Sailing Uncharted Waters and Embracing the Wind

In the epic poem The Odyssey, Odysseus struggles “to evade the voices of the marvellous Sirens in their flowering meadow.” His solution, is simple. He has his sailors make it physically impossible to escape into the flowering meadow. He tells his sailors: “You are to tie me hand and foot and stand me upright in the mast housing, and fasten the rope ends round the mast itself, and if I beg you to free me, bind me yet more tightly.” By intentionally limiting his own freedom, Odysseus is able to avoid giving into temptation. 

Sometimes commitment isn’t the answer…

Chip and Dan Heath’s Decisive have popularized the term “ooching” to mean inching your way toward something. Rather than jumping in, you try out an idea, see if it works before committing. I love this word for many reasons. Firstly, it’s fun to say out loud (try it; I dare you). It’s also a popular word in the sailing world: “a kinetic technique that propels a boat. An action that is prohibited except when done in sync with the waves and does not result in sail movement other than in response to wind shifts, gusts or waves.”

It suggests movement, not movement for the sake of movement, but in response to a change or a need.

It’s about widening options.

It allows us to try something out before committing.

Sometimes I feel l need to “tie myself to the mast” if I’m sailing through uncharted waters; and I also need to untie if the wind blows just so, and I’m in sync with the waves or responding to a sudden gust.

So, am I committing or ooching?



One thought on “Sailing Uncharted Waters and Embracing the Wind

  1. Meghan,
    I love this post! I would offer this– ooching is committing, but with your knees flexed. I don’t think commitment can only be defined as jumping all in as this implies that commitment requires “one way” of doing it. Jumping all in wets your whole body and requires you to swim and get out of the water to shift. Ooching reminds me a bit of sticking your toe or foot in, but by doing so, you can quickly submerge the leg or walk in the water if you please without so much of a shift like jumping all in. That’s not to say that jumping all in should not happen– at times, that’s the way to go! But at other times, ooching allows for a quicker, more flexible approach– something to celebrate!


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