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It's Okay to hug in dragon boat... (and other reasons why it's better than work)

Every year, as I participate as videographer and photographer at the Space Coast Dragon Boat Camp, I am amazed at how different the dragon boat world is from the work place. It's not that the difference only exists at camp, but it's exaggerated because of the concentration of paddlers and paddling. I go home inspired, and ready to start another dragon boat season, but a little sad that the work place isn't more like dragon boat. So this year, I spent some time analyzing why they are so different,

It's Okay to hug in dragon boat

People greet each other with the affection of long lost friends. It may be someone you only see at camp once a year, or your crew mates back home if you haven't seen them for a while, like after a long cold Nova Scotia winter. There is a connection that is formed from shared experiences such as battling through a causeway paddle, or racing a tough race. The connection is tough to explain. As my coach/husband Albert McDonald once said to me, you've been to war together.

I've worked in both public and private sector for over forty years. Fear of political correctness has taken over our ability to show that we feel connection with our co-workers.

We share a common goal

I find in the work place, especially in public sector, we spend a lot of time and effort in defining goals and priorities that provide direction for the organization. Then we need to put strategies in place to make sure everyone understood the goals and priorities. And then we need to put processes in place to ensure we align with the goals and priorities. (In my head I am thinking about whether I am pronouncing processes as a long or short 'o', after discussion with my roomies about Canadian pronunciation.) And if that isn't enough, we need to put processes in place to measure and report on our progress against goals and priorities.

In dragon boat, it is much clearer, at least at an individual level. Paddle better. Whether you are a seventy-five year old getting into a boat for the first time, or whether you are trying to make a world crew, we all strive for one thing - be a better paddler - more reach, more rotation, more pull - which ultimately means more speed.

People work as a team

In dragon boat, there is no reward for individual behaviour. To be a better crew, you must first learn to work together and adapt to each other. It is the combination of effort that gets the best results. As my coach likes to say, you're only as good as your nineteen best friends. Dragon boat is a very supportive environment, with the more experienced or stronger athletes always willing to provide advice or an encouraging word, because ultimately it makes the whole team stronger.

In the workplace, we talk a lot about working together as a team, however, the reward system is set up to reward individuals. Not only that, because there is a limited amount of funds available for reward, it promotes individuals competing against each other. It is challenging to work as a team when the team members are rewarded for individual behaviour.

People say Thank You

I continue to be amazed by the number of times people come up to me and say thank you for doing what I do at dragon boat camp, whether here at Space Coast Camp, or back in Dartmouth at our Dragon Beast Summer Training Camp. Strangers go out of their way to show their gratitude. It is truly heart warming.

It's not that people don't say thank you in the work place, but it's more like the thanks you give someone when they hold the door open for you. It's really just being polite. I can't remember the last time some one at work said "I know you're just doing your job, but thank you for what you do."

We love what we do

Most people get up and go off to work every day because they have to pay the bills and put food on the table. If you're lucky, you love your job, or at least like your job, and find personal reward and satisfaction.

But every time we drag our tired behinds from the sofa to hop into a dragon boat to hump up and down the lake, rain or shine, it is done for love of our sport. We drive our friends and co-workers crazy trying to recruit them, because we can't believe they wouldn't love it too. We can't wait for ice to melt to get back in a boat. We paddle in cold, heat, rain, wind, snow. We tinker for years with top arms, bottom hands, heels, core, trying to get everything working just right. Because we love the feel of a boat gliding, in unison with your team mates. If you don't love that, you're in the wrong sport.

So since I can't change the work place, I will continue to paddle, and enjoy all of the things that make dragon boat so good. And if work is not so good, just keep thinking 'I'll be on the water with my peeps soon!".

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