Adjusting Your Sails
As I look back over my life, I see that I’ve been a pessimist, an optimist and a leader. Today I see that I’m still all three to one degree or another. My ongoing work is to lead my life in a way that strives to be more of a leader than a pessimist or an optimist. It’s an ongoing process that demands great awareness and inner discipline to adjust my sails rather than complain or optimistically expect change to occur on its own. I suspect each of us finds ourselves in this same ongoing paradox from time to time.
The other day I was in a conversation with a person who was deeply entrenched in pessimism which pushed my buttons to immediately point out the optimistic side of the issue. This pushed the other person into greater pessimism attacking me for my foolish uninformed optimism. Miraculously I saw what was happening and went quiet while they ranted on. Eventually they ran out of steam as I remained quiet trying to find the necessary lines to adjust my sails. This unconscious quiet adjusted the sails for me.
There’s a teaching aid in sailing that says: “When in doubt, let it out.” This comes to play when there’s too much wind for the sail set. The remedy is to spill wind off the sails by loosening them which lessens the resistance, rights the boat and slows it down. It occurred to me in the moment than my quiet had reduced the resistance and slowed the argument down. In the silence, we both had a chance to regroup and find a neutral zone to reconcile our differences and create a new conversation that was more harmonious.
This lesson and many others is continually teaching me to be a better sailor, a better listener, a better navigator in the winds of change that keep blowing everywhere. It also reminds me of the many times while sailing that I haven’t heeded the lesson, blew out a sail and even tipped over a boat because of my lack of attention to this leadership lesson. I’m beginning to learn daily that this metaphor is one I need to remember in every interaction I have with every person, place, situation and thing.It’s an essential art.
This is not only applicable when with others but also when we’re alone sailing by ourselves. How often do we find ourselves complaining, judging, condemning others and even ourselves? How many times do we put on rose colored glasses and gloss over the difficulties hoping that everything will be alright without adjusting our attitudes? When we remember that we’re the skippers of our boats and have to steer and adjust the sails, we awaken to our responsibilities and accountabilities for leading our lives.
The next time you find yourself in troubled waters with cross currents and heavy winds, remember this metaphor and when in doubt, let it out. Discover the leadership that lies within you and the masterful art of adjusting your sails for smooth sailing . . .