Just how deep are you?

When I was growing up, my family had a tradition of our celebrating our 12th birthday by taking a trip with our dad. This was our chance to spend significant one-on-one time with him.

For my trip, Dad and I decided to go to a sailing school on the Gulf coast of Florida. I got braces put on just before we went to the airport, so much of the weekend was spent drinking milk shakes and trying not to focus on my aching teeth. And it was still a fabulous experience.

I’ve gotten to do some sailing as an adult, too. I love the exhilaration of racing across the water, the boat heeled way over on its side, spray dancing in the wind.

Moments like that make you seriously glad you have a deep keel.

You see, the bottom of a sailboat extends down into the water with something called a keel. Some boats have a deep keel, others a more shallow one.

The keel does 2 things.

  1. 14788634_sThe keel allows the boat to be steered effectively. It converts the sideways motion of the wind into forward motion. Without a keel, the wind blowing across the boat would send it skidding sideways.
  2. The keel keeps the boat upright. It stabilizes the boat by adding weight low enough to lower the boat’s center of gravity, keeping it from being blown over in strong winds. It’s what lets you keep your balance as you go screaming across the waves.

Without a keel, sailboats would be tossed around on the water, at the mercy of the currents and unable to effectively use the force of the wind.


In a sense, we’re much like sailboats. By developing our depth – our keel – we increase our ability to direct our own lives and businesses. We’re able to convert the energy of what comes at us into forward motion, propelling ourselves in the direction we choose to go.

Plus, our depth keeps us balanced when we’re moving quickly, or when we get rocked by the unexpected. Even a wave of great good fortune can tip us over if we don’t have depth to stabilize us.

What I love about this image is that a deep keel has the feeling of being centered and steady along with a sense of movement. It combines being grounded with action and freedom.


So how do you develop a deeper keel?

Now, this is where I’d love to say, “Just do these 3 easy steps and watch your keel grow!” Or perhaps, “Take the Keel-Grow pill and have a bigger keel in 10 days!”

The truth is, it isn’t easy. And it doesn’t happen over night.

It’s like developing the muscles in your legs enough to run a marathon. That doesn’t happen with one jog around the block. Or by watching track and field events on TV. You have to do the work. And you have to keep at it.

And here are some steps you can take:

  1. Create practices that ground you in your body and in who you are. Like sitting in silence and listening to yourself on a regular basis. Exercising to increase your physical strength and health. Letting go of what isn’t you, like beliefs and identifications from the past that don’t serve you. Develop your muscles of gratitude and focus.
  1. Be engaged. Show up for yourself and your business. When things get uncomfortable and you want to leave or distract yourself, try leaning in even more and taking one more step. Have the tough conversations. Listen to what you don’t want to hear. Say what you don’t want to have to say.
  1. Be honest with yourself. Be willing to truly see yourself and your situation. All the messiness. All the vulnerabilities. All the beauty. All the talents. It would amaze me how much more easily my clients see their faults than their strengths, except that I’ve done it myself.
  1. Stop believing your limiting beliefs, like:
  • I’m not meant to have a deep keel.
  • Everyone can have a deep keel but me.
  • I can’t do this.
  • I’m not good enough to have a deep keel.

Just substitute “successful business”, “happy life”, “wealth” or anything else you’d like for “deep keel”.

In other words, you develop a deep keel when you become the leader of yourself.

This is the work of a lifetime. This is the work that can change your life and the course of your business.

This is what I help clients do. This is what I’m passionate about.

What’s something you’ve done (or that you do) to help you maintain balance and move forward in rough times? I’d love to read about it below.

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