Having grown up with a dad who was a former Navy officer on an Admiral’s ship in the Korean War, and who later earned his license as a credentialed Ship Captain so he could safely pilot his own sailboats, I learned early the importance of navigating in troubled waters.
My 91-year old dad is still one of those men who would say “do the right thing, or don’t do it at all.” Of course, while he always tried to do the right thing, sometimes it ended up being the wrong thing, which then led to a course correction.
And that is basically the gist of sailing… learning to calibrate your boat’s movements so that you take advantage of the wind in your sails.
I don’t think I ever heard him say he regretted taking action; he usually just wished he’d made the mistake (and the correction) sooner.
My dad faithfully studied the weather charts and wind maps, yet this didn’t prevent us from having a few close calls.
When I was a kid, he started his voyages in a small sunfish sailboat on lakes when we went camping, well before he gained his Captain’s license. As he eventually bought larger sailboats and ventured into the Galveston Bay near my hometown, his reverence for the power of the wind to reward or punish the casual user was evident in his conservative approach to setting out for a sail.
Even as a child, I wasn’t a stranger to stormy seas, having lived through several tropical storms and a couple of hurricanes. Growing up in a coastal region caused me to heed the shifting conditions of nature with an earnest fixation.
One Sunday afternoon my sisters and I had come home from college to sail with my parents and some of our friends. He enjoyed gathering us all in a vocation that fulfilled him. It started out as a casual day with low-knot winds, though I imagine my dad knew in his mind that a pending storm would approach sooner than desired.
Given the light wind conditions, my dad had instructed us to hoist the jib to increase the efficiency of the mainsail. All good, so far.
Until the squall hit us. It was the front edge of an approaching storm, and rapidly caused the wind speed to escalate. The boat began to toss violently, nearly sending a few unprepared landlubbers overboard.
To regain mastery over the boat, my dad instructed my older sister to pull the jib down. I’m still not sure why he requested her to take on this task, given she often considered these casual boat rides as a party barge. She wasn’t equipped to manage the downhaul.
To put it mildly, we nearly lost her off the bow.
In the moment, I realized that even the most skilled and disciplined expert with vast experience can use poor judgment when he’s not attuned to the changing conditions.
He was distracted and accommodating others and not focused on following his own instinct that the weather might produce a calamitous day, and we’d nearly had a catastrophe.
For several years we’ve been in uncharted territory. Our world is often described as VUCA, or being Volatile- Uncertain- Chaotic- Ambiguous, reflecting the poly- or metacrisis state of our world. However, recently the level of uncertainty (as we reach the tipping point in many of these crises) suggests we’re approaching a BANI state- where conditions are approaching a Brittle- Anxious- Nonlinear- Incomprehensible state.
We will never return to the “way things were.”
The assumptions we held, the linear mechanistic models we grew up with, the narrow perspectives and limited beliefs that underlie (the vast majority of) our systems and infrastructures, and the indices we use to measure productivity or success (in almost any realm of our life) no longer work.
We are acting as if the storm isn’t coming in, and putting ourselves and everyone else in jeopardy.
Despite the fact that we’re in the perfect storm of an unsustainable world, we continue to hoist the sails, plot the course and call on sailors inexperienced in unpredictable conditions to find our way to the other shore.
The only true way to the other side is to develop skill sets to optimally navigate the heightening VUCA-BANI conditions. We must learn to see beyond our current conditions, or even beyond the tip of the telescope, to pilot our way into the unknown.
Perhaps these early experiences as a sailor’s progeny helped me to gain the instincts for attending the minute shifts in the unseen and a sensitivity to the alignment required to find my way in uncertain times.
Like an experienced and highly-attuned sailor, to find our way to an unknown and distant shore, we must learn a few key skill sets to venture forth.
Navigation 101: Inner Mastery- Know Where You Are and Where You’re Going
While this may seem obvious, in a world where there are no charted paths to the future, it’s harder to know exactly where you are or where you may want to head.
As a young adult climbing Colorado’s 14ers, I learned the important skill of orienteering, in which you use a map and compass to navigate in unfamiliar territory.
Sometimes you just don’t know exactly where you are, and learning to read a topographic map with a compass to get to the top (or back to the trailhead) requires a high level of skill, keen awareness of your surroundings and a deep sense of calm.
Anchoring in yourself, even as a ship being tossed at sea, allows you to gain the courage and confidence to step into the unknown challenges ahead.
The 3 Key Elements to Gain Inner Mastery include:
Navigation 201: Outer Mastery- Practical Action toward a Possible Future
Even the greatest self-awareness, authority and alignment don’t cause the ship to leave the dock, though, and ships are built to sail, not remain safe in the harbor.
Exploring the uncharted territories of the future will require significantly different tools than what we relied on in a world that was perceived as linear and mechanistic, causing us to think we were in control of our future.
As our maps become useless and conditions require a different kind of safeguard than we’re used to, we become creative and anti-fragile experimenters.
The 3 Key Elements to Gain Outer Mastery include:
Navigation 301: Co-Creating with the Cosmos — Living As the Future You
As the ships of old were guided by starlight and permissioned by gods of the Sea, so we also realize we are not alone on this abundant blue planet in the vast expanse of the shifting universe.
We know that things are not as they appear to our simple and undeveloped sensory organs. The emerging insights of quantum mechanics and the morphogenetic field inspire us to expand the time-and-space horizon to create outside of the Newtonian conception of reality.
We can choose to become makers and inventors of innovation unparalleled, outside the scope of problems that are knowable and solutions we’ve yet to imagine.
The uncertain future is our oyster, if we allow ourselves to imagine it so.
The 3 Key Elements to Co-Create with the Cosmos include:
And thus, like magic, we navigate our way into the future.
Because every important voyage requires companion vessels and co-pilots, we must become partners in this quest to the future.
We’ve sunk enough ships in our battle for dominance and competition. Our next phase will require that we create a flotilla of ships, belonging to each other as we call in the horizon.
This isn’t the rocket science of Bezos, Branson or Musk.
Those are innovations crafted still from Newtonian physics. One linear step at a time.
For the rogue steering needed now, to realize this evolutionary voyage we’re on, we have to become consummate practitioners and dreamers of advanced navigational skills that produce nothing short of Magic.
To do the work of becoming the evolved Captains of the ships that sail into the unknown with skills of the future, not anchored in the past.
Or die trying.
There are no sure-fire ways (yet) to find our way into the uncertain future.
And, we will surely become Wayfinders into the Wild Beyonder™.
I’m the Author of the bestseller, The Golden Thread: Where to Find Purpose in the Stages of Your Life. Download this free audio course to learn about your own Golden Thread of purpose.
I am a purpose activator and catalyst. I warn people they shouldn’t be near me unless they want to become a new version of themselves. That scares some people, delights others.
I’ve spent my life imagining a world where we could all become who we’re meant to be, awake and alive in a way that allows us to express our most innate, natural and purposeful gifts. I’m the creator and dreamer behind the Purpose Flywheel™.
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