Captain of Yourself
A few weeks back, I shared with our students some thoughts from a book I read over the summer – Sam Walker’s “The Captain Class”. Walker is a NY Times sports reporter who was on a mission to identify the top worldwide sports teams over the past 100 years. While the outcome was sixteen somewhat controversial choices, his research led to what made these teams so successful? Talent? Coaching? Ownership? None of these responses applied to the entire sixteen teams. The only commonality was a “captain”. Not necessarily the person with the “C” on their jersey; instead the one that had the most impact and influence.
As a school, we have numerous leaders - Head Prefect, BEAT Captain, House Captain, Pottery Captain, and Field Hockey Captain. These leaders take ownership for their areas of responsibility. They are dutiful and service oriented. According to Walker, however, what separates good from great captains are some key traits.
Extreme doggedness and focus in competition
o No matter the obstacles, the ability to get the job done and keep one’s promises.
A willingness to do the thankless jobs in the shadows
o Walker calls these captains, “the water carriers”. Those that are willing to do the little things. First to arrive and last to leave without searching for praise or adulation.
A low-key, practical, and democratic communication style
o Fire and brimstone speeches will only go so far; it is a long term, steady and inclusive approach that wins the long game.
Motivates others with passionate non-verbal displays
o Acta non verba – action not words. “Gosh, if the captain is willing to do that, then we must all do the same.”
Strong convictions and the courage to stand apart
o A grounded moral compass that is not shaken by peer pressure or popularity.
Ironclad emotional control
o Not losing our heads when things don’t go our way.
While these competencies are focused on elite captains, we are all captains of our own ship. Our journey through life is rarely in a neat, straight, and unimpeded line. Potholes and steep slopes mark some challenges along our pathway. As captains, we can take hold of our destinies and work on the lessons Walker has identified for us.
William Ernest Henley poem Invictus, says it best… “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll. I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
De Manu In Manun,
Head of School