Everything I Need to Know About Business I Learned in the Vogalonga Regatta

Everything I Need to Know About Business I Learned in the Vogalonga Regatta

When I was asked to be the Drummer on a Dragon Boat for the Vogalonga I said yes because it was a Regatta and I liked the sound of the word “Regatta.” When else in my life am I going to compete in a 30km rowing marathon?  First, I should point out I wasn’t rowing. Secondly, I should say I was promised that the role of the Drummer was easy, peasy, pumpkin pie. In fact – that MIGHT have been an exaggeration, and while my core muscles may still be aching from 4 ½ hours of balancing myself on the bow of the boat on a seat the size of Bosc Pear in the choppy waters of the Venetian lagoon – it was without a doubt worth it. (Yes – that’s moi in the headdress in the above photo!) Cue the music, “I had the time of my life, and I owe it all to you… (Yes, I’m talking to you, Naomi, the woman who talked me and several other friends into this).

And while at first it simply sounded glamorous to be in a Regatta in Venice – the Vogalonga is one of the most significant rowing races in Italy –  it was more than that. I learned several things about myself and on top of that, I had a major mental breakthrough.

The first thing I learned is that riding the waves is a lot like riding a horse.  For the first hour on the boat, I was bracing myself. And at a certain point, I realized if I relaxed into the movements of the water – if I gave up control and went with the flow – the entire process was a lot easier. I faced less resistance and simply had to work less. Hmmm… wouldn’t it be amazing if I could apply this lesson outside the boat?

Secondly, for years I have been trying to meditate. And for years I’ve discovered I simply suck at meditating.  

Eat. Pray. Love.

But my Eat Pray Love moment happened at a regatta. Elizabeth Gilbert went to Italy to eat. I apparently have decided to try all 3  –  Eating, Praying and Loving – in Italy. Gilbert explains,

Meditation does not come easily to me. My mind wanders relentlessly. I complained about this once to an Indian monk and he laughed and said, it’s a pity you’re the only human being on the planet who has that problem. But I find mental stillness really difficult.”   

For me, it is the opposite problem. I welcome the quieting of my brain. I welcome the solitude to stop thinking but within seconds of starting to meditate, I fall into a deep sleep. 

Clear your mind. Check. 
Listen to your breath. Check.
Wake up an hour later… Check.

Eat. Pray. Love.

Sitting on the bow of the Dragon Boat, perched high above facing my team, I found my mind clearing. My role as the drummer was to be the heartbeat of the team. I was to watch and mimic the Pacers – when their paddle went up, my arm went up; when their paddle dipped into the water, my drum pounded. I was the only one on the boat who could see their movements – and my job was to communicate to the rest of the team the speed with which to row. It is critical that all paddlers are synchronized in order for the boat to move forward easily.  

More than that, my job was to motivate and to encourage: helping the team using drills to increase team strength and unity. And in many ways, it reminded me of our Antiques Diva Antiques Dealer Training and Mentoring Mentoring Program where my job is to bring out the best in you – to help you find your stride in your antique business. Susan Shaw, of W Road Collection, explains of the training program,

“The way you work in your Antiques Diva Mentoring Program is exactly like the coxswain – the coach on the water, the leader in the boat making all as one in unison propelling the boat forward. I cannot thank you enough for helping me with the forward motion.”

Susan Shaw of W Road Collection

As we floated through Venice passing some of the most significant locations among the islands – S. Erasmo, S. Francesco del Deserto, Burano, Mezzorbo and Murano – I became mesmerized by the dipping on the Pacer’s oar into the water. If I lost concentration and skipped a beat – the whole boat lost synchronization. So I simply focused. On one thing. The dipping of the paddle into the water.

And in doing so – suddenly I was in the zone. My mind was quiet. As we moved water my mind went numb. I had a physical almost visceral feeling of detachment from time and place. All I could see  – all I could think about – was the dipping of the paddle into the sea. As if floating up above the boat, I felt a suspension of gravity that was soothing – achieving complete and utter mindlessness. 

During the Vogalonga I learned to meditate.

As an article in Entrepreneur magazine explains: Thought leaders such as Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington and Steve Jobs have all lauded the importance of meditation for the entrepreneur.

We often feel that we have to turn off the creative and wandering impulses of our brains in order to make things happen. Meditation sharpens focus, improves decision-making and boosts creativity.”

The Business of Antiques

The reality is when you’re running an antiques business,  your most valuable asset is your mind. As an Antique Dealer, it’s easy to stay positive when buyers are buying… but what about those economic downturns when none of your inventory is selling? How do you maintain your positive mindset? Meditation helps find happiness – and focus – within, even during rough seas. Meditation also teaches you not to respond. Sometimes the best thing you can do in the Antiques Business is to wait it out – ride the tide until the next economic upturn.  

Where Focus Goes Energy Flows | Everything I Need to Know About Business I Learned in the Vogalonga Regatta | Toma Clark Haines | The Antiques Diva & Co

For me, my entrepreneurial spirit inspires me to focus consistently on my vision. The secret to success is simply focusing on the goal and always going in the direction of it. Vision is integral to building a company. However, sometimes we can be so focused on our goals it can have a negative impact on our personal life, our relationships, our health, even our job performance. Learning to achieve a balance in your life actually increases your chances of being successful. Meditation helps find balance. 

Basically, meditation puts you in the receiving zone. And as a business owner, finding your zone is one of the most important things you can do.  

Years ago, before I had made the final decision to end my marriage, my marriage therapist encouraged me to get regular massages. While I was all about the concept of self-care, I thought it was hogwash that a massage could solve all the problems in my marriage. But by happenstance, I accidentally had 3 massages one month. And at the end of the month, my brain had absolute crystal clarity on some issues I’d been debating. So 3 months later when I was plagued with a business decision, I did something radical. I booked a 2-hour massage. By forgetting about my problem I was able to solve it.

Have you ever forgotten someone’s name and no matter what you do – you can’t remember it?  Then you wake in the middle of the night remembering that name? That’s your subconscious at work. When you meditate you’re letting your subconscious do the work for you. Just like when I was sitting on the bow of the boat using all my core muscles to maintain my balance – I found I was better able to balance – then I sank into the sensation. I stopped resisting it and went with the flow. And trust me, lest you think massages have nothing to do with a Regatta… every team member on our boat would disagree. I think all 12 of the paddlers booked massages immediately following the rowing marathon!

Venice Vogalonga 2019
Venice Vogalonga 2019

I mentioned that Susan Shaw of W Road Collection – one of our clients in our Antiques Diva Training program – compared my role as a Mentor for Antiques Dealers to that of a Coxswain. So what does a Coxswain do?

  • The coxswain is the person in charge of a boat, particularly its navigation and steering. The etymology of the word gives a literal meaning of “boat servant.” In our mentoring program, we are serving you. We are assessing where you want to take your antiques business and helping you chart your course for success.
  • The coxswain is tasked with motivating the crew as well as steering as straight a course as possible to minimize the distance to the finish line, helping with speed, timing and fluidity. We help you achieve your goals.
  • The coxswain is connected to the way the boat feels, what’s working, what needs to be changed. We evaluate your business, your personal strengths and weaknesses and we advise what needs to be changed.
The Antiques Diva Antique Dealer Training & Mentorship Program: The Business of Antiques
The Antiques Diva Antique Dealer Training & Mentorship Program
The Business of Antiques

In addition to offering our Antiques Diva Training or Mentoring Program for Antiques Dealers, we also offer a slew of marketing services for Antique Dealers from help setting up business systems to helping set up your newsletter or social media strategy. One of the most important services we are offering for our Antiques Dealer Clients at this moment is our content marketing audit for antique dealers by Catherine Russell, AD&CO Content Manager.

Content Marketing For Antique Dealers 

Content Marketing for Antique Dealers by Catherine Russell, Content Strategist for The Antiques Diva & Co
Content Marketing for Antique Dealers: Free eBook | Antique Dealer Training Program | The Antiques Diva & Co


In this month’s blog we’ve run the gamut from a Regatta in Venice to SEO optimization, but remember last month’s blog when I talked briefly about journaling? To close that’s what I’d like to focus on. I said mediation puts you in the receiving mode. The best way to process after meditating is to journal. 

As an antique dealer, I’d encourage you to start journaling about your business. Go out and buy yourself a notebook and start writing.

  • Describe what your business currently looks like. 
  • Write what you’re proud of.  
  • Write what problems you’re currently experiencing in your antiques business.
  • What are your goals?
  • What would your fantasy business look like?
  • Where would you sell?
  • How would you sell?
  • And how would you adapt your business to fit your desired lifestyle?
  • What things do you need to do to change your business to reach your goals?

Most dealers I know have a thin line between their personal life and professional life – in creative businesses those lines always tend to blur. My own life especially. Thus, when I journal, my journal is one part personal, one part professional. If you’re a loyal blog read you’ll have heard me mention that my decision to start The Antiques Diva & Co came out of my “Morning Pages.” Author Julia Cameron of the Artist Way explains Morning Pages are essentially a mind-dump – three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. Sometimes I do “Morning Pages” but most mornings I do my own version of Mel Robbins 5 Second Journal.

In a recent Facebook Live Post with Steven Favreau of the Favreulous Factory I talked about my own morning routine and how I use a journal to focus on the MIT – Most Important Thing to bring me focus and prioritize my day. 

Today my Most Important Thing Is You – Sharing with you how you can improve your antique business and how we can help you along the way either through our antiques buying tours or antique dealer mentoring program.

On a personal level, I encourage you to go find what makes you happy.  For me, one of the things that make most happy is my cats Fortuny and Fiorella (and their lovely 3 babies!!!) My kittens had kittens!

Toma with Fortuny and Fiorella - and their 3 kittens!
Toma with Fortuny and Fiorella – and their 3 kittens!

Happy Journaling,
Toma – The Antiques Diva 

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Toma Clark Haines

Toma Clark Haines is a Global Tastemaker, Speaker, Writer & Entrepreneur; and founder and CEO The Antiques Diva® & Co, Europe, Asia and America’s largest Antiques Sourcing & Touring Company.

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Published at Tue, 18 Jun 2019 16:43:15 +0000

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