A Day In The Life Of A Sixthman Ninja

If you've ever called or chatted with Sixthman, chances are that you spoke with a Ninja. Our Ninja team is a dynamite group of guest service gurus. We love talking to our guests and are always available to assist in booking a cabin or discuss any other question or concern that comes to mind.

Upon rising every morning, a Sixthman Ninja needs to jump out of bed with a smile on their face to be ready for the glorious day ahead and that’s exactly what I do. After I ensure that my hair is perfectly styled for maximum-telephone-head-set-positioning, I hop in my car and drive through the bustling streets of Atlanta, Georgia, always making sure I get to work early. I’ve always said that if you’re not early, you’re late!

On those sweet, sweet mornings when I’m the first Ninja in the office, I get my choice of any desk in the thermos (that’s what we call the room where the Ninjas sit because its always a delightful 63 degrees when its not a balmy 84).  The ideal location in the thermos is going to be a mid to high level desk with your back facing away from the door so that you can have a full view of the dogs walking around the office. I’m personally a big fan of watching Buckley sit in people’s laps like a human baby.


Now comes the fun part… Juggling phone calls, chats, and emails from our lovely guests! I get to talk on the phone to a Rock Boater who’s been with us since day one while I live-chat with a Kid Rock Cruiser about which pair of Bob’s overalls we love the most (all of them, duh). The energy in the room is electric while all of my coworkers crush their new bookings and help guests decide on the most stellar outfits for theme nights.

Shortly after a delicious lunch purchased by office manager extraordinaire, Julie, comes my favorite part of the day… Nap time! When we’re handling bookings for all of our launched events, its important to stay rested. I find a comfortable spot under my desk and snooze for an hour or so until someone finds me and tells me that this is definitely not part of a day in the life of a Sixthman Ninja… This is news to me.

At the end of the day, after I’ve said goodbye to every dog in the office and have tried to forget about all of the free doughnuts I ate that day, I reflect on how lucky I am to be a part of such an awesome company and community. Even if they don’t allow for nap time (yet…), it’s pretty great being a Sixthman Ninja and I’m excited and ready to do it all again tomorrow.

Boat Love: It's a Thing.

Boat Love is totally a thing, you guys. If you can name a more “romantic” place to fall in love than a cruise ship, I’ll send you a heart-shaped pizza, breadsticks, and maybe a two-liter of Coke depending on how much I like your answer. But hear me out first. A cruise ship is a veritable breeding ground (perhaps a poor choice of words there) for steamy new romance. And a Sixthman cruise is essentially the adult version of summer camp – but like, boy camp and girl camp have officially merged into one giant make-out barge. And it’s totally legal to drink there.

I mean, really think about it. I’ve provided you with a romance checklist for easy reference:

  • Exotic locations
  • Booze
  • Teeny tiny bathing suits
  • Little to no connection to the outside world
  • Booze
  • Thousands of like-minded music fans
  • Beds (SO many beds)
  • Salt air
  • A tacit agreement to let loose (It IS vacation, after all)
  • Rock stars
  • Regularly scheduled sunset photo ops
  • Dozens of secret spots to hide/make out
  • Unlimited access to chocolate
  • Booze

I think I’ve made my point. Boat Love is virtually unavoidable in such a luxurious setting.

But BEWARE, my friends – Boat Love is almost always fleeting. Once the ship returns to the mainland, your contact high wears off, and you have a chance to do some serious Facebook research about your vacation soul mate, things typically start to fall apart. And, hey – that’s ok. You’ll always have Cozumel/Tortola/Key West/Bliss Lounge/Great Outdoors/an elevator/that one lounge chair on deck 14 where you think we can’t see you (but we totally can), et al. Chin up! You are the 99%!

Every once in awhile – when the breeze blows just right, and the dance party goes until just late enough – lightning strikes, and Boat Love blossoms into True Romance. We hear about these rare miracles from our guests all the time. “I met my future husband on The Rock Boat!” Or “We made a boat baby on the 311 Cruise and we’re naming her Pearl.” Or “She said ‘yes’ in front of a stage full of Gronkowskis!” It’s a beautiful thing. BUT IT’S JUST SUPER RARE AND YOU SHOULD BE THANKFUL AND NEVER FORGET HOW RARE IT IS AND WE GET IT FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, OK, GAHHH. ‘Scuse me. Here are some shining examples of Boat Love turned True Romance from our very own staff. SPOILER ALERT: Lots of "Awwwww!" headed your way in 3...2...1...

DARBY AND TERRY

Current Relationship Status: Going steady since Kid Rock Cruise 2013

Him: Salty production assistant and onboard host extraordinaire

Her: Sixthman Director of Partner Relations and Business Development

How They Found Boat Love: Darby was a new hire sailing on her first Sixthman cruise. Rumors had been spreading for weeks about how “Darby is basically the girl version of Terry. Just wait ‘til those two meet.” Spoiler Alert: the rumors turned out to be true.

How we know it’s True Romance: Just watch them perform karaoke together. You’ll understand. Also, they live together and have two cats named Patinkin and Wink. Cats are forever.

ALEX AND ANDY

Current Relationship Status: Together since March 2013 and recently engaged

Him: A 311 cruiser with excellent taste in women

Her: Project Manager, Partner Relations, and Senior Warrior

How they found Boat Love: Andy developed a crush on Sixthman Alex on the 2011 311 Cruise. In November of 2012, Alex visited friends in Andy’s hometown of Chicago. They planned to meet up at a Grouplove concert. When the show got cancelled, they made their way to Double Door and saw two random bands instead. Andy made Alex a mix CD titled “Let’s Be Friends”. Clearly, he meant “Let’s Be BF/GF”.

How we know it’s True Romance: Alex eventually moved to Chicago to be closer to her beau. They still sail on the 311 Cruise together, and Andy put a ring on it earlier this year.

JEN AND MATT

Current Relationship Status: Married for 10 years

Him: Rock Boat guest turned Sixthman Director of IT, Launch, and Guest Services

Her: Rock Boat guest turned Sixthman Creative Leader, Partner Relations, and Senior Warrior

How they found Boat Love: Matt and Jen met on a Sister Hazel message board (remember when message boards were a thing?!) prior to The Rock Boat IV. The stars aligned when Matt moved to Jen’s hometown of Orlando to work with his brother. By the time The Rock Boat set sail in 2004, they were a couple. Cue “All for You”.

How we know it’s True Romance: They work together, sail together, live together, travel the world together, and still manage to have a long-lasting, healthy marriage. Also, they only take photos together in exotic locations while wearing hats. Couple uniform, FTW!

JACK AND JILL

Current Relationship Status: Married 6 years this December

Him: A production guru

Her: A Carnival corporate employee turned valuable member of the Sixthman accounting team

How they found Boat Love: Technically, it’s Port of Tampa Love. But they met on the very first Rock Boat in 2001. That makes them the OG Sixthman love story.

How we know it’s True Romance: They win the Sixthman Boat Love award for longest relationship! Also, their names are Jack and Jill, so…

DAVE AND FREDRIKA

Current Relationship Status: Married since Mountain Song at Sea 2014

Him: Stardust Manager and Yogi

Her: Host Assist and go-to massage therapist

How they found Boat Love: These two lovebirds actually met in high school.

How we know it’s True Romance: Fredrika staged a surprise wedding for Dave on board Norwegian Sky in 2014. They’ve sailed together on almost every Sixthman cruise since.

Ahhh, yes. There you have it, friends. Love is a many splendored thing. (We should know. We’ve been proving it since 2001.) So let’s raise a glass to Boat Love. Whether it’s a clandestine affair on a 4-day sailing, or it’s True Romance with your forever human, it is most definitely A THING.

xoxo,

Sixthman Jayne

Dreamgistics

As we celebrate 15 years at Sixthman today, we are so grateful for the guests who have trusted us with their vacations, the artists who have trusted us with their fans, and our team who has trusted us with their gifts during this precious time of their lives. When Sixthman started in 2001, we thought we were in the "Festival Business." Then we thought we were in the “Vacation Business” in 2003. We were happy to learn that we were connecting people and were actually in the “Community Business" in 2005. Being blessed with so many return guests each year, we push ourselves to make each event better.  

We often joke that when it comes to our festivals and communities, we make promises we can barely keep. One of the toughest dynamics for us to tame is the relationship between the Promise Maker and the Promise Keeper. They both need each other to be successful. One to make a promise and the other to make it happen. Without the Promise Makers, it’s hard to stand out above the rest, and without the Promise Keepers, it’s a complete mess.  

Even though we understand it’s part of who we are, there is sometimes tension when a promise is made without including a Promise Keeper. As a Promise Maker myself, sometimes I fear including the Keeper because I’m afraid they will talk me out of it (usually for good reason). The challenge is that we all care about each other like family, and reckless promises damage those relationships and our culture. We almost always pull it off and then promise to never do that again. Does it have to be this way?

At our company retreat (known as The Advance) last week, a couple of our senior team members presented some challenges for us to solve within the next year. The last two words they used were “Dreams” & “Logistics” and it hit me. When we do our best work, we are becoming experts in Dreamgistics. The difference is that the Promise Makers, now referred to as Dreamers, bring their ideas to the Promise Keepers, now referred to as Logistic Specialists, who welcome the Dreamers in a supportive and respectable way (think “Trust Tree” from Old School) to determine a solution that allows us to push the expectations higher without too much wear and tear on those who lead the execution.

We started saying Dreamgistics last week and I hope it sticks because it can remind us that we are evolving in the way we work together. Thank you to all of those who have allowed us to perform Dreamgistics on you.

Andy

Evolution of the Sixthman Awards

Company awards.

They’re always presented with the best intentions, yet they can make people feel left out and unappreciated at the same time. It’s fun to publicly recognize people when they’re awesome. But what does that mean for the people that don’t get recognized that are equally as awesome?

At Sixthman, we’ve gone through a few evolutions of “Values Awards” and have really struggled with ensuring our whole staff feels included, and making sure those who embody our core values are still called out and celebrated. We’re lucky – we have an incredibly driven team of about 45 employees. So how can you single people out when everyone is so great?

Another tough part of the equation is this:  In a company like ours, certain roles are more front & center while others are more behind-the-scenes. It’s tough to develop a peer-voting system where the “front & center” people aren’t the first ones that come to everyone’s mind, even though the work done by the behind-the-scenes crew is just as important – sometimes more.

We needed a balance between two extremes. We didn’t like the idea of settling on an “everybody wins” scenario – it defeated the purpose of meaningful awards altogether. But on the other hand, we didn’t want to host an annual popularity contest either.

That’s when we recognized we needed to make sure the things we awarded people for were qualities that were important to the whole company. It turned out that our old-school company values – the things all of our awards were based on - were pretty outdated, and a lot of newer people in the company didn’t even really understand them. (They're listed in the blue boxes below, if you were wondering.) Our company has grown and changed so much over the past few years – should our values change too? 

 

 

So we did it. We decided to change.

First, we realized that recognition didn’t need to be limited to once a year. We now have an entire section of our staff meeting each week, where anyone – not just leaders – can give kudos to their fellow teammates if there’s a reason to publicly celebrate them.

Second, we re-defined our company values. (You can read the full story on that here.) The old ones just didn’t fit us anymore (ironically, using them as our award categories is what tipped us off on that). Instead, we wanted to develop a values statement that accurately described us, but left room for growth and promoted a sense of accountability. 

Then we detached our annual awards from the values completely. In reality, if someone works at a small company like ours where culture fit is a huge part of the hiring process, they probably already embody most of the values to some extent; otherwise they wouldn’t have been hired in the first place. This is probably why it was always a bit awkward to pick one person that was the "best" at one particular value when everyone tended to fit into all of the categories in some way. 

Finally, we introduced new award categories. This time, they’re based on skills that are important in our day-to-day office life, on land and at sea:

 

MacGyver Award:

In a pinch? This person can help solve your problem! They’re known for being resourceful and succeeding in situations when they’re forced to improvise. They can create a solution even when it seems impossible.
 


Unsung Hero:

This person makes Sixthman look good! They may not be guest-facing 100% of the time, but without them the process would crumble and the ship would not sail. They’re the wind in Sixthman’s sails – you can’t see ‘em, but they’re always pushing us forward.

 


Eye of the Storm:

When everything goes wrong, you’d better hope to have this person at your side. They’ve got nerves of steel and stay calm even if we hit some rough seas (literally or figuratively). They seem to do their best work under pressure.

 


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Most Left Brained:

Known for problem solving by thinking logically and sequentially, this person is extremely focused, analytical and concise. They lead and make decisions based on facts.

 

 


Most Right Brained:

Outside the box thinker. This innovative problem solver is a dreamer and likes to visualize the results they’re working towards. They lead and make decisions based on intuition.

 


Rookie of the Year:

This staff member has worked at Sixthman for less than one year, but they’re already an expert! You almost forgot they’re new…

 


Mentor Award:

This salty sailor has at least 50 days at sea, which means they’ve got lots of experience under their belt! They’ll go out of their way to make sure they share what they’ve learned and help others excel. They are happy to show people the ropes!

 


Special:

Which person stands out as the expert at making our guests or staff feel Invited, Informed, Excited, Welcomed, Looked After, Amazed and Appreciated? (Read more about Sixthman SPECIAL.)

 


LIVE LOUD:

This person truly knows what it means to LIVE LOUD. They make the most of every moment and live life to the fullest.

 


Jack (or Jill) of all Trades:
This category cannot be voted on, but that’s what makes it so cool. This person is so well-rounded, they showed up in the most categories throughout the rest of the award voting.

 

 

We vote on these each year just before our summer company retreat (which we happen to call an "Advance" - because we don't retreat, we advance). We use a private online survey, and in the survey we’re also reminded of the person who received the award the year before. This prevents the same people from being chosen for the same categories year after year (which was a rut we’d been in before with earlier incarnations of our awards). We also give each staff member the opportunity to give examples and reasons as to why they’re making each of their choices. Once all votes are tallied, the awards are presented at The Advance, and the current award-holder announces the new recipient and passes off the award. It's more of a peer-to-peer “passing of the torch” rather than one of our leaders dominating the award ceremony. And I use the term "ceremony" very loosely - we try to make the whole thing informal and fun instead of stuffy and boring. 

One more small switch – the awards used to be trophies. Like legit fake-gold-with-marble-base trophies. What on earth do people do with trophies? We downsized to something more practical – a simple pin or button. By doing this, the recipient can wear their award all year on their lanyard while we sail. So if you see a Sixthman crew member roaming around the ship with a pin on their lanyard with any of the above award names on it, now you’ll know why! 

Is this system perfect? Probably not. But it already feels SO much better than it did. We’ll continue to tweak from year to year as we learn and get feedback, just as we do with our events. 

Does your company give awards? Do you like them, or wish you could change things? What are some of the best employee recognition programs or awards that you’ve been a part of, or have heard about?

*BYE FIVE*
~jen

Love, Family, Rock-n-Roll & Whiskey

Moments that Make Life Rock… a statement or more so call to arms you’ll see a lot in this blog and in your interactions with Sixthman. When the team here strips back all the planning, the lights, stages, speakers, announcement emails, event programs and banners in the terminal and around the ship…what’s most important and what is core to why we exist are the moments we aim to set the stage for…for our guests, artists and partners on board and for our team day in and day out.

During late October about a few years ago on the sixth Simple Man Cruise, our music festival at sea hosted by Lynyrd Skynyrd, I experienced a moment that would change the way I interacted with my family by bringing "moments that make life rock" to me almost on a daily basis.


“If I leave here tomorrow”

It was the last night of the cruise, I popped in the Stardust Theater on our home away from home, Norwegian Pearl, to get a feel for the room knowing it was Skynyrd’s last set of the event. I happened to walk in just as the band was closing out the show and kicking right into Freebird. I stood in the aisle for a bit on the second level – looked all around the room and started heading up the steps towards the exit. As I did, an older guy put his arm around my shoulder and patted me on the back. He had a smoke stained yellow beard, wavy shoulder length hair and a black leather jacket with cool patches all over it. For a  second I thought I had gotten in his sightline of the show and that he was about to let me have it… but his request was much different. He pulled me in (a little closer than I expected) looked me right in the eyes and said, “young man, you need to stay and listen to the rest of this song… it represents love, family, rock-n-roll and whiskey all in one… it’ll change your life son!” Being born in 1971 I’d heard Freebird more times than I could count on rock radio and a few times live so mostly out of respect and partly out of a new found curiosity, I stayed put next to my new friend and focused all my attention on the stage.

“Things just couldn’t even be the same”

I won’t dive into all the details, but suffice it to say… the combination of mind-bending trio of guitar solos, images of the band’s departed frontman Ronnie Van Zant on the back screen, the entire crowd singing every word and yes, the golden eagle statue they wheel out on stage all came together for a ten minute mini-religious experience for me and the 1,000 other cruisers that were also all practically levitating as the last chords and cymbals brought the song to the end everyone hoped would never come.

“Cause I’m as free as a bird now”

Fast-forward to Christmas Eve two months later. My family and I had a great dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant in the neighborhood. We’d been celebrating the holiday with a few bottles of wine and instead of the usual tradition of letting the kids open one gift the night before the big day… for some reason we hit the basement to jam as a family. Various combinations of us had played down there from time to time and I had been messing with the chords to Freebird since stepping off the ship along with our youngest son on vocals…but in some crazy classic rock Christmas miracle we all settled into an instrument and after a short sound check of sorts (and to teach the bass line to my wife Bridget – who had never picked up a bass), we took the stage to a group of adoring fans (my in-laws, brother-in-law and our 15 year old cat).

“Lord knows I can’t change” 

As you can see by the footage, the song was pretty off key… pretty off beat… pretty much a train wreck and at the same time, pretty much a moment that will last forever for our family. Coming together that night inspired us to make not just listening to music and going to shows a priority, but to make actually playing together an ongoing source of fun and bonding for our family. Rarely does a day go by when any three of us, sometimes more, head to the basement to jam on some 70’s & 80’s favorites (and even some originals these days) all in the spirit of rockin’ out as hard as Skynyrd did that night in the Stardust. We even have our own band name ~Buenos Diaz~ and are working on our own concert t-shirts. ☺

“Won’t you fly high free bird”

So it turns out my friend that night at the show was right… the song really is a bundle of “love, family, rock-n-roll and whiskey (or wine) all in one… it really did in some small way change my life for the better. One of the most rewarding things about being a part of Sixthman is that we get to be with our guests the moment they experience what it is we do. We, along with the bands and fans, get to be a small part of the experience of setting the stage for these moments and more times than not, our guests deliver moments right back at us… and it means the world.

“For I must be travelin’ on now”

So, if there is a song that has special meaning to you, that has shaped your life in a memorable way… please share it and your story below, we’d love to hear it… it’s sure to inspire others as much as it has inspired you. Hope to see you out at sea soon.

LIVE LOUD.

–Anthony (anthonydiaz@sixthman.net)

Sixthman's School of Flip Cup

If I can, let’s take a minute to borrow the words of lyricist, Toby Keith, “Red solo cup, I fill you up, let’s have a party.”  Party. That's the first thing that comes to mind when I see a red solo cup, followed swiftly by the emotions of determination and sometimes sadness. Let me explain.

Flip Cup at Sixthman = a party. Most of us spend months planning what event to play it on while anticipating the excitement we know will surround it. The competitive spirit of the game just really hooks us. However, it’s more than that. It’s a right of passage, part of our hiring process, like our own initiation ritual. There really is only one rule -YOU MUST FLIP TO WIN.

Our company as a whole abides by this cardinal rule. We play this game so much I don’t even have an accurate count of how many beers have been downed or how many cups have been flipped. Since it’s obvious we fancy ourselves experts, let us give you some tips:

1.     The order of your flip cup lineup is the key to your championship. You need a fast flipper to lead you off and a ringer who can pull out a win every time in the face of pressure.

2.     1/3 of your solo cup should be hanging off the table, just enough for you to put the tip of your finger(s) underneath.

3.     The correct number of fingers to use while flipping is up for debate; it’s a tie between 1 and 2, just don’t use your whole hand.

4.     Stay calm.  Stay focused.  Block out the crowd. Don’t even think about looking at the opposing team, just stay focused on the teammate next to you.  Remember to breathe.

5.     Build your teammates up; don’t get angry, you’ve got to be each other’s cheerleaders. Positive reinforcement is what wins!  Plus, no one likes a jerk.

I mentioned sadness in the beginning because as great as we are both individually and together at flip cup, our Sixthman staff team can’t seem to win a game on board against the artist teams. It’s truly a shame, because let’s get serious, it’s part of our job. Regardless, I can promise you if you follow these 5 simple rules, you’ll be a one-flip wonder in no time!  

“I love you red solo cup, I lift you up, proceed to party!”