Monday, April 6, 2009

Strange Connections

Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes the most unlikely of things get connected in ways that are totally unexpected and totally delightful. Totally.

Such an instance happened for me concerning a US Sailing seminar about race management of all things. I expected an eight hour day about rules and procedures, and then about some subtleties in the rules and the procedures, and then a test on the rules and procedures. But what I took away from this the most was a lesson in humility.

The primary instructor seemingly had every credential there is in race management, judging, and umpiring, both from the national organization and the international one (ISAF). As impressive as his expertise and advice were, even more impressive were his admissions of times he did not know something, the times things went wrong, and the mistakes he’d made.

He discussed race management as an art as well as a science. The ever changing array of variables that the sailors deal with applies to the race organizers as well. The flow and fluctuations of wind, waves, current, and the actions of a multitude of independent sailors can make race management a matter of artful estimations and adjustments, just like sailing. Sometimes you just can’t know. You guess, you feel, and you readjust. You have to get comfortable with not knowing, and then you can draw on intuition, experience, and experimentation to make the best of a fluid situation.

I am reminded of a verse from the Tao Te Ching:

To know and yet think we do not know is the highest attainment;
Not to know and yet think we do know is a disease.

In the contemporary world with so many self-proclaimed experts it is totally refreshing to meet a REAL expert who spends much of his time proclaiming his lack of expertise. Totally.

1 comment:

  1. I attended a US Sailing seminar on Race Management a few years ago. What I remember is that we spent a lot of time talking about how even good race committee staff will make mistakes (to err is human) and that the test of a good Race Officer is that he or she knows when a race management mistake has been made and then knows how to correct it.