World-Record setter

Life, Sports

Katie confronted failure many times through the course of her journey, even surviving a near fatal crash on Lake Erie in her row boat, shortly before she attempted rowing the ocean. Her boat was nearly destroyed, but not her will to succeed

Undeterred, she began her row in January 2010 leaving from the shores of Dakar, Senegal. It was not just sharks, pirates, and hurricanes that threatened her. Sometimes failure arose during the quiet times, like making dinner. She recalled:

“I needed to cook my food in boiling water, and I did not have a microwave out there. Instead I had an efficient and compact Jetboil stove with a real flame. That meant to cook in my oh-so-glamorous fashion, I needed to crouch in the corner of my boat and try to keep the waves from putting out the fire, or the wind from knocking me over. One night I was cooking dinner in the cockpit with my stove, and I was precariously balanced because it is handheld and I had no place to put it down. So there I was, stove in hand, when I was hit by a wave. I slid off my seat and beans and bulgur went flying every which direction. Oh, bulgur!

I nearly caught my rowing shoes (which are bolted to the boat) on fire when the stove landed near them!

Katie Spotz, Youngest solo rower to cross the atlantic, TedTalker

I couldn’t help but have a good laugh once I realized I was not going up in flames. There were bulgur and beans all over the place, though. I looked a little like a two-year-old who had a tantrum with her food.

I realized after wiping the bulgur off my body that there is an important lesson here. On the way to success, failures are inevitable. Those who do not fail do not try to achieve great things. Failures and setbacks must be overcome to reach any goal, and the more significant the goal, the greater the likelihood that problems will arise. I find that looking at them as a natural part of the achievement process is a great way to take them in stride and move on. I have learned to accept this during my row.”

And this is a lesson in failure that can apply to all of our lives.

World Record-setter, youngest solo rower to cross the atlantic, TedTalker, Part of Glamour Magazine Women of the year (2010), Clean water for everyone activist.

The above excerpts come from the book Just Keep Rowing: Lessons from the Atlantic by the Youngest Person to Row Across It Alone written by Katie Spotz and Mark Bowles. Learn more about this book at


Category Life, Sports


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