Do you want a wildly successful year?


If you followed college football this last season you might have heard about one of the most sought after successful football coaches– P.J. Fleck.

This high-energy leader is probably most well know for one phrase that he used to turn around Western Michigan’s football program.


Fleck did not come up with the catchy, yet puzzling phrase by reading motivational self-help books. No, the two time MAC coach of the year relied on his ‘Never Give Up’ mantra to endure the death of his second son due to a heart condition in 2011.

Fleck’s whole life changed while he held his infant son as he took his last breath. That’s when ‘Row The Boat’ came to be. Coach Fleck, used the motivational phrase to lead his football team to a 14-1 record in 2016.

If you desire to make this year wildly successful, the 3 steps contained in the ‘Row The Boat’ mantra will help you get there.

There are three parts to Row The Boat:

  1. Oar- The Energy

  2. Boat- The Sacrifice

  3. Compass- The Vision For Success

The Oar

According to Fleck, the oar represent the energy a person brings to their work and those around them. It includes putting others ahead of yourself and positively affecting others around you in a holistic way (emotionally, spiritually, intellectually).

Being this type of teammate involves a choice. Choosing to have your oar in the water shows you are a person who is moving forward in life. Having your oars out of the water for whatever reason means your sitting still and you’re dead weight to your teammates.

For therapists and clinics to thrive in today’s economy we must bring positive energy to our jobs every week. This means staying in shape (emotionally, intellectually, physically and spiritually).

We must recognize that many beaten-down people, frazzled people walk into our clinics every morning. Many of our patients and teammates are struggling to make it through life.

Messy financial situations, divorce, teenager conflicts, pregnancy concerns–you name it are all a part of the current workplace landscape.

No team can achieve long–term success if teammates are expected to leave their “stuff” at the door and battle it all on their own. We need to risk stepping into others lives with courage and compassion as we try to help each other.

Having your oar in the water means sharing your knowledge and resources with other therapists with humility. It means doing whatever you can to help other therapists be at the top of their game.

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We bring positive energy when we develop our clinical ‘A’ game through advanced training and practice. After all, we’re all in the same professional boat trying to move towards our common goals.


The Boat

The boat is the actually sacrifice that our team, administration or support staff are willing to make for the sake of the patients and the profession.

Rowing means that your back is to the future and you can only see where you’ve been. To be effective each rower must row in unison and work together.

In the national best seller Boys In The Boat, readers share in the struggles of nine crew members to earn their way on to the 1936 Olympic team during the depths of the Depression.

Readers learn the importance of synergy as individuals follow the leadership of the coxswain who is the only team member facing forward.

The most important rower in the boat is the ‘stroke’ because the stroke rower controls the rate and rhythm for the rest of the team.

A great stroke rower will bring out the best in every rower and help propel the boat forward together at maximum speed.

As healthcare professionals we must be willing to trust our leaders, both on a local and national level.

I confess being a child of the 60s I’ve always had difficulty trusting authority. I lived through the Viet Nam war and Watergate. My independent nature and my entrepreneurial bent tempt me to distrust leadership and be impatient with the rate of change.

I discovered my strengths are best suited for private practice ownership where I could be the ‘stroke’ rower and lead my own team. I’ve tried to give to the profession through writing, creating courses and mentoring therapy entrepreneurs.

What professional role allows your natural strengths to be best expressed? If you are a leader in your organization how can you provide a vision to help your team all pull in the same direction?

The Compass

Coach Fleck says that the compass symbolizes the positive direction you choose to follow. In order to move in a positive direction you must surround yourself with right people.

If you surround yourself with the wrong people, you’ll end up doing the wrong things and reach the wrong destination. Ask yourself these two questions:

Are you the type of teammate people would want in their boat?

Who are the people in your boat?

If you surround yourself with highly motivated, positive people who are heading in the right direction then you’ll probably end up being a success yourself.

Living this way can be really difficult.

High-level success is hard.


It requires that each person look inward and challenge him or herself to be the best they can be. Strive for excellence not only your professional knowledge and skill but go beyond what’s required of you as a teammate.

Bring your ‘A’ game every day emotionally, intellectually and spiritually so that you have the positive energy to give to others.

If we as professionals all do our very best day in and day out, we will move our careers, clinics and profession forward into the unknown.

How do we do this?



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Share in the comments or on social media one thing you will do to row the boat?


Paul Potter is a physical therapist and mentor who lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, who is also a therapist. They have four daughters. For more than 35 years he successfully managed his own private practice. He now shares his knowledge and experience through teaching and mentoring therapists who want to have their own practice. 

He has authored On Fire: Ignite Your Passion with a Cash Therapy Practice and the Cash Practice From Scratch Course. His website is dedicated to helping therapists achieve professional and financial freedom. Connect with Paul on his website or on LinkedIn paulpotterpt. You can also get more free resources at


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