote location. Even a minor issue can develop into something major without proper diagnosis or timely treatment.

As our departure date grew closer, the medical question remained unsolved. We thought about taking EMT courses or adventure care courses, but nothing really seemed to meet our specific needs. We were fortunate to find MedAire, which provides medical kits and training, and MedLink which is the 24/7 telemedician service provided through MedAire (they were quick to help us solve our lice dilemma in Puerto Rico as you may recall). Then we discovered the final and most crucial piece to the puzzle, our Tempus IC unit.

The Tempus IC is our own personal vitals monitoring system. The live data provided to the physicians at the MedLink location is the same information determined in an ER setting: heart rate, blood O2 level, temperature, pulse, glucose level, blood pressure and even a 12 lead EKG monitor. The unit is amazing; it takes photos and video and transmits the images to Med- Link, so it’s like having a doctor on board. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbQhG8GLkQ

After we learned about it, we knew we needed it in order to have that last bit of confidence in making the trip.

Best of all – the monitoring is automatic so it’s very simple to use; both Griffin and Jake can operate it. In fact, we anticipate that we will be in communication with the doctors at MedLink via our Tempus unit more than we ever visited the doctor back home. The unit communicates directly with MedLink via our satellite connection, or my cell phone or WiFi network. I push one button and I’m talking to a health care professional.

Awesome. Tempus IC has become part of the family. We conduct routine drills using it so we all know how to test everyone’s vitals. To make it more fun for the boys, we’ve tried using it as a “lie detector.” Not only does this keep the boys interested, it teaches them about anatomy and how to monitor different vital signs in each other. The game of trying to catch their brothers in a lie helps to ensure that they place the different monitors in the correct place.

And MedLink has encouraged us to call often, even if it’s only about a scratch or the sniffles, just so we can stay ahead of the curve. In some ways, Mandi and I are actually more confident about caring for the boys with this system in place than we were in our home where we often practiced the “wait and see” approach. Once again, advances in technology have allowed me to be truly mobile with my family.

Rastafarian Gold

Island hopping on a sailboat makes it a challenge to meet people. There are basically three types of islanders: locals, tourists, and transients. I would classify this last group as those staying longer than a week, but not residents. This includes the sailors and younger adventurers seeking work in the bars, restaurants, and boat yards. Thankfully, there is an online morning “net” for the sailing community that allows us to connect about activities, security issues, weather, items to trade, etc.

While traveling the Caribbean, one of the hardest vegetables for us to find is lettuce. And topping the Three Little Birds’ Endangered Species List is arugula. It’s impossible to find- and happens to be one of Mandi’s favorites. Last Friday the net provided us with an invitation to a kids outing – a tour of the local Rastafarian Farm on St. Martin. We were excited to discover that they grow arugula!

I had no idea what to expect, but it sounded fun and we really wanted to meet other sailing families with kids. So we suspended schooling for the day and went along. We were given a private tour of the farm (see a short video of the trip above right) and encouraged to sample various types of produce such as peas, local fruits, and even a plant that is toxic until ripe (I actually had a taste of that one, I should get a badge for that).

The farm is part of a Rastafari Church where, in addition to traditional fruits and vegetables, they grow a variety of medicinal plants. The Dr. Seuss-like Annatto plant was impressive. The bright color makes it popular in Caribbean cuisine as both a dye and a spice and it keeps mosquitoes away as well.

One of my goals for our trip was to expose the boys to different cultures. Visiting the Farm not only helped them learn about local agriculture and customs, it was also an unexpected visit with the Rastafarians. We learned that they avoid modern or conventional pharmaceuticals and instead use what nature provides. It was really interesting to see all the varieties of plants and learn about their medicinal properties and preparations. You have to admire the generations of Rastas who have lead healthy lives without the advantages of Western medicine. This experience gave us a taste, literally, of how resourceful islanders can be; something we don’t take for granted now that there isn’t a grocery store on every corner!

And while the day at the farm was a treat, the highlight of the tour was their arugula. It was freshly picked and delicious (you’ll see that we ate it that night with burgers and we didn’t even miss the fries). We also purchased some other lettuce and chives (a great source of vitamin C). The other benefit was that we met some boat families. One of the families actually helped us break into our own boat when our keys were stolen – but that’s a story for another day…

For more updates about the Leonard’s around-the-world-adventure, visit their blog at: www.threelittlebirds.org MM





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