Letter to my boys (2)

In 1911, the Egyptian-Greek poet (Constantine Petrou) Cavafy wrote:

“As you set out for Ithaca

Hope the voyage is a long one,

Full of adventure, full of discovery.


Keep Ithaca always on your mind.

Arriving there is what you are destined for.

But do not hurry the journey at all.”

As so eloquently put by Cavafy, we are all on a journey.

If we are lucky, we are accompanied on our journey by twin sisters Synchronicity and Serendipity.

And if we are meticulous, if we complete our journey with an open mind, we shed our heavy baggage. We arrive lighter, transformed, energized.

Today is a pit stop on the journey that we are on.It is an opportunityto reflect on our past and consider our future.

Today is the day we share our stories. And then we pack up and continue on our way. Forward bound. Always.

Ithaca. Are we there yet?

As we enter, truly and undeniably, the era of Industry 4.0, it feels as if time has sped up. The lines between the physical, biological and digital are blurred. The merger of man and machine has begun. And it is all happening so fast.

When everyone is running, it is normal to start running too. The faster they run, the faster we must run too. But as we transition into warp speed, it is more imperative than ever for us to stop and reflect. Not only where do we come from, where are we going? But also, why are we going there? What do we hope to achieve on the way? What do we want out of our journey? What impact do we want to make?

Which road do we want to take? It is not the road less taken, as Robert Frostsaid, that makes all the difference, it is knowing which road to take and when. Sometimes what is needed is to stay on the main road, and sometimes it is better to get off the beaten path. Sometimes we have to forge our own path. And sometimes, as the Wright brothers rightly thought, please excuse the pun, it may be better to get off the ground altogether and fly.

In a previous article I wrote, I mentioned that we are lucky to be living in the age of revolutions. We are lucky because we are being challenged, and challenges ultimately make for a richer life. In this accelerating world, what does it take to survive? What does it take to lead? Well to lead first you have to survive. (That’s a bit of a no-brainer). And to survive you need to adapt. You need to be agile.

I used to have a red sticker on the kitchen wall that read “think different.” To survive in this new economy I thought, it was no longer about working hard, it was about working intelligently, it was about thinking what no one else was thinking. But when I see the effects that technology is having on our daily and social interactions, when I see how we are subsumed by technology, how we are constantly staring at a screen, I thought we needn’t worry about thinking differently anymore, we just had to think full stop.

But life is not about just surviving, it is about leading.

When I talk about leadership, I want to make a distinction between people in power and people who lead. There is a big difference. People in power rule. And leaders inspire.

So with this in mind, what is the difference between those who lead and those who simply survive?


But not necessarily the courage you are thinking of. I am not talking about the courage to stand up for yourself or the courage to speak your mind. Sometimes that is not enough. If I am standing in front of a six-foot bear right now, I’m going to need something a lot more than just courage. I am also going to need the athletic ability to run really, really fast.

The courage I am talking about is the courage to be human. The courage to be vulnerable, to risk being wrong and to admit it, to get rid of perfection. The courage I am talking about is the courage to recognize success and failure, and to rejoice in both.

And belief.

And that is not a belief that you talk about or justify, a belief that you need to show. It is a belief that radiates out of you. It is a belief in your authenticity, in your reality.

It is a belief in your ability to leave a positive impact.

So are we there yet?

In 2012, Alex Honnold, a professional rock climber, achieved a great feat. He ascended the 600m vertical wall of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park unaided by rope or harnesses, using only his bare hands, in an exercise known as free soloing. But Honnold was unhappy.

He hadn’t prepared adequately beforehand. He had decided he said “to skip the preparations and just go up there and have an adventure.” He felt, he said, like he had been lucky, like he had gotten away with something. He wanted to be a great climber, not a lucky one. In fact, he took the next year off from free soloing so he does not make a habit of relying on luck.

What mattered to Honnold was not the result, it was the process. He wanted to master the mountain.

Honnold admitted his shortcomings, and by doing so, could address them adequately. His humility and self-examination paid off. Five years later in June 2017, at the age of 31, he climbed the much harder 900 metre-long granite face of El Capitan, also in Yosemite, the crown jewel of free soloing. And despite the climb being much harder, Honnold said it felt much easier due to his diligent preparation. This time, he said, it felt like mastery.

Getting to Ithaca is not about the destination. It is about how we get there. It is about getting to know ourselves, who we are and what we stand for. The journey to Ithaca is about what needs to be done, today, to get there. By concentrating on the process, the journey, and not the outcome, Ithaca, we will not feel that we have arrived to Ithaca but rather, that Ithaca has come to us.


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