Rudderless Ship Wanders Aimlessly

rudderlessshipWhen I was a youngster one of my goals was to go to university. Fortunately, I was very good at maths and sciences that that goal was in reach, so I worked really hard and did enough to pass and find a place at university.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study at university, or what I wanted to do after I got to university, I just knew I wanted to go there, to be the first member of my family to achieve this.

Having passed exams in Chemistry, Physics, Maths and Further Maths I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but some kind of science degree seemed like a good option. I knew I didn’t want to do pure Chemistry or Physics so I looked at Engineering Courses, and I finally chose Chemical Engineering, but more from a position that I didn’t want to do either Mechanical or Electrical Engineering rather than because of any desire to study Chemical Engineering.

Unsurprisingly given that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after university and no real desire to study the course I had chosen, I struggled. I struggled to be interested, I struggled to attend the lectures and obviously struggled to learn.

I lacked motivation, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, my goal had been to get to university, not to get here and learn a particular subject, or to go on and take up a particular career.

Ultimately I failed that year, but in reality I had failed to find motivation, I had just wandered aimlessly like a rudderless ship, bobbing about on a sea of opportunity but with no sense of direction.

I think I spent more time playing rugby and training than I did studying, but that hardly surprising because I wan’t interested, I had no desire to be a Chemical Engineer, it was just something to pass the days whilst I figured out what I did want to do.

After that first year, I switched courses, I chose to study Mathematics, not because I wanted to be a Mathematician or because I had decided on a career. No I decided to study Mathematics because I had a passion for it, and I thought it might help me buckle down if I studied something I was passionate about.

It did help focus more, and I did spend more time studying, but I did still lack direction and an ultimate goal, something that I wanted to use the Maths for.

As Stephen Covey says, we should start out with the end in mind, when we do that we not only increase our chance of success, but we give ourselves a chance of success.

Whilst at university I had little to no chance of success as I had no clue what success looked like. I lacked a vision, lacked a goal, I had a plan but no target, which is exactly the same as not having a plan.

Fortunately, the change to maths saved my time at university, but I would have been significantly more successful if I’d had a final goal in mind.

We need to ensure that we always have a vision, a goal, or even a direction that we want to travel in even though we do not know our final destination.

We need to do this for our teams, and also as parents, for our children, we cannot leave them to wander aimlessly as rudderless ships.

There are many opportunities which cross our paths each and everyday, but if we do not know what our goal is, we can often miss out on these opportunities as we don’t see them as opportunities.

If you lack direction, don’t just wander aimlessly, pick a direction, any direction and follow that until you know ultimately what you want to do.

Looking back I can see my choice of Mathematics was a good one, but it only correct with hindsight, at the time it was just any direction.

Have you ever lacked direction, been at a cross roads and not known what to do.

If so, what did you do, how did you deal with that dilemma?

Gordon Tredgold

Leadership Principles