/ Life

A guiding principle for life.

One day, when I was a freshman in college, I walked into my mentor's office and he clasped his hands together at his fingertips, moving both hands forward as one. He asked me, "what am I doing?" to which I replied, "I don't know." He proceeded to give me and hint and ask again, "This (motioning to his hands) is a ship, what is this ship seeking?" to which I replied, "I don't know."

He then continued to use this image of a ship traveling through the water as an analogy for life. When a ship moves through water, what happens?

The forward motion of the ship displaces water resulting in the creation of a wake.

He then asks me, "Where is this ship heading? What determines it's orientation? What is the guiding principle for this ship?"

After a pause, letting the thought sink in, he continues "This ship is seeking knowledge. All of the things people tell you to seek out in life - a college degree, a job, a paycheck, awards, research publications, critical acclaim, etc. - all of these things happen as a result of seeking knowledge. If you live your life by this guiding principle, you'll never be lead astray. However, if you start to chase the wake of your ship - the job, the piece of paper that says you earned a college degree, etc. - you'll end up chasing your tail and halting any sense of forward progression." For example, if you go through college seeking a high GPA and the end overall degree, you tend to miss out on the most formative aspects of higher education. However, if you approach college seeking knowledge and challenging yourself, you'll typically end up with a good GPA and graduate with a degree - the "wake" which came as a result of knowing how to orient your "ship."

This analogy has stuck with me for quite some time and provoked a considerable amount of thought. I really liked looking at life and classifying things as "guiding principles" and "results". I have since expanded my view of this analogy from simply seeking knowledge to a number of what I call "noble pursuits", including the following: seeking knowledge, giving love, exploring foreign terrain, challenging oneself, and building relationships within communities. Your noble pursuits may be different, but pursue these things and you will live a deeply satisfying life.