I'll be honest: I wasn't sure whether or not to publish this piece. There are exceptions, but for many people in our industry, 2016 was a stinker! Smiles still abound, but when something like this comes across my desk I have to stop and think. It's grim but the sentiment is real, so I'm giving the nod to all those who want to stick two fingers up at a tough year and look ahead to new ways. After all, it's an ill wind...
When one writes a column, there is always something of an impasse when selecting exactly where on the hope-disaster continuum one should strive to stand. Too much hope and readers assume you are living in la-la land. Too much disaster and they just switch off as they’ve heard it all before.
So for me, now, the best landing point is the truth. When you explain in hard reality, it is what it is and leaves little scope for maneuver. About a half year ago I went to bed confident that the UK would still be part of the EU on the morrow. I was dead wrong.
About a month ago I was equally confident that I would awake to hear that Hillary Clinton, regardless of my personal opinion on either one of them, would assume the Presidency of the United States. I was dead wrong……again.
And never in my wildest dreams did I ever envision a President precipitating a twitter war with a late-night comedy channel, or pass sweeping subjective opinion in 140 characters or less.
I’m a security guy and I get paid to get things right. I don’t think I am alone when I pass comment that the best part of 2016 will be the first day of January, 2017.
So here is what little I DO KNOW as pertains to the future. And here I am pretty confident that my prediction will be far more astute than the talking heads who are far smarter than I in terms of algorithms and university degrees.
I DO KNOW that all of us who are sane, can rub two brain cells together, and care about the future are agreed on the big topic. That being none of us really know what the future holds anymore.
We are heading into uncharted waters, at night, with captains and crews far different than that of even a few decades ago.
It is not my right to pass judgement as all were chosen by solid democratic systems. But there is little argument that stability has been tempered with uncertainty, old but successful structures like NATO risk collapse, and where this all ends nobody has a clue.
Keeping in mind my 0/2 record with Brexit and Trump I will make my next assumption on hopefully safer ground when I surmise that the challenges of the future are going to outweigh the achievements of the past in all areas of the societies we have created.
So what, exactly, does this hypothesis have to do with the International Yachting Society who read this editorial?
I would politely suggest that it is perhaps time to drag out the contingency plans and blow the dust off them. To review all the new “What ifs?” and implement a set of protocols to be followed in case of hard strike of reality. I am not just referring to the boat in the literal sense, but rather to an umbrella review of one situation in life. The status quo may continue, but the evidence of the past 6 months overwhelming points in another direction.
Smooth sailing will doubtless exist for times in the future, but I would also batten the hatches (in every sense of the word) for only the dimmest of bulbs are unable to see the gathering storm. It may be a short squall or a full-blown gale lasting for an extended period of time. It may pass us by or hit us from hard astern in the wee hours of the night. Take advantage of the relative peace of the moment to ensure all is rigged for the foulest of weather, should it occur, at some point in the foreseeable future. Effort put into preparation now will pay off in gold during time of need.
The second suggestion is one closer to home. The undoubted obstacles of the future will require greater teamwork and closer cooperation than what currently exists in most workplaces and families. It is time to face inwards, and cherish those whom we love, and ensure those who stand beside us in the workplace have shoulders squared and chins up as the uncertainties of the future beckon.
I have lived in the United States of America for nearly four decades and am observing here, in my adopted country, a phenomenon that is unprecedented. My neighbors, and my country, believe that future generations are foredoomed to a lower standard of living than what we currently have. Once the land of boundless drive and optimism, we have become increasingly pessimistic. A recent trip to Europe, to visit the slow drowning of the Ukraine, shows many in Europe have the same attitude.
Perhaps it is unstoppable and we are already circling the drain. But if we are, I am not going lightly. We have come too far and endured too many raging storms in the past to sink that easily.
So its time to batten the hatches, point the bow into the waves, and celebrate our capacity to confront and overcome the challenges of life, whatever they may be.
Happy Sailing. See you in 2017
*Image credit: Willem van de Velde the Younger via Wikimedia Commons