by Jason S. Sullivan, 11-19-19
“Be the captain of your own ship.”
I collect quotations, and this is one of my favorites. I admit, I don’t know who said first, when, where, or in what context. I couldn’t find a definitive answer. Even though the author is unknown to me, their words have stayed with me.
[Note – The poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley (1849-1903) may have inspired this quote. The last two lines state, “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.”]
This is one of my favorite quotes for a few reasons.
For starters, this quote speaks to me because of the guidance it offers. There’s not always a clear route for the paths we take. Sometimes it’s a road less traveled. Other times, there isn’t a road at all, and we have to create it ourselves. “Be the captain of your own ship” encourages me to find the route, and use my map and compass to guide the way. I know that I’ll get off course at times, but I fear not, because I trust that the captain in me knows the way.
I also like this quote because of the accountability it provides. I’m responsible for my own decisions and opportunities. No one owes me anything; I have to earn it. My successes and failures are a result of the choices I make. Nothing in life isn’t predetermined or guaranteed. Whether my ship sinks or sails is up to me.
And finally, I like this quote because of the imagery it evokes. Imagine a ship’s captain weathered by the hardships of life. He’s alone at the wheel of his ship. His crew abandoned him – either by their own will, or someone else’s hand. He’s now sailing alone through rough, murky waters. Even so, his eyes always look towards the horizon. This isn’t his first time here. He knows where he’s going, and he’s confident in his abilities. He is self-reliant, brave, and undeterred by the test before him. This is his ship, and he’s the captain of it. Even though it’s an imaginary character, he’s a role model to me.
I try to make my own decisions about what I like and do, and not blindly follow the pack into oblivion. So often, there is a temptation to let others influence us. In a world of more than 7 billion people, it can be challenging to be original or do your own thing. It’s fantastic to have others positively influence you. But, it’s a different animal when you let others have a negative influence on you.
Be cognizant of where you get your inspiration. If your inspiration comes from social media, consider expanding your sights. Social media can warp your sense of self-worth. Don’t let other people’s (perceived) success on social media distort your reality. And, if someone influences you, don’t emulate their life completely. Learn what you can from them and put your own life into it.
I’m reminded of many years ago when my dad taught me to drive a car. I learned to drive on backroads where there wasn’t much traffic. I’d be driving, and an oncoming car would approach. With my inexperience, it was difficult to judge how much room I had on either side of the car. I would often slow down and move further to the right side of the road to let the oncoming car pass. My dad would say – “It’s your lane. Don’t let anyone influence you.” Good advice, but hard to heed during a driving lesson at a young age. Years later, though, I see that it’s in the same vein as one of my favorite quotes.
It’s the choices in life that define us. Will your ship stay anchored safely in the harbor? Or will you sail your ship into unknown adventures and seek the paradise of your dreams? The answer is simple but not easy. Ships weren’t made to sit idle in a harbor. Pull up the anchor and sail away to the horizon. “Be the captain of your own ship,” and see where your ship takes you.
May your bold endeavors take you to a place far more beautiful and fulfilling than you ever imagined.