How to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a barrel

Predictability is critical for all small business owners. Just as it was for Jean-Jacques Savin. His barrel had no sails, no paddle, no engine...

On 8th May 2019, Jean-Jacques arrived in the Caribbean, having finished his 2,930-mile journey across the Atlantic Ocean in a jailhouse-orange plywood and resin barrel that he made. The trip took him a little over four months.

The barrel had no sails, no paddle, no engine. It drifted across the ocean on the movement of tides, currents and wind.

The only power on board was that generated by some photovoltaic cells on the exterior of the barrel. The cells created enough juice to power a satellite phone, lights and a tablet.

Despite spending three hours a day replying to emails, he had plenty of time to keep a detailed journal, swim, fish and watch ocean life through a little window in the bottom of the barrel.

Predictably, in an authentic French style, on his 72nd birthday in January, he dined on foie gras, a bottle of white wine and his favourite chocolates.

But the open ocean is a dangerous place for a man in a barrel.

At one point in his trip, he was almost rammed by a massive cargo ship that hadn’t responded to his radio calls.

“It was like being trapped on a railroad track, and I was watching the oncoming train,’ he said.

And in March, huge waves battered and tossed the barrel around, almost tipping the barrel upside-down.

People have sailed, rowed, flew, swam, kayaked, and now bobbed their way across the Atlantic Ocean.

Another Frenchman, Benoît Lecomte, who allegedly swam across the Atlantic without a kickboard, was accompanied by a device on a boat nearby that produced an electromagnetic field that kept sharks from eating him. Less technical but just as effective, Jennifer Figge swam several sections of the ocean crossing inside a shark cage.

Jean-Jacques and the many adventurers before him safely crossed the Atlantic because we have an excellent understanding of tidal movements, wind patterns and ocean currents. And we accept that sharks might eat us. Despite this, Jean-Jacques was still blown off course, adding over a month to his original schedule.

No matter how well we think we can predict stuff, life is chaotic, and it can humble us.

We have technology and data to predict how people will navigate our websites, how long they’ll stay on our sales pages, which emails they’ll open and which they won’t. And if you study what people are saying in Facebook groups relevant to your industry, you’ll see the problems your clients have.

We should be using this data to guide our sales and marketing strategy. But these are only guides. We need to test different approaches, see what works, what doesn’t and adjust our bearing accordingly. It’s a series of course corrections.

Don’t believe those that tell you that creating your sales funnel will be plain sailing. It won’t. And particularly now, like many people, aware of being aggressively “funneled”, are preferring to opt-out.

For most products and services on offer, as the crow flies, is not the path your future customers will take. They’ll flow in and out of your world. You must be showing up in multiple places with regularity and consistency.

However, eventually, your ideal clients will jump on board.

Update January 2022: Sadly, Jean-Jacques Savin died in a second attempt to cross the Atlantic alone in January 2022.