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#23: Tie yourself to the mast

#23: Tie yourself to the mast

After years away from his wife, Odysseus finally heads home.

He first left home to fight the Trojans. This was a war literally started because a man became jealous. And then descended into madness because yet another man became vengeful.  

To get home, Odysseus needed to sail past the sirens, mythical creatures who sang sailors to their death.

Odysseus, being Odysseus, invented ear plugs so that his men could continue rowing safely past the enchanting music. He also wanted to hear what no man had heard and live to tell. So he got his men to strap him to the mast.

His men were instructed to row, and if he begged to be released, they were to tighten the ropes.

The obvious moral of this story is to tie yourself to your overarching aim and not waver, no matter how tempting the distractions or naysayers become. However, I think the lesson here is what to strap yourself to. I'm going to say this with zero knowledge of boats other than they work better when on water rather than on land or beneath the surface.

Odysseus strapped himself to the strongest part of the boat. He knew his boat and he knew he wouldn't be able to break free from the mast. In other words, he knew what he was working with.

I've spoken before about habits, and the need to build them methodically. The key is to know when to stretch yourself, to know the strength of your mast so that the sirens don't cause you to break free and regress.

Now, in thinking about this, I was going to talk about kookaburras and their relentless perfecting of their song as a way of attracting a mate. But in the researching of this, to ensure I wasn't leading you astray, I came across an intriguing fact.

Laughing kookaburras live in small family groups centred around a dominant monogamous pair. And that the other adult members are all children of that pair. The young will leave the family to join other groups when breeding vacancies arise (usually because of death).

However, there is one instance where two young will 'elope'.

Susan Legge describes it as this:

Rather than waiting for an incumbent breeder to die, another method for acquiring a breeding position is to find an accomplice of the opposite sex from another group and carve out a new territory by aggressively pushing the new neighbours aside. Alternatively, some new pairs manage to ‘bud off’ a territory from one of their parents’ territories. The latter technique often occurs when the two new breeders are from adjacent and therefore traditionally rival natal groups – a Romeo and Juliet situation!

Legge doesn't clarify how this scheming works. And to be clear, things don't work out well for the incredibly young Juliet or Romeo. So, the two young kookaburras decide to effectively steal territory from their own families just to make a go of it themselves.

Perhaps they know both their parents and territory being carved off and like Odysseus decide to tempt the fates. The young couple strap themselves to their mast and face the uncertain future.