Hit every rock, shoal, and reef, sometimes twice
I grew up on Lake Superior, and sailing was our family activity during the summer. Dad bought his first keelboat when I was 11 years old, and family cruises on the Great Lakes were frequent.
Mom and Dad were members of the local yacht club. The Club held an annual wind-up dinner and awards night. When I was a teen, Dad took me to the wind-up banquets. They were good fun.
Each year there were awards given. My favourite was the ‘Lead Life Ring’ award for the funniest mistake made during the year. There was good humour amongst the sailors, at the expense of the winner of that award. There was also a ‘Yachtsman of the Year’ award, presented to the member who had contributed the most to yachting that year.
One year my father won an award — thankfully, it was ‘Yachtsman of the Year.’ The presenter described him as a great navigator with detailed knowledge of Lake Superior.
He accepted the award with his customary grace and charm. He replied to the praise that the presenter had lavished on his navigation skills; he explained that “any knowledge of the Lake that I possess came hard and with great expense.”
He paused, then elaborating, said, “what appears to be skilled navigation is knowing where hazards are located. I know where many of the rocks, shoals, and reefs are located because I have run aground on them… many more than once.”
The crowd laughed.
Recently a sponsee I was working with said, “You have such knowledge… you seem to know about life.”
I replied, “your praise is not warranted; you are looking at my outsides and comparing them to your insides. That will never work out well.”
“Besides,” I paused, and channelling the memory of my father, said, “What appears to you to be wisdom is knowing where the hazards are located. The little wisdom and knowledge about life that I possess came hard and with great expense. I know where some of the rocks, shoals, and reefs of life are located because I have run aground on almost all of them… many more than once.”