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What Drives Seafarers to Succeed? (Seafarer’s life)


What drives people to succeed? It’s an interesting concept – is it an aggressive pursuit of money and status, or is it more to do with providing for families? We thought it was important to look at what are the realities which drive seafarers on.


Seafaring is a unique and unusual profession – in almost every category it is unlike most any other job or career. There is risk, danger, challenge, and even disconnection but there can hopefully be rewards which make up for the negatives.

Pack your bags

Pack your bags

In the past, and we are not talking so long ago – perhaps just a couple of decades, seafarers would pack their bags and leave their families behind, but would be entering into another form of family. The company, their crewmates were their surrogates, and the ship was home.

Today things have changed – the latest Seafarers Happiness Index data clearly shows that seafarers are feeling more isolated and that the social cohesion onboard is falling away.

Seafarers are leaving their families behind and are taking on so many challenges alone and without the social support, camaraderie or networks to help them excel and succeed.


At sea there used to be a sort of balance and equilibrium of sorts. What seafarers lost when they left home and climbed the gangway was compensated for (to a lesser extent) by the camaraderie and bonds of friendship and bonhomie onboard.

With this being eroded is it actually now harder for seafarers to provide for their families? Is the very driver which gets people to go to sea, and to face the hardships being made more difficult, and can this lead to resentment?

Self-actualisation is a concept that we have always kind of struggled to address – we know we look at it in terms of careers and of seafarers pushing themselves forward, driving onwards to success – but actually there is a lot to do with personal development and growth that we probably need to address.

We need to ask tough questions if we are going to tackle hard issues – so let’s do that. Today when seafarers have to leave their families, knowing that they will be facing potential hardships do they feel driven on positively by the desire to deliver for those back home or does it become harder?


What drives those who go to sea to succeed? Indeed what is “success” In the terms we are discussing, we would suggest that success is about accruing money, climbing the career ladder, providing for those at home, gaining knowledge and skills, sharing expertise and perhaps having a little happiness and enjoyment sprinkled on top.

Businessman going up to  success, staircase to success.

~Staircase to success. (what we want)


See, that doesn’t seem too much to ask for – does it? Cash, careers, caring, cleverness and cheerfulness…the 5 C’s. For seafarers today, sadly it seems that there is often only one c-word, and it isn’t in our list.

So how can life at sea be switched up a gear, and success be grabbed by the anchor chain. What can seafarers do to go full ahead and increase their chances of success and spread the benefits when they gain it?


A work/life balance is often something which is bandied about whenever anyone mentions success – “ooh it’s all about the balance” – but for seafarers how can it be? The seagoing career and professional life, even the home life is resolutely unbalanced.

You cannot pack all your underpants into a bag and vanish for weeks, a month, perhaps many months and easily maintain a balanced view of life, relationships and of how to manage the pros and cons of the job.

Seafarers need to develop a unique view of success – with tailored goals, results and key performance indicators. Given that the greatest mark of seafarer success is to remain alive or out of jail, then it becomes clear that balance is relative.

In tailoring the elements of personal success a seafarer can perhaps understand what the people in their life mean and need, perhaps even want. They can understand where they are going – in career terms and the ambitions that they themselves have.


Deciding what “success” actually means is fundamental in going out and getting it. So how can someone decide what they actually define success as? Well that is actually difficult, so let’s look at it through the mirror. What do people see when they look at you?

Apparently the psychological term is “thin slicing” – this is the tendency for people to make assumptions about your attractiveness, personality, and all sorts of other things within seconds of meeting you — it happens all the time and people decide whether you are successful in a snapshot.

So could they be right? Should we see ourselves as others do in order to actually succeed? Working the whole plan backwards to look, sound, feel like a success, and then actually becoming one.

Successful Image

Successful image

Now of course people are a fickle bunch, and they are very driven by smart shoes, expensive watches and confidence. These are seemingly ridiculous measures of success, but people fall for them – why? Well, successful people have money, they have appreciation and education, they know good things and are used to being around them – they are also able to exude confidence because people listen to them.


So, while it may seem horribly materialistic – the rapid fire, first impressions last view taken by others does seem to stack up. Now of course success doesn’t always equal happiness, so these people may not know you are crying on the inside – but they have taken a view, and it is a view of you.

So what does that mean for you as a seafarer? Well, it means understanding how you are seen by others, and it means also holding true to what you want to be – you want to send money to the people you love, you want to save it to buy the houses, businesses or whatever you like back home.

So suddenly the equation is becoming a little clearer – we can find clarity by working backwards. You can push yourself to succeed, because you understand that you need to work on ships which aren’t going to kill you or make you sick with stress. You suddenly see that you need to work for a company and with people who are going to support and look out for you.

You realise the importance of developing your skills – to respect and repay others, and to ensure that you can pass them on too. You also realise a lot about the career path you want to take – whether you can stay at sea to achieve, or whether you need to move ashore.

Success at sea



Self-actualisation is about defining yourself, your goals and the means of getting them. We hope this helps and would really like to hear from you on how you define success…