Last week I attended the first of a year-long management training series. This particular session was focused on personality profiles - strengths, weaknesses, ways to compensate, etc. Typical “know thyself” stuff. Which is not to minimize its importance, only to say that this type of work is increasingly familiar to me.
In fact, I was really digging the subject matter and completely invested in the class when the trainer flashed a quote up on the overhead…
“We cannot change the direction of the wind, but we can adjust our sails.”
I looked around and saw many of my classmates nodding in agreement, excitedly writing the quote in notebooks or on handouts.
“We cannot change the direction of the wind…”
“The fuck I can’t!” I thought to myself.
And I wanted to say so out loud, but stopped myself. It didn’t feel pertinent to the conversation though, in all honesty, I believe it to be one of the more important conversations we could be having…
Why do we insist on defining such small worlds for ourselves?
I’m not a scientist. I know shit about the physics of aerodynamics - or whatever the hell you call “wind science” - but I do believe this, the mere act of adjusting my sails is changing the direction of the wind. And I’m done minimalizing the effort it takes to adjust my sails.
It might seem like semantics, but language matters. When you expend your precious energy making an effort to change the direction of your proverbial sails, which is the story you would rather have define you? “I couldn’t change the direction of the wind, so I adjusted my sails.” or “I changed the direction of the wind by adjusting my sails.”
Even if you didn’t mean to… even if you adjusted those damn sails by sheer happenstance… and even if you didn’t get it right the first or fourth or four hundredth time, my gentle snowflakes, claim that ish! You ARE changing the direction of the wind.
And just as much as we need to claim what we are doing – or have done – we need to claim what it is we have the possibility to do. With all due respect to Saint Francis and his “God grant me the serenity” mumbo jumbo (sorry, not sorry), I reject the idea that there is anything we cannot change. There are a million different ways to change the direction of the wind, all of which we could discover if it mattered to us enough to do so.
Deciding which changes are worthy of our time is the question that matters.