3 mins read

Tenente – Hold Fast

To Prevail

Are we?

This morning I had the pleasure of sharing some thoughts with a group of school leaders during the ‘Partners in Learning’ – end of year celebration event. The brief was simple:

“We wondered if you could deliver an upbeat key note…..something along the lines of finding the positives, overcoming adversity, focusing on the future etc.”

So I got my thinking cap on and this is what appeared….

A maritime based story

This year we have all seen challenge of a different kind, be that as parents attempting to homeschool our children, businesses having to furlough or diversify, teachers balancing in class and virtual lessons. School leaders have been guiding their teams through bubbles bursting, food poverty and loss, all while trying to put the minds of parents and pupils at ease.

I’m sure we have at one time all come across this phrase (or something similar):


“We are all in the same boat”


It alludes to the idea that those whom travel in this boat face the same challenges/problems together. But when it comes to the pandemic and covid19 there is a flaw within this phrase.

Damian Barr, award winning writer, columnist and broadcaster on the 21 April 2020 posted this tweet…


“We are not all in the same boat. We are all in the same storm. Some are on super-yachts. Some have just the one oar”.


This quote went viral and inspired a poem by an unnamed author about being non-judgemental and kind (worth a read).

What Damian captured here was the essence that while we may all be facing the same challenge (the pandemic), we are all doing this from different places, we have and still are experiencing it differently. For Doncaster schools this could be summarised as..

  • We may well have the same postcode but we have different pupils with different needs
  • We may have similar aspirations for these young people but we all have different resources
  • We may have similar desires for our staff but we have different demands being placed on them

Its time to take stock of our adversities, overcoming these and the possible futures.

What does your boat look like?

Please indulge me, grab a piece of paper and draw your boat. For the purpose of this exercise I’d like it to have the following features – a hull, the wake, a main sail, a jib and a mast (there should be an example picture somewhere in this blog). Now answer these 5 questions. Don’t rush through them, take your time to deeply think about each question and be deliberate, open and honest about your answer…


  1. Hull – How deep in the water is your boat sitting? Within the space you have created for the hull list all the things that are weighing you down
  2. Wake – What do you need to leave behind? In the space behind the boat list all the things you need to leave in the past or toss overboard
  3. Main Sail – What has created the lift in your school? Where the main sail is list all the positives of this past year, the things that are lifting you and your team up
  4. Jib – Looking ahead what will improve performance? In the space you have created for the jib list all the things that will create future stability
  5. Mast – What stands strong in your place? Along the mast list all the items that are holding things together, what gives you strength


Whilst in the broadest sense our boats do have similar structures, the reality is – that which sits within our boat (and in the wake of the boat) will be different to all others who complete this task.


  • Take stock of the things that weighed you down
  • Remove all things that hold you back
  • Celebrate what has given you a lift
  • Look to act on the things that give you stability
  • Hold fast to the strength of your mast

If nothing else pick one thing you are proud of and use this as your fuel as you head into tomorrow.

I urge you all to try this out with your teams, see what boats they create, explore how they have narrated their experiences. Are their holes in the hull and tears in their sails and a question to ask yourself and them is – who holds the rudder?

In closing

I’ll leave you with the word that started this blog ‘tenente’ – loosely translated to “hold fast” or to prevail. This phrase has been commonly used in the maritime world to communicate the need to ‘bear down and fight through the storm’.

To do this we need to have one hand on the boat (your business, your school etc) and have one hand free to care for yourself and your teams.

Dedicate a hand for your ship and a hand for you, the ship needs every member. You are no good if you are washed overboard

If you’d like to talk more about this type of work get in touch

Kurt Ewald Lindley – sailing in choppy seas