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Sunday / September 22

Lessons Learned from The Boys in the Boat

Corwin Connect - Lessons Learned from The Boys in the Boat

How could a book about Nazi Germany and a sport I know very little about have implications for my job as an editor? I have to admit that as I began reading The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, I never thought it would resonate for me professionally, but it did.

Aside from the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed a book centered around a sport that I have never really followed, I wound up spending a lot of time thinking about some of the quotations and lessons about teamwork that Brown wrote about. Not only did I read the quotations, I found myself revisiting them during and after I finished reading the book.

The main source of quotes in the chapter openers was George Yeoman Pocock, a master shell (boat) builder and rower who helped the Washington team as an unofficial coach. “My ambition has always been to be the greatest shell builder in the world; and without false modesty, I believe I have attained that goal. If I were to sell Boeing stock, I fear I would lose my incentive and become a wealthy man, but a second rate artisan. I prefer to remain a first-class artisan.” This sure says something about why we wish to be educators!

As with many things, I started to consider other insights from this book in my work and I suspect that any educator can take away valuable lessons from it. History has a way of doing that. It gets under our skin and begins to find its way into our thoughts.

Certainly, the story about how this 8-man rowing team wound up competing in Hitler’s 1936 Olympics is absorbing. Most people find World War II to not only be an important time in our history, but a time when our country came together. The lessons are universal and ongoing.

So, what are some of the lessons I took away?

Much of the book is about how a well-synchronized team effort can far outpace amazing individual efforts. We may wish to be the individual standout, but we know that the collective effort of a close knit team will make us stronger…help us focus. Pocock: “To see a winning crew in action is to witness a perfect harmony in which everything is right…That is the formula for endurance and success: rowing with the heart and head as well as physical strength.”

How can educators collaborate to achieve excellence with their students?

Brown talks about the need to challenge people and allow them the freedom to fail to build eventual success. This is such an important motivational message and one that Debbie Silver also discusses in Fall Down 7 Times, Get Up 8. Pocock: “A boat is a sensitive thing, an eight-oared shell, and if it isn’t let go free, it doesn’t work for you”

I meet so many authors who learned so much about themselves through the journey of writing a book. Some had no idea they could actually write a book and came out at the other end as different people.

As an editor or educator, I know that I have many lessons to learn. There is so much that I am learning and doing new every day. Jared Covili inspired me to finally start using Google hangouts and what a revelation that has been. And fun!

From Pocock again: “Reaching farther into yourself to discover hidden strengths and capacities. Doing more than you individually thought possible and doing so in service of a team goal.”

Most of all The Boys in the Boat reminded me of the beauty and grace of doing your job really well and the effect that can have on others. Well worth a read.

The Boys in the Boat via Amazon

Written by

Arnis Burvikovs, Executive Editor at Corwin Press, has worked in publishing for over 30 years in sales, marketing, and editorial positions. Arnis has had the great fortune of working with numerous bestselling authors at Corwin and, previously, at Allyn and Bacon. The one major lesson he has learned is, as Twain noted, “A big book is a big nuisance.”

Latest comments

  • Yikes, the pressure is on! Hope you like it.

  • Your extremely well-written review has persuaded me that I need to order this book and read it, too. Thank you for the “shout out” in your piece. Every book you have ever recommended to me has been a winner, so I’m going with you on this one also. I appreciate you taking the time to write about it here.

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