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You remember the Mayflower, but what about Speedwell?

On August 5th, 1620, the Pilgrims set out for America on two ships, the Speedwell and the Mayflower. You’ve likely never heard of the Speedwell, and for good reason. She never made it.

Once the 60 ton ship got out into open water, she started taking on water. Discouraged, both ships returned to Dartmouth to be refitted, but they could find nothing wrong. They then embarked on their second attempt, and sailed almost 100 leagues before she started to leak again.

This time, they returned to Plymouth, crowded onto the Mayflower, and left the Speedwell behind.

As it turns out, the mast and sail were too large for the ship’s structure to handle. Once it hit the open water and the strong winds, the torque from the sail and mast was so great that it created separation between the planks, allowing water to pour through.

The ship missed its opportunity to live in history as the companion to the Mayflower on this momentous voyage.

There are times in our lives when we will be called into action, when we will be required to move, when the opportunity to do something great will lie before us.

The question is whether or not we’ll be strong enough and prepared enough to act. Will the structural integrity of our core be sufficient to handle the demands of the moment?

The point is not to avoid life’s challenges, but rather prepare ourselves for them in every way possible, so when they arise, we’re ready for the challenge.

This kind of preparedness happens incrementally, over time. The key is that you have to start. Decide today to be just a little stronger, to work just a little harder, to improve just a little bit in some meaningful way. If you can do that every day of your life, or even just most days, then you’re sure to be ready to meet the challenges of life when they come.

Challenges are inevitable, and you have no control over them. What you do have control over is your strength and ability to rise to the challenge.

As Longfellow quipped in his poem “A Psalm of Life

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
   Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
   Find us farther than to-day.

-Rusty

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11 Responses

  1. Great Post! Another interesting note about the Speedwell is that many people aboard the ship decided not to go through with the journey. The ships failure and imposed difficulties in their delay caused many aboard the ship to abandon their own aspirations and motives. Others, however, continued on and piled into the Mayflower for even greater challenges that lie ahead in the new world. Some of the great political, social and religious leaders of this country came from those who never gave up and never surrendered themselves to fear.

  2. Wow, I like that. An interesting perspective that adds to the metaphor. So often the destiny of others relies on our own strength. Our successes, our failures, impact more than ourselves.

  3. Another interesting note on the Speedwell, is that the over-sized sail and mast was an intentional installation by the captain and crew to sabotage the year-long voyage, because they didn’t want to go.

    Particularly in leading teams and organizations, there are instances where you find the structural integrity of the whole, being intentionally compromised by internal stakeholders who are unconvinced of your direction and purpose, or who are too keen on the comfort of the current situation. As you try to push them in new directions, they do small (and sometimes not-so-small) things that slow your momentum or worse.

    Part of being a good leader is in being able to paint a compelling enough vision with enough clarity to get everyone on board. Any substantial endeavor must first be sold internally. The other part of being a good leader, is in rooting out those that remain unconvinced, and that would deter your cause and placing them somewhere else or removing them altogether.

    The last thing you want to do is surround yourself with yes-men. Naysayers CAN be incredibly valuable to a healthy, productive team, but once the decision to move has been made, you’re either on the ship, or your off.

  4. One final thought on this last point. As I’ve been writing my new book “Escape Velocity”, which explores how individuals and organizations can build the momentum necessary to escape the gravitational pull of their past and present to create a better future, one of the most important elements of this lies in controlling your environment.

    If you surround yourself with people who don’t believe in you, or who see you for who/what you USED to be, in can be incredibly difficult to escape and change. They exert an sustained gravitational pull on you that tends to hold you in orbit. It’s why organizations tend to always do what they’ve always done, and why individuals sometimes have a terribly difficult time making foundational changes to their behavior.

    But if you architect an environment conducive to your planned goals and desired behavior, you experience a gravitational pull that lifts you towards your objective, rather than pulling you away from it.

    It’s interesting, that with some species of lizards, you can buy two “identical” lizards (same size/sex/age) and put them in different environments, and they’ll grow to the extent their environment will let them. Put one in a small aquarium, and it’ll stay small. Put one in an environment with less restrictions, and it’ll just keep growing.

    We are much the same. We tend to grow to the extend our immediate environment will allow us… and then stop. Often the key to changing your life, your trajectory, your team, your family, or even your company, lies in changing your environment.

  5. Greetings and Salutations:
    I am a 10th/11th-generation, direct descendant of one of the passengers from the Speedwell (you remember…that ship you mentioned?), that did not make it to the Mayflower. There are many reports that those that were left behind was because they were weary of trying, quit, and went home. Here is a story to be read (if I may):
    ————————————————————————————————————–
    My ancestor, Robert Spynk (later Spink, and finally Spinks), must not have been all that much weary for too long, and must not have been a quitter either; for about 15 years later, he sailed to America on a ship called the Speedwell. He was around and an integral part of when Roger Williams got Rhode Island off the ground (or, more correctly, ON the ground). What might I be getting at? Simply this…if he had truly given up, I would not be writing this posting almost 400 years later. For me, that is a pretty interesting and a rather profound thought.
    I also happen to have put together a rather interesting lineage of this Gentleman down through the ages. If anyone happens to be interested, I will share what I have gathered.
    Bottom line….never give up!
    I am also willing to make new acquaintances as this world of ours, and more specifically, this country is a wonderful one at heart. Feel free to write…
    Peace and Tranquility,
    Charlie
    Email: [email protected]

  6. That’s very awesome. Thanks so much for sharing. It’s fascinating to delve into the stories of our ancestors and see what your heritage is.

    And I agree with your bottom line. Never give up.

  7. Interesting point about the Speedwell, but sometimes the challenges are just too great. You omit the reality that of the 102 passengers (some of whom were my ancestors) on the Mayflower, 53 of them died within six months of leaving the Speedwell behind. The only things that could have saved them (probably) were modern sanitation and antibiotics. Sometimes the resources you need are just not available, no matter how hard you work or how strong your faith. Some of those who stayed behind (including several of my ancestors) made it on another voyage and survived their first winter in America.

  8. The ship missed its—not “it’s”—opportunity. “It’s”=it is. “Its” is a possessive adjective and, in this case, travels with opportunity.

  9. Thomas Blossom and his son were among the passengers on the Speedwell which was to remain as a fishing boat for a year. His wife was expecting and stayed behind in Holland. Along with 18 members of the passengers of the Speedwell he did not make the trip on the Mayflower when she left alone. He wrote a letter to the leader of the society which is among the proof of his being a passenger stating his son died in Holland after their failure to sail and was buried with two siblings. In 1629 with over 30 others, he, his wife and three children sailed on the Mayflower II and joined their friends. The next year families they married into arrived among the 700 of the Winthrop Fleet. With half of the Mayflower passengers and crew lost in the first winter it is possible the Thomas may have died too if he had sailed. If so his wife and daughter, who is the link to our present time, would not have made the trip and a long list of our generations from that time to now may not exist.

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