“I want people to know who I used to be. I want employers to know that if you can invest in someone like me, they’re going to be loyal.”
To fans of Bravo’s Below Deck Mediterranean, she is known as Captain Sandy, a super yacht captain who shares lessons about life and leadership while managing various crises at sea.
But Sandy Yawn is also an entrepreneur and pioneer who overcame addiction and other challenges to rise to the top of a male-dominated industry.
The Fort Lauderdale native recently spoke with Forbes about how she gets the best out of her young crew, the secret strengths of having ADHD and the leadership lessons that she distilled for her new book, Be the Calm or Be the Storm: Leadership Lessons from a Woman at the Helm.
To get here, she had to deal with the challenges of alcoholism, bankruptcy, hopelessness, a heart attack and cancer (which was discovered after she had a motorcycle accident). Now sober almost 34 years, she adheres to a daily practice that keeps her centered. “I have alcoholism. If you don’t take care of all that stuff in the past and you don’t clean up and redirect, you’re going to bring it with you into your future,” says Yawn.
At the same time, she’s grateful to have the chance to be a role model. “I want people to know who I used to be,” she says. “I want employers to know that you can invest in someone like me, they’re going to be loyal.”
She also wants young people to know that they should feel free to love whoever they love—she and girlfriend Leah Shafer have been together five years — and recognize that they don’t need a degree to achieve excellence. “Bravo created a show that told the world there’s a maritime industry that’s here for you if college isn’t your road to travel,” says Yawn, who plans to do an animated series for kids and funds programs through her charity to teach kids in high school about the industry. “When I was in elementary school, you could be a lawyer or doctor, or maybe a teacher. I want them to go, ‘I could be a captain.’”