What Sailing Teaches Us About Avoidance

Maintain balance on waters stormy or calm and circumnavigate anything that promises to sink you.

Very often we talk about persistence in terms of pushing through, maintaining forward motion at all costs. If you’re in a boat, that kind of thinking can get you killed. Ever heard of the Titanic?

When you’re out on the water and storm comes up, the only thing you can do is work with the elements to stay afloat. Drop extraneous sails so the winds don’t capsize you. The one storm I’ve literally sailed through, that was my job, getting the jib down and then the mainsail.

My father was captaining. I never asked him if he was sailing with the wind or against. But I’m guessing it was with the wind because we never came about while I was bringing down (and sitting on) the jib.

But maintaining balance in the storm meant doing my job while he did his. In a storm, you work with the elements on a focused task with the support of those who can focus on complementary tasks.

And regardless of whether the waters are stormy or calm, you need to avoid running aground or crashing into things like landmasses and giant waves. The art of avoiding things while on a boat is referred to as circumnavigate, it is the plan you make to go around the thing that is 100% not something you can worth with if your aim is smooth sailing.

So what does sailing teach us about avoidance? That sometimes it is abso-f*cking-lutely necessary.

There are storms with elements you can work with. And there are obstacles that only impede you (sometimes to the point of bodily harm) which you must circumnavigate.

Persistence isn’t just about getting through the storms. It’s about circumnavigating the sh*t that threatens to sink your ship.

Also published on Medium.