Eyes in the Boat

Having your eyes in the boat is a concept that was ingrained in me early on in my Coast Guard career. The idea was used to prevent recruits from looking around at there surroundings during basic training (or boot camp). I guess by looking straight it ahead it avoided unnecessary distractions and useless small talk in places like the mess hall, admin offices, and gym facilities.

Thus eyes in the boat was born. At the time, I did not really give it much thought. I just went along with it to appease the drill instructors, frankly, I was too tired to waste energy gawking around and chatting anyways, so I found it rather easy to maintain the eyes in the boat structure for what seemed like days on end.  Despite eating 3+ meals in that mess hall per day for over 8 weeks, I honestly could not tell you what the interior even looked like, I didn’t care. Still don’t. I did not join the Coast Guard to look around at the interiors of dated and underfunded Coast Guard dining facilities anyways.

Eyes in the boat was a concept that stuck with me all these years though because, if anything, it taught me one lesson. Keeps your eyes in front of you. Keep looking at where you are going. When you ignore the useless nonsense in your surroundings, your mission and task at hand become much clearer to see and easier to understand. I did not give a crap what color the walls in the mess hall were. Or what type of fish were in the fish tank in medical.

Today, having my eyes in the boat is a little less rigided and I try to at least pay attention to my surroundings, but I still try my best to maintain my focus on the task at hand. Sometimes when I take my eyes out of the boat and start looking around at my surroundings, (figuratively, not literally), I get super sidetracked. This side tracked-ness leaves me feeling panicked and stressed out.  .

To me, having my eyes in the boat is staying focused on my goal. The direction I am headed, long-term, not right now, not today, not tomorrow, but long term. 1, 3, 5 or 10 years down the road. If I start looking at the right now – and begin wanting to get these 3, 5, and 10-year results now, I begin to feel stressed out. Forgot about all that and keep your eyes in the boat. If your goal is to graduate in 3 years, stay focused on that.  If your goal is to win your next match, tournament, or competition – then stay focused on that. Keep your eyes in your boat, keep looking forward at the target. Don’t worry if things are not going your way right now, or this week. They will come around. They will come around even faster the better disciplined you become at keeping your eyes in the boat.

In boot camp, anytime our eyes fell out of the boat, we were quickly alerted to this by an overzealous and highly caffeinated drill instructor. In civilian life you have to be your own authority figure, you have to control your own discipline. You have to remind yourself to keep your damn eyes in the boat.

Stay focused. Stay Hungry. Stay Humble


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