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Life's journey has been varied. As a 30 year career soldier its been geographically, emotionally and intellectually nomadic, at times exciting, sometimes frustrating, its had highs and lows and it has challenged me, sometimes beyond what I thought possible. On the whole I have been lucky. I've developed a reputation for being unconventional, even unorthodox. I've made mistakes, plenty of them. Success and failure have left their marks. I've been able to develop my passions and interests. From the office to the trench, from ocean sailing to Antarctic exploration, from the philosophies of Kurt Hahn to the lyrics of Tom Lewis, and much more besides and between. Now I want to share them.

I am trying to bring meaning and sense to these experiences, learning from the past so as to signpost the future, not just mine but anyone else who might benefit vicariously. This blog, set in Shetland sailing aboard "Swan", a 100 year old ex herring drifter delivering youth development and sail training opportunities for young people, is a living reflection on that journey.

To share it read on . . . .

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

A New Beginning or The Continuation of a Journey?

Moving to Shetland for 6 months. A new job, my first as a professional seafarer let alone commercial skipper. My first civilian job. Easy to see why this is a new beginning.

A life time in developing people, in running Outdoor education and leading adventure based projects. An opportunity to develop my previous experiences, thoughts, learning and perspectives. Easy to see why this is a continuation.

There is an element of truth in both these views, indeed neither of these contradictory perspectives is wrong.

You might have seen this optical illusion before, what is this a picture of?

Now can you see the "other" picture?

The drawing hasn't changed. Your perception has and you have interpreted the same information to arrive at a different meaning. 

Initially you unconsciously interpreted the facts (the first image you saw), you then consciously looked for an alternative interpretation, put probably only because you knew the trick or were challenged to look again. How often in life are we just satisfied with our first interpretation of events or facts? And then absolutely satisfied with our “rightness”?

How we perceive things drives how we think and therefore how we act. For example suppose you ask Pete to wash the car. If 3 hours later when you come back the car is unwashed then depending on whether you believe Pete to be lazy or conscientious significantly effects the way you at least initially react to the fact that the car is unwashed and might make you more or less inclined to believe the reasons. The facts that the car is unwashed hasn't changed and typically we massage our perception and interpretation to reinforce our beliefs and model of the world.

It’s a small step to one of Steve Covey's 7 habits - seek first to understand and then be understood. To understand often requires us to take a new perspective and challenge our own predisposition. I recently got this very badly wrong. (There might also have been some bad judgement with poor communication but that's another story)

Of course there is another possibility. So far I have portrayed a new beginning and a continuation as mutually exclusive opposites, but are they? Any physicist reading this will know how the argument raged between rival protagonists as to whether light was a wave or a particle. It wasn't until the start of the last century that evidence emerged to show that neither idea was sufficient to explain the observed behaviour of light. The dual nature of light behaving as a wave and a particle led to the birth of quantum theory, which you might regard is irrelevant to you, until the next time you turn on a TV or CD player and much much more.

So let’s finish with sailing. Consider letting go the mooring buoy or casting off the last mooring warp or jumping aboard as you push off the hard. As you head out of the harbour, creek or anchorage you are at a new beginning, it might be the start of a day sail or an ocean crossing but what you have around you be it physical, aspirational or experience is the beginning of your passage, but it’s also a continuation of the preparation from the day, or months before.


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