Crew member: “Sorry to awaken you sir, but we have a serious problem.”
Captain: “Well what is it?”
Crew member: “There’s a ship in our sea-lane about 20 miles away, and they refuse to move.”
Captain: “Tell them to move.”
Crew member: “Sir, we have. They won’t move.”
Captain: “I’ll tell them!” The signal goes out: “Move starboard 20 degrees. At once!”
The signal returns: “Move starboard yourself 20 degrees. At once.”
Captain: “I can’t believe this. I mean, I’m a captain. Let them know who I am. I am important.” The signal goes out: “This is Captain Horatio Hornblower the 26th commanding you to move starboard 20 degrees at once.”
The signal returns: “This is seaman Carl Jones the third commanding you to move starboard 20 degrees at once.”
Captain: “What arrogance! Who is this joker? I mean, we’re a battleship! We could just blow them — let them know who we are!”
Stephen Covey, often used this story to drive home a point an important point about principles in life. Principles in life are like the lighthouses, always there, constantly showing you the light and right direction.They are permanent markers against which people can set their direction in times of storm or calm, day or night. We can crash our head against these markers and bleed but the principles just like the natural laws in science will not change. They are immovable, timeless and universal. Principles such as humility, integrity, empathy, perseverance, magnanimity, vision and balance are just some of these lighthouse beacon by which one can chart ones path, measure ones progress, and make course adjustments in ones own life journey.
“There are three constants in life… change, choice and principles.” he says.
Vivekananda, the youthful Indian monk, trying to rouse the youths and masses in India and said many times over ‘Our allegiance is to the principles always, and not to the persons. Persons are but the embodiments, the illustrations of the principles. If the principles are there, the persons will come by the thousands and millions. If the principle is safe, persons like Buddha will be born by the hundreds and thousands.” He further expounds “Fill the brain with high thoughts, highest ideals place them day and night before you and out of that will come great work.”
There are many who instantly come to mind when the word principle comes to mind. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Ang Sang Suki are some to name. However, their heroics are a story for some other time…
One to expound upon briefly is the famed martial artist, action-film actor, and seemingly immortal cultural icon-Bruce Lee. He is remembered as much for his words of wisdom as he is for his lightning fast kicks despite his death at a young age of 32 years. In his short life, he filled an endless stream of spiral notebooks — not on class lectures, but on Eastern philosophy, kung fu principles and fight diagrams. Although he was floundering at the University of Washington with a 1.84 GPA in March 1962, he was teeming with confidence and ambition, as if he knew success was around the corner.
His scribbles on the trivialities of everyday life gives a glimpse that his brief life was aligned to the lighthouse principles. Instead of external motivators, which were based on someone else’s opinion he lived by a list of principles and his jottings indicate a man who was driven by intrinsic motivators and core principles.
A few of his sayings which stand out are…
“If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.”
“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way round or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.”
“Life is wide, limitless. There is no border, no frontier.”
“Life itself is your teacher, and you are in a state of constant learning.” “After all, all knowledge simply means self-knowledge”
“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at”
“Obey the principles without being [rigidly] bound by them.”
“Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own.”
And many others…
Are we ready to be light the lighthouse- steady in the face of crashing waves of life’s daily existence with serene confidence or are we still going to be like the leaf in the autumn wind which floats wherever the breeze blows, directionless?
Stephen R. Covey- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
An interesting factoid-The Chicago Art Institute was the venue where Swami Vivekananda addressed the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1893. A stretch of Michigan Avenue that passes in front of the Art Institute bears his name even today “Swami Vivekananda Way” as a remembrance to his contributions at this conference some 125 years back