This week is the symposium on weaknesses and I am fortunate to be a patron of it. It is a topic very dear to me because it concerns us all and isn’t limited to the matter of handicaps. We are in the third week of the Vendée Globe, I just sailed past the Equator and my next objective is the Cape of Good Hope, in the South of Africa. If I am here today, it’s not because I am the best, but in the contrary, because I am aware of my weaknesses.
To start, my boat is fragile, it gets destroyed a bit more each day in this aggressive environment. Every day, something breaks on board and my role is to preserve this sailboat in order for us to make it together to the Sables d’Olonne. Beyond the boat, I watch myself. My skin, my hands are getting damaged and I watch my every move to not get injured. I also watch my exhaustion levels. When I am well rested, I have a winning spirit, I find solutions. On the contrary, tiredness makes the tiniest problem insurmountable and my morale can crash before the slightest annoyance. I also watch my behavior during the race.
I am only 2 miles* (less than 4km, editors note) away from Romain Attanasio and the temptation is great to do it all to earn a position. It’s so easy to want to impress others! I could theoretically go faster but it would be a presumption of my strength. Every day I tell myself that it’s exceptional for someone like me to be here. Going faster generates a lot of stress and putting myself in that situation would mean going straight to the grave. I am not capable of doing it and my strength lies in recognizing it. Knowing oneself is an essential work that few people dare to carry out. Recognizing one’s weaknesses hurts the ego and yet, this is how you become an accomplished man or woman. It’s how you become an adult.
Weakness in a team often generates a form or rejection or contempt. We hide it, whereas those who aren’t ashamed of it deserve the greatest respect. It is when all the members of a team are sufficiently at ease to recognize their weak areas that performance happens. We thus discover that the weakest people aren’t always who we think they are.
I’ve had the opportunity to take part in a survival camp and sea rescue preparation with a group, a couple years ago. We were in a pool and we namely had to emerge from a fictitious helicopter carcass. Various disabled people were with me and they were all completely at ease because they practiced water sports. In the contrary, the camerawoman, who was completely valid, had a really hard time because she was claustrophobic. She needed to be taken care of instead of the “broken arms” who were with me. This proves that our vision of weakness is often incorrect. We try to protect people and it’s a mistake. Protecting and caring are two different things. When you protect, you isolate, whereas caring is getting to know the other. It’s only then that we can help someone thrive and help them take risks as well.
3rd Chronicle published in the newspaper « La Croix », media partner during the Vendée Globe