Sailing and Life or What’s Important To You

Sailing is not just an activity to be enjoyed on weekends or vacations.  Many years ago I was marveling about a new oceangoing yacht that could comfortably sustain 30 knots on the open seas, fascinated by the fact that in that vessel one could transit the Gulf of Mexico from Houston to Cozumel in under a day and a half.  An older sailor remarked to me why would you want to do that?  I was floored by this remark.  I mean, sailing would take three to four days, why would you want to spend four days on a journey that could be done in one and a half?  His comment was: “Scott, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”  I took that message to heart and have revisited it many times in the last thirty years.  Destination-journey, destination-Journey, destination-JOURNEY!  Aha, somehow Larry’s words of wisdom made it through my hard eighteen year old skull and embedded themselves into my brain.  The joy of sailing isn’t just about getting to your destination, it’s about enjoying your time getting there.

Now, let’s replace the word sailing with life and you will see what a profound effect Larry has had on my life.  Many people are so intent on the finish line that they never really enjoy life.  How many “successful” people do you know that aren’t really happy?  I don’t have enough digits to count all the ones I know, they are so focused on the things that our society has taught them are important that they NEVER get a chance to enjoy life.  Every day there are amazing things to be enjoyed, one just needs to open their eyes to the possibilities that surrounds us. 

It’s too hot?  Sit in the shade or indoors and read a book or play a board game with friends.  It’s too cold?  Grab a blanket and relax by the fireplace.  You can always find something to complain about, but really, quit complaining and explore what life has in store for you.

There have been many times throughout my life that I have forgotten Larry’s words, and in retrospect I have noticed that in those times I really wasn’t enjoying life that much.  When I refocus on the joys of my journey through life, everything seems so much better.  I distinctly remember one time when I noticed butterflies in my backyard.  I had just refocused and all of a sudden there they were.  For the last 3 years I could not recall seeing a single one, I was racing for the finish line with so much of my energy that I never slowed down and enjoyed the beauty that encompasses us.  I’m better now, on a daily basis I see butterflies, dragonflies, chameleons, hummingbirds and even a Pink-Spotted Hawkmoth that visited one of my night blooming cactus and posed for my camera.

At one time I got into racing small sailboats.  Racing was a very exciting activity, but after a year or two of racing I found that I had lost the ability to enjoy sailing if I wasn’t passing another boat.  It got to the point that nothing mattered but “winning.”  Beautiful windy day, great friends, perfect temperatures, none of that was important, I had to beat someone else.  I took about ten years off of sailing and have now managed to return to the point of actually enjoying the beauty of a day on the water.  Heck, now I don’t even care what the weather is like, I’m just happy to enjoy the majesty of the day.  Last week, I was out on a motorboat and the engine konked out in the middle of the harbor.  No worries, no panic, we just floated up to an oil rig, tied off and waited until we could flag another boater down.  We were then towed back to the marina and were able to restart the engine.  I was more than a little nervous on the ride home, but it was just so nice to be out there on the water that nothing else mattered.  We certainly weren’t passing any other boats, but it was a great day nonetheless.

Everyone has decisions of their own to make, these decisions determine what you get out of life.  As Abraham Lincoln said: “People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”  One can focus on their destination and speed by life in their race to the grave, or one can enjoy the ride we call life and accept the wonderful things that are available to us on a daily basis.  I think you can see which path I am on.  I’m not a particularly religious person (my friends will attest to that,) nor am I a “friend of Bill”, but the Serenity Prayer is always good to help me refocus.

Grant me the serenity to
accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time.

I leave you now to go out and enjoy this beautiful, albeit hot, dry, day.  There are plants in my yard that need tending to.  May fair winds always fill your sails as you enjoy your journey through life.

Scott H Sexton

September 4, 2011