I shall use Ship Designing as a metaphor to describe what I realised recently.
You see, Steven, your dad’s friend, design ships. He design those ship that goes out to oceans, and he has to design them to survive the proverbial Murphy’s Law. It goes something like this: “What ever will go wrong, will go wrong at the most inopportune time.” It is a FUBAR situation “F**ked Up Beyond All Repair.”
He design ships to survive the worst the seven seas can throw dish out, because lives of men on board these ships count on him.
We make decisions in peacetime, to make sure that peace continues.
That is besides the point.
The point is, he started out like everyone, learning the ropes from ground up, and sometimes wonder why was things designed in a ship to be that way? He was so self smart that he thinks there must be a better way to work around some of the stupid designs he see.
He was like the 3 blind men, who held the tail of an elephant, and thinks that the elephant is a snake. He couldn’t see the big picture, until he was tasked to design the big picture, the entire vessel.
Well, that is still beside the point.
What I want to say is, as much as Steven loves the sea (he really does), he is not the sailor he designs his ships for. He will never experience the kind of sea conditions the sailors sail in the ships he design. In short he is not the end user of the product he designs, but he needs to think with the survival of the ‘end users’ in mind.
He design and drew those ships in the comforts of his office, send it out to have what was drawn turned into an actual sea faring ship. It didn’t mattered to him if he had designed a lesser ship, since even if the ship sinks or gets into trouble because of a shoddy design, he wouldn’t die as the consequence of it.
At the same time, he didn’t have to go through the baptism of the sea to know how those sailors feel, yes he did went for some sea trials, but that is it. And yet, he took on the heavy responsibilities of making sure the ships he designed can stand up to the worse, Mother Ocean could throw out, so that men can survive.
Here is my point
Boys, we are living in a very peaceful and comfortable country, where everything is safe and systematic. There is law in the land. And often we take it for granted and make decisions in peace time, that will eventually jeopardize the very peace we upkeep.
Just as Steven can design a ship that reflects his cozy, cushy office, but when he sends it out to sea, it will fail and men will die. Of course, he can still walk away from it all, alive and well.
This cannot be the case
We make decisions in peacetime, to make sure that peace continues. It is a dicey affair, and there is really no crystal ball. So while we enjoy the creature comforts of our society, we need to be constantly aware that the decisions we make now, has the gravity to affect the peace we treasure, in the not so distant future.
It has always been like this, so we cannot look at things simplistically. There are pros and cons, and these affects real people, even though you may not see them. This is the real deal of responsibilities, the long tail of cause and effect that will affect us all in ways we cannot imagine.
As I grow older
The whole point of life is such that we see all of us grow up and grow old. I see the both of you walk the path before me. As your dad, I provide that guidance, I do not have my dad to provide that guidance for me, so I have to do that path finding myself, and for the both of you.
So while I was younger, I could be idealistic, and critic things when they are not done right (I still do that sometimes), but as I grow older, I become more critical about my criticism. Being critical is more important than being a critic. Being critical, you take your personality out of the picture, divorce your feelings and personal interest in the matter, and look at the situation, as it is. Nothing more, nothing less. Be fair in giving voice to both the good and bad, adding no personal weight to it.
Being a leader
While that is already quite hard to do, a leader has to take it further. The decisions we make now will affect people, we already went through that, and yet, we still have to make decisions; because our lives are not lived in a void. While we can dupe ourselves into thinking that the peace we enjoy now is a nice little bubble for which we can make shitty decisions and live to try again.
If you are a leader, sometimes, there is only one chance to get it right, when you screw up, it starts a downward spiral, and then there are consequences, then you make another decision to correct that, screws up, and it spirals again; never mind, still got chance, try again, and realised that things has really gone FUBAR, by then it is too late. It is one of the most difficult thing to do, but a leader has to do it, because there is no choice, there is no little bubble to test things out. We cannot take our peace for granted and thinks of a grandiose ship that will be so luxurious to sail in the nicest beach, only to break apart in the smallest storm. In doing so, we have thrown caution into the wind and ends the very peace we all seek to preserve.