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When the Captain is Drowning

Written by

Adam Johnston

Give me a bottle of bourbon and half a chicken, and I’ll conquer the world! My job is to make sure that everyone else does their job, which has to be the easiest job in the world considering the brilliant, hard-working people we have in our Flock. My ultimate goal is to run a company that people are proud to work for. I’m an avid statesman, adventurer, Burner, Broadway aficionado, athlete, and I wear my Cole Haans as often as my cowboy boots. It’s a wonderful life.All Posts

Owners assert a level of control in their company that they are comfortable with.  Each owner is different and some companies require more control from their owners than others. But what happens when we retain too much control, when we put our hands, and our approval, into too many projects? What happens when we don’t trust our employees enough to make the decisions on which we’ve already trained them to do?


Some things need our involvement. Some things we just want to be involved in. Other things we unnecessarily stick our grimy paws in just because we feel like it or because we think that is what we’re supposed to do as owners. The buck stops here. But unless you have a longer clock, no social life, no family life, and a closet full of Minions, there is only so much you, and that’s assuming that you’re “on” 100% of the time you have available to work.


Being in charge of so much in my company puts a weight on me that I didn’t realize was there until recently. I go go go all of the time and I enjoy doing it. I find inspiration in completing the tasks that I deem important to the company. What I didn’t expect was to get knocked off my rocker and find a weight so heavy that I could barely get back up. And if the person charged with completing all of the company’s “important” tasks can’t stand up, how does the company function, especially if there is no one around to call for help?


I recently experienced feelings that completely debilitated me from working. Imagine sitting at your desk to finish a very important project and not being able to collect a single fluid thought because your mind is engulfed in some other mess. Then imagine five hours at your desk passing by and you realize you’ve been staring at the floor most of the time. Now imagine the feeling of not being able to do anything about it. The project just isn’t going to get done today. And what if it absolutely had to? Do you have anyone who could step in and finish that project for you? Or do you hold so much control over the “important” tasks in your company that the ship could go down with its captain?


There is a weight that exists, and is mostly self-inflicted, that causes us to bite off more than we might not always be able to chew. Just because we can handle the load when the waters are calm, what’s to say that we can stay afloat when the storm comes?


I realized that the responsibilities I have charged myself with over the years do not give me the ability to take time off to grieve or heal emotionally if I need it. It took me 32 years to experience this type of debilitation, which I am grateful for, though I find myself equally grateful for the lesson. There are things in life that will happen that will strip you of your ability to function, only allow you to focus on the negative, and make you think you can’t go on. And in those moments, you need to be able to deal with those life events and not be forced to be “on” at work.


Revisit the level of control you assert in your company and make sure that, if the buck stops here, it has somewhere to stop.


Step 1: Realize that the weight exists.
Step 2: Do what you can to mitigate the burden.


Tips (if you find yourself debilitated, in order of importance):

  • Remember that you will get through it
  • Find an outlet for your feelings
  • Do something that helps you relax
  • Get lots of sleep
  • Start with the easiest work tasks and knock as many off as possible.