As April yields to May in name only (the coolness of the air truly suggests March), I have been watching the wind blow lustily through the trees, and it has reminded me of this quotation: “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust our sails.” These words remind me that success in life stems from one seemingly simple step: preparation. Often times in our lives, we are faced with challenging situations for which we have not planned. As the wise saw reminds us, life is what happens to us while we are busily making other plans. These past few days have been challenging, but that’s life. How we adjust to the challenges is the measure of who we are. As an educator, I remind the students that there will be several moments during the year that will be difficult for them, learning a new concept in mathematics, trying out for a sports team, auditioning for a play, attempting to make a new friend, and there’s little that I can say that will make that work easier to do, but each person can give his/her best effort, prepare his/her best for the opportunity. This morning, I walked in on a boy frustratingly attempting to understand a complex mathematics concept. Typical of a teenage boy, he yelled, “Why do I have to know this? I will never, ever, have to use this math in my life! Why are your torturing me?” He wasn’t prepared for the hard work that that concept demanded, but it is our responsibility to share with him how to handle it better, how to marshal his energies and talents better, how to direct his focus better. We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust our sails.
And as we seek to learn and grown, I am reminded of a quotation that is meaningful to me: “I have never started a poem yet whose end I knew. Writing is discovery.” This quotation by Robert Frost beautiful articulates what each day is for all of us–discovery. None of us know what each year, which month, each week, each day, each hour, each minute will be or bring, for we will discover that as we go along, but we can, by adjusting our sails, sail in the direction that we want–doing well in class, performing well on the athletic field or the stage, helping all of us to build a community–if we prepare ourselves and seek to discover our world with joy and with grace.
And the best way to adjust our sails and find joy in the discovery of the year will be to follow the words of Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” If we seek to enjoy a good life, we can do so by doing everything to the best of our ability, giving our most to each event, each opportunity. Excellence is not an act, but a habit. Our work each day will be–can be, should be—joyful discovering, particularly if we prepare appropriately, work hard on each task, express joy in our work, and look for meaning.
All this good work should be done in a community in which we are being kind to one another, supporting one another, being compassionate, and looking to help one another. Make these actions your habit, your habits of excellence, and you will see that the discovery ahead will be joyful as you adjust your sails for your own success.