It’s possible to make forward progress in your career during a down economy. It just takes more ingenuity, like a sailboat “tacking” against the wind.
Sure, you can let the winds of change push you around. That’s what most people do, because they don’t know of any alternatives, or they become paralyzed by fear of change.
But for the select few who have committed to living a creative life, maintaining the status quo and getting dashed upon the rocks by forces beyond their control is not for them. Like a determined sailor, they tack against the wind and use its momentum to propel them against the current and into the wind. Their forward progress may be slow, but it’s forward progress nonetheless. They never give up.
Sailing with the wind is easy enough to understand: The wind fills the sail and pushes the boat forward, in much the same way that a heavy wind from behind pushes a person forward when they are walking. Sailing into the wind is a bit trickier, and relies on the sail’s aerodynamic properties. Remember when you were a kid and you stuck your hand out an open car window and pretended it was an airplane’s wing? Changing the direction of the palm of your hand relative to the wind placed downward and upward forces on it, thrusting it to and fro.
The principle is the same with a sailboat: To sail into the wind, the crew uses a technique called “tacking” – turning to roughly a 30-degree angle into the wind. The change in the boat’s direction and its sail causes forces that help propel the boat through the turn. Once on its new heading, the crew resets the sail to take full advantage of the boat’s new orientation to the wind. In this way, the sailboat can move steadily upwind in a zig-zag pattern.
In much the same way, when you are pursuing a major goal you are bound to have obstacles. These challenges are like the wind – they may threaten to hold you still or push you backwards. Be firm in your destination, but flexible in your approach. Be willing to adjust your course, to “tack” toward or around obstacles as you move toward your goal. If you do get pushed backward, don’t think of it as a defeat but as a learning experience.
Get creative. Try another approach. In this way, you can continue to make forward progress, even during challenging times, just like our savvy sailor leverages the wind.