Wind Alert

During my dotcom journey in the late 1990s, I worked a lot with managers from the City of Gothenburg. One of them had a poster on the wall with a sailing ship and a quote attributed to Seneca: If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable. At that time I thought it made some sense, but didn't think much further about it. Ten years later on I was asked by one of my colleagues in a totally different organisation to speak to his friends about leadership. They were a bunch of guys all in their early forties getting together twice a year to have dinner and some input for more serious discussions.

I thought long and hard about what to say and I believe I talked a lot about strength-based development and my own experience of appreciative inquiry. However, I think that what got to them most was when I talked about what consequences lack of goals could have.

From Pilane 2015
You can find the quote above in various versions, one even attributed to Lewis Carroll, although he actually did not write "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there." In my own experience, the truth is more likely to be this: "If you don't make up your mind about where you want to be in the future, you'll think that every road/wind may perhaps take you somewhere nicer."

I talked to the guys about how it felt to be together with someone who very often worked overtime, spent endless time at conferences and meetings far away, stayed late at work-related parties although not really enjoying them, and so on instead of spending time with you. Who never wanted to make plans, in case something more interesting came up. Not because he was determined to reach a certain goal, but because he wanted to have as many opportunities as possible. Chances he never used, since he didn't have a goal.

By then I had a couple of failed relationships behind me that I partly blamed on this phenomenon. I found it really hard to compete with going to the Cannes Film Festival or meeting Gary Moore backstage to check out his light rig, when all I had to offer was a cosy evening at my place or a picnic in the beech tree woods at Fjärås. And it would have been ok to lose out to Gary and the likes of his once in a while, but it got to me to lose what felt like almost every time and to everyone. To see the one you loved only if all his other arrangements fell through.

Some of the guys in my colleague's network had rather recently gone through divorces, and they confirmed my story. Without a clear goal, it is hard to discriminate what is really important since everything becomes an opportunity.

I believe that if you want a proper relationship that must be a clear goal in itself. And also to make sure to use good systems in order to be able to catch really favourable winds, to have a Wind Alert.

The answer my friend, is blowin' in the wind, Bob Dylan

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