When I was very young, I would sit on my Italian grandfather’s lap while we listened to music—operas, mostly— and he would tell me stories. One story, in particular, still sticks in my mind. Its kind of a miniature parable wrapped into a joke, about the man who jumped on his horse and ha guidato in tutte le direzioni— rode off in all directions at once.
It seems that most people want so many different things—or at least they think they want them—that they are unable to focus their attention, their minds, their efforts…their hearts on anything specific.
I’ve always been fascinated by airplanes. The feeling I get when the wheels first leave the ground, the sense of peace that takes over, when we’re floating above the clouds, the mountains and the sea, and the anticipation and excitement I feel, when we touch down on the runway, at our intended destination. No matter how many times I might have done it before—it’s always a brand new thrill.
I’ve tried to figure out why I like airplanes so much. I think it’s because airplanes operate the way people ought to—but so few do. Maybe you’ve never given it much thought, but at any given moment, an airplane has a direction. That is, either it’s flying to a predetermined destination, or it’s at a destination, getting ready to fly to another.
Regardless of the size of the aircraft— a tiny Cessna 150 or an Antonov An-225, the largest airplane in the world—if you climb into the cockpit and ask the captain where they’re headed, he or she can tell you instantly—and in a single sentence. How many people do you know who can do that? I mean, instantly tell you exactly where they’re headed in life?
Most people you know today—especially in our impetuous society where the bullshit, counterproductive practice of multitasking is considered the norm— are like the guy in my grandfather’s story—headed off in all directions at once. All this leads to is doubt and confusion. They don’t recognize how imperative it is to pick one destination that’s important to them, chart a course and then fly to it, rest and refuel for a little while, and then set out for the next new destination, and the next. In this way, like flying around the world, a person can set and reach his goals, one by one, until he has all the things he wants—just because he had sense enough to realize that he could only do his best with one thing at a time.
There’s another analogy that fits here, and maybe makes the most important point of all. If an airplane is tied to the ground, for some reason with nowhere to go, that airplane would rust out and fall apart from disuse. An airplane’s engine isn’t started until it has somewhere to go. Here again, it’s the same with people. That’s why it’s important that each of us has a destination we want to reach—a goal—a place to get to, that in our minds at least, is better than the place we’re at right now. If not, we might never untie the ropes that anchor us to our current reality. We might never start our engines and experience the thrill of flying a charted course, to a place we can’t see for fully 99 percent of the journey—but know is there. A destination, that as long as we maintain our course and keep flying, we’ll eventually reach.
If someone came up to you today and asked where you were headed, that is, what new destination are you on course for—what the specific goal is that you are currently chasing— with all your heart and soul and ability— could you, like the captain of that aircraft, answer him in one sentence? If not, maybe you’d like to give it some thought.