Sail On, Dear Captain

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I’m a writer.

I repeat this line in my head over and over again as I work up the motivation to turn thoughts into words late in the night when my brain wants to go to sleep or early in the morning when I immediately want to jump on social media or on my days off when I want to binge watch a show. I stare at those blank pages or whatever I wrote a few days ago and many times I ask myself the same thing.

What am I doing?

I don’t know what I’m doing half the time. I was a kid who loved books and playing in my backyard, reading Treasure Island and pretending a cardboard box was my pirate ship, daydreaming of the day I would one day get my own galleon. Now I’m an adult and I still feel like I’m on that boat, still daydreaming of the day I’ll sail off into the deep. Anchored in the harbor and fearing the waves.

What is the point?

I was never one to put off hard work. My parents raised me in the belief that if you wanted something, you had to be willing to do the work for it. But I guess what has daunted me all these years was not that I just didn’t want to work for it, but rather that I was crippled by the fear of failing.

What if I’m actually not good?

I look at everyone else. Their ships are tall and sturdy. They plow through waves and storms. They don’t fear the winds. They tell tales of the dangers they faced and show their scars with pride. And it’s in those times I think maybe it’s not the sea, maybe it’s just my boat. Maybe I’m not cut out to face what lurks out there in deep.

What if I drown?

I see bits and pieces of other ships who weren’t able to hold out, wrecked and damaged beyond repair. Some now resting at the bottom of the sea, never to sail again. And I can’t help but wonder if this is to be my fate. So I remain in the harbor, anchor lowered and sails fastened down.

But what if I tried?

I realize that my ship might not be as big or bright. It might not seem like much but a boat is a boat. And a boat is not meant to linger aimless in the harbor but has a purpose out in the deep. The sea isn’t going to move for me, that’s what my ship is for.

The course I chart is my own decision. I can’t blame the weather around me or the ocean I’m in. I can be smart and adapt to the conditions, but if I let it stop me from doing what I was meant to do then whose fault is it? I was not meant for the safety of a dock but for the brutality of the seas. Regardless of storm or waves or whatever lurks in the deep, my dream was made for sailing and sail on I will.

I am the captain

We must free ourselves of the hope that the sea will ever rest. We must learn to sail in high winds.

Aristotle Onassis

One Day, A Victorious Day (A Poem of Sorts).

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One day I will stand upon the mountain, on its giant overreach,
Stroking the clouds,
While staring down at the heads of trees.
And I will say to those who come after me;
 "In rain and cold weather, I climbed. 
The view of the victorious sun gives worth to my calloused hands.
Gather your strength. Join me when you can."
And I will be steadfast,
And I will be brave.
I will not forget my past,
On that victorious day
On day I will stand on the white shores across the seas, 
Next to the boat that carried me.
I will smile at the dimming stars while I sleep to the hum of the steady flow,
And I will say to those who follow;
"In storms and great waves, I sailed. 
The beauty of this shoreline has compensated what was lost at sea.
Make for the edge of your harbor. Come and find me."

For now I will keep on,
For now I will be brave.
Until I see that glorious dawn
On that victorious day.

The Lies We Tell

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We’ve all heard it said, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

The second step is not making an excuse for why you shouldn’t have to fix the problem.

Unfortunately we as human beings tend to have an issue with admitting our faults, and when we do, we try to pass the blame. It’s a reflex. Nobody likes to be the bad guy and it’s easier to just come up with an excuse rather than bite the bullet and take care of the issue.

Let’s be clear, if you ever want to improve yourself, you have to acknowledge that there are things that need improving. And not only do you have to acknowledge that, you kind of have to take responsibility for them.

Look, we all have flaws. Some of which may have developed as a kid. Whether it was the fault of failed parenting, bullies, or a single embarrassing incident that caused you to act out in certain ways. Maybe you’re not responsible for how it started, but you are responsible for how you let it develop. And how you let it develop you.

If you’re wanting to succeed in life, you have to figure out your weaknesses. If you want to make yourself stronger, you have to grow. But before you can even do any of that, you have to be completely honest with yourself.

That means telling yourself the hardcore truth; you need improvement.

The problem with that statement is that it acknowledges that you are not perfect. And in a society that now has the unforgivable memory of social media where people spend hours watching compendiums of people’s most epics fails, the idea of ourselves making a mistake worthy of criticism can be understandably daunting.

We fear our flaws make us less of a person, when the truth is part of being human is growing.

One of the biggest things holding me back is that, many times, I don’t have genuine ambition. Sometimes I get discouraged and to be perfectly honest, I don’t always have the confidence I need to push myself. And I have an elephant’s memory for situations. I can trace my lack of vitality to a few key scenarios in life when I was disappointed, shut down, and brutally criticized. I remember in those moments hating myself for even trying and started developing a habit of only doing things I was good at. A mindset that really took the joy out of being a teenager.

I haven’t quite made it past that obstacle. As an adult I have overcome a lot, however there are times when I start feeling like throwing the towel in. It really wasn’t until I sat down and acknowledged the issue that I even started making head way on it. While I may still have those lazy days, I’ve learned ways to push myself beyond those feelings and press on, gaining confidence along the way.

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I’m not perfect but I’m better than I was a year ago. And twice as good as I was two years ago. It’s an evolutionary process this learning thing is.

Finding yourself is much like cleaning out the attic. It’s cluttered, some of the stuff up there isn’t even yours, and there is a box or two you know is crammed with so much crap you don’t even want to open it. Alternatively you could just leave it behind, close the attic door, and pretend it isn’t there, only to find out later in life that one of those old records in your great aunt’s collection was a signed copy by Frank Sinatra (hey, you never know what’s up there sometimes). Or you could take a deep breath, go through on box at a time, and then when it’s all said and done, feel better knowing your ceiling probably won’t collapse in on you one day.

The reality is, you won’t be a successful person in life or career if you don’t know your strengths. You won’t know your strengths until you know your weaknesses, and you can’t know your weaknesses if you refuse to take a good, long look in the mirror and see yourself as you are.

Not hopeless, but human.

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By admitting your inadequacies, you show that you’re self-aware enough to know your areas for improvement – and secure enough to be open about them

Adam Grant