The “I bought a boat” Theory of Taking Action One Step at a Time

by | Change to Goal Achievement & Implementation

A friend tells a terrific story that illustrates the power of taking action one step at a time.  Prior to their work together, my friend’s boss had been the general manager of a yacht sales dealer, and his typical customer would purchase new yachts and other boats for $1 million dollars or more. Read more if you are interested in buying one too.

Here’s how the story goes:

One morning, several of the sales people were standing around, and they were having some fun razzing the newest sales person, a young woman who didn’t really fit the part of a wizened “boater” like most of them did.  Into the showroom walked a couple who also didn’t really fit the part – they weren’t dressed very nicely, and they appeared to be young and probably not quite ready for a $1 million dollar investment in a new yacht.  So, they all “offered” to have the newest sales person talk with the couple – since they didn’t think it would amount to anything.

After quite a while, it became obvious that the couple was serious, and that they planned to purchase a yacht that day.  However, the husband confessed that they hadn’t come prepared to purchase and didn’t have a credit card or much cash to make a down payment.   The new sales person, undaunted, asked them what they did have?  “We only have $100.”  So, the sales person took the cash, and shook their hands.  The couple left the showroom with a huge smile on their faces.

When the new sales person came back to the group of sales people, she was the laughingstock of the group.  The group exclaimed, “You took a $100 deposit on a $1 million dollar boat?  That’s ridiculous!”  But the general manager knew better. He celebrated the sale with the new sales person and responded back to the sales team with this (now famous) conclusion:

“You may think that they didn’t actually buy anything, and you are right that $100 isn’t much of a deposit on a $1 million new yacht.  BUT, what do you think is the first thing that couple did when they left the dealership? When they saw people they knew?  They said, “We bought a boat today.” Now they didn’t really buy a boat – they only put down a $100 deposit on that boat.   But once they told everybody they knew about that new yacht, do you really think they weren’t going to follow through on the rest of the sale?”

Since I first heard that story, I have reflected on the lessons from it many times.  Let’s see if you agree that these are the lessons learned from the “bought a boat” theory.

  • Any action taken towards a goal will get you a step closer to actually achieving the goal itself
  • Just START on your way to the goal – step by step, you’ll get there
  • Once you say your goal out loud to those around you, you are much more likely to follow through
  • Stating your goal as if you are already there, as in, “we bought a boat today” helps you to take action and keep moving toward your goal.  (Note: When was the last time you said your goal out loud as a way to keep yourself motivated?)
  • And, not everyone looks like they can purchase a $1 million dollar yacht, but looks can be deceiving!

What “boat” are you trying to buy? What goals are eluding you this year?  Make the commitment today to take a step – “buy that boat” – and then take another step tomorrow.  Step by step, you WILL get there.

Jeri Quinn

Jeri Quinn from Driving Improved Results is an executive coach, management consultant, speaker and author who focuses on communication in her work with executives and companies. She is the author of The Customer Loyalty Playbook, 12 Game Strategies to Drive Improved Results in Your Business. With more than 40 years as a serial entrepreneur.

Quinn has worked with executives and teams in over 40 industries, spoken at major business expos including New York City’s Javits Center, facilitated business development and extraordinary customer service at institutions such as MoMA and AIG, and has partnered with New York City, The Kauffman Foundation, Citibank, Merrill Lynch, HSBC, and Signature Bank to educate their clients.


She can be reached at:

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