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Analogy for Life

One bright morning a brand new ship set sail from port. The captain and crew knew everything about the ship, its best point of sailing and the names of the sheets, sails, and halyards. They were able to name all parts of the ship from one side to the other.



They had dedicated time making sure they had all the necessary provisions and that the ship was perfectly prepared. The wind blew steadily as the ship sailed through the waves. The crew and captain were proud of their knowledge and expertise.



After a while, they saw a man in a rowing boat. They hove to (for a non-nautical person that means stopped) and hailed the man. They asked if he needed some help. They were amused that he had only a rowing boat. That fact made them assume that perhaps he lacked the skills and expertise of the crew and captain of the ship.



Where are you going? The man asked. They replied we are sailing with the wind on our beam. I am going south, he said, I will make landfall in a safe port by tonight.
But look at what you don’t have, they objected. You have no sail, there is no one you can learn from; you are entirely on your own.
“I will get where I am going”, he replied.



The crew and captain said goodbye to the man in the simple rowing boat and continued on their way. They discussed how little the man knew, how little he had on him: no sails, only one rope! After a while, the wind changed direction and the well-found ship and knowledgeable crew sailed on. That night a storm came. The crew and captain were not concerned, but they worried about the man in the rowing boat, with the little knowledge they believed he had.



The man in the rowing boat was safe. He knew what he wanted to achieve, he had known himself and his boat, he had followed a course and had reached his destination. He knew clearly what his objective was and he achieved it. The captain and crew, with all their expertise and skill, sailed on with the wind on their beam. As the wind changed direction, they turned in circles and ended up being dashed upon the rocks that lay in their path.


They too had reached their objective because they had none. If you don’t know where you’re going, wherever you arrive is your destination.



Figures are based on the Harvard Written Goal Study, a longitudinal study from 1979 repeated with the same group in 1989.


Only 3% of the graduates had written goals and achieved twice as much as anyone else, life satisfaction included.



Only 6% of the graduates had goals in their head they were half as successful as anyone else.


The rest went through life like the analogy above.


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