“…adjust your sails.”

“A man Rowing a Small Sailboat”, by MD Towhidul, licensed by Pexels

We are entering a new year. Even though life is not restricted based on how long it takes for the Earth to revolve around the sun, the New Year provides all of us a sense of newness, starting over, resetting, or a rebirth. The end of the year provides us with 12 months worth of reflection and cotemplation — an ability to assess (or reassess) our living, with the intention of making positive changes in our lives to move us closer to our ultimate goals.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of people do not know where they are headed. There is no “master plan” or “ultimate destination” to reach. Instead, many of us merely make broad yearly “resolutions” without considering or planning for the meaningful steps necessary to achieve our ultimate goal. Or, we never stop and consider or explain where (or how) such resolutions “fit” into our overall journey into reaching our determined destinations.

None of us are prognosticators. But, we can all, to some extent, challenge ourselves to set into motion a series of smaller, seemingly insignificant events to help us move closer to our ultimate goals. We can never truly control our own destiny. And, despite a master plan, we are going to fail, and fail, and fail again. We are constantly going to come up short of reaching our self-imposed benchmarks. Even still, we must be committed to our destination, not the journey.

Though attributed to many famous people, an original, unknown speaker once said, “you cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust your sails.” Sir Francis Drake, a famous privateer, embodies not only this saying but many points enounced above. He flew under a pirate’s flag for England. On one voyage, England tasked him to raid and pillage Spanish shipping near the Isthmus of Panama. He was successful, too successful. He captured 26 tons of silver, 1,000 pounds of gold, and thousands of articles of jewelry, jewels, and coins. In response, the Spanish Crown sent an armada of ships to find and end Drake’s piracy.

Sir Francis Drake had a goal: plunder the Panama Coast and return to England. His goal never changed despite the insurmountable odds he now faced. If he chose to stick to his original plan, the Spanish fleet would surely send him to the bottom of the Atlantic. Instead, he simply adjusted his sails and sailed South, around South America, up the California Coast, and north around Alaska. There, he searched for and failed to find the rumored-yet-undiscovered North West Passage. Despite this setback, Drake simply “adjusted his sails” again, sailing south along the Aleutians, into the Pacific and Japanese Sea, around the Cape of Africa, north along the African Coast, around Portugal, and finally into England. To summarize, Drake’s trip was longer, harder, and more treacherous. Instead of the simple straight line originally intended, for Drake to achieve his goal, he had to circumnavigate the entire globe, becoming the second known person to do so.

Upon arriving in England, Drake delivered his full bounty to Queen Elizabeth I. The estimated value exceed $672 million dollars in today’s wealth. He was knighted by the Queen and hailed as a hero. His legend grew, being dubbed “the dragon” by the Spanish. Though successful in achieving his goal, it was not without costs. Three ships and 103 sailors died during the voyage. Also, despite the initial straightforward nature of his mission, the steps to reaching his goal constantly changed with the winds. But, instead of stopping, Drake continued to “adjust his sails”, changed his “steps”, and kept sailing.

So, as we move forward into 2021, we need to be prepared to “adjust our sails” as we move forward. The winds will change. That we cannot control. But, if remain flexible, we can all achieve whatever goals that we have set. This year, lets be committed to the destination, not the journey. May we choose resolutions that bring us closer to our destination. Likely, we will not arrive there this year. But, let us all constantly be ready for the “winds of change” and adjust our sails accordingly.

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