Interview with Brad Van Liew
What is the message you hope people will take away from your presentations?
The underlying message derived from sailing solo around the world three times is that achieving the impossible challenge is possible. The method for achieving this consists of a deliberate “recipe for success” that includes very unexpected but important hurdles to overcome in an effort to manage achieving the ultimate goal. Running the business, team management, sleep deprivation training and an incredible level of detailed knowledge of all pertinent skills become critical elements in managing a solo sailing race around the globe.
How are your keynotes unique?
The presentation is peppered with fantastic video and photographic content that comes as a bi-product of the highly visual and harsh lifestyle reality of sailing solo throughout all of our oceans. The stories are drawn from the most remote geographic areas of the planet. Furthermore, very few people have any real level of understanding of the rarified world of solo racing on some of the fastest sailboats ever built.
The take away impressions of the harsh realities undertaken to achieve what seemed to be an insurmountable goal provide a dramatic and shocking peek into an elite and rarely shared inside perspective. I accomplished a nearly impossible goal not just once, but became the first American in history to achieve the goal three times with two race victories, racing through the utmost hazardous and extreme conditions.
Who or what is your biggest source of inspiration?
The previously most recognized American to participate in the sport of solo offshore racing was a man named Mike Plant and he was a true mentor and inspiration to me as I began my career. Mike was lost at sea on the way to the start of a race in France. Ironically, his death drove me away from the sport I love for a few years but was also a strength to me upon my return. His death helped illustrate for me a conflicted but motivational relationship between the pros and cons of this very dangerous game.
I am also greatly inspired by the shear enormity of doing what seems to be the impossible. A sort of “I knew I could do what others say I couldn’t” kind of drive.
What type of audience would benefit from your keynotes?
It has been surprising and rewarding to see the diversity of the audiences who benefit and leave with a real sense of drive from my keynotes. We adapt the presentations to conform to messages that speak to audiences’ lives or work environments in a relative sense. This has proven to be very effective whether speaking to a large group of corporate executives, insurance providers, medical providers, business owners or marine industry leaders. It seems to be relevant to anyone who is trying to set and achieve lofty goals.
Have you had a unique experience as a keynote?
In the sense that the sport in which I participate is unique and very different than most, I have to say that the standard Q and A session during the closing phase of my presentation ends up regularly being a highly unique experience. This is because the person who has never experienced living with little to no sleep and with zero comforts of any kind for months at a time while in complete solitude and in the most remote part of our planet tends to spawn very interesting curiosities. That’s an enjoyable discussion for me – to answer those unique questions.
How do your sailing experiences relate to business topics such as leadership and management?
This is probably the most surprising reality of my sport and life. Although on the surface the sport seems very solitary and self driven, the reality is that it is an inherently well choreographed team effort between the business elements and the traveling team that helps to maintain and prepare the boat and allow for me to be able to function at peak levels.
A very intricate, delicate business management scenario also exists between the “on the water” performance and delivering the needed return to major corporate sponsors in the form of media results and sales performance. The team effort between all of these elements of the team and partners is absolutely critical. Positive synergies have to exist within all parts of the overall campaign.
What is the best thing about sailing solo?
The best thing about sailing solo is also the worst. It means that the sense of accomplishment is unique. At the end of the day, the on the water performance of the team is exclusively reliant upon the sailor driving the boat. You leave each race with a sense of huge accomplishment for yourself and all the team members that contributed. But, if you make a mistake or underperform the sense of disappointment and need to improve is a very lonely and singular feeling. It is a very high risk, high reward environment, and fortunately I have been very successful despite difficult odds.