There is some valid argument that Christopher Columbus was not the first "foreigner" to reach the American shores. It is thought that Vikings reached the East Coast and Chinese the West Coast many years prior to the arrival of the Genoese Admiral. Still, the journey of Columbus would have a lasting impact on both the "Old" and "New" worlds in contrast to the relatively minor and transitory impact of earlier explorers.
Perhaps on of the most remarkable characteristics of Columbus was his vision, confidence, faith, and sheer will. He had many rejections from royalty all over Europe before getting a favorable hearing from Ferdinand and Isabella, Monarchs of Spain. Equipped with three small sailing ships (the largest, Santa Maria, was only 90 feet!) Columbus left Spain on August 3, 1492. His crew was made up on old salts, young inexperienced men, and if legend is correct, more than a few convicts!
On September 6, the ships left the Canary Islands….the last land they would see that was known by Europe. Columbus and his crew sailed for over three weeks…in the same direction….out of sight of land the entire time. This distance of sailing, in open sea, had not been done before, as far as was known. (Remember the Vikings and Chinese)
The crews were growing nervous, not so much for fear of falling off the edge of the earth, but rather concerned that they would not be able to sail the ships back against the wind that was constantly blowing them west, further and further from home. The Admiral urged his men on with the words "Adelante!, Adelante!" ….Sail on! Sail on!
In spite of his optimism, the crew had had enough and on October 10, was on the verge of mutiny. They demanded that the ships be turned around immediatly and sailed back to Spain. Columbus made an agreement with the crew; they would continue their course for three more days. If no land was seen by then, the ships would turn back.
Columbus only needed two of those days. At about 02:00 A.M. on October 12, land was sighted! Columbus named this place San Salvador (now known as Watlings Island in the Bahamas.) Columbus thought he had landed on an island of the Indies, somewhere near Japan or China. Yet his "discovery" had a much bigger impact than if he actually had made it to the Orient. As far as Europe was concerned…Columbus had found an entirely "New World." The rest, as they say is history.
What we can learn from the Admiral of the Ocean Sea.
Many times we believe in something that we are outright ridiculed for. We "see" things no one else can see. Visionaries are always out of step with the establishment. Hold on to your dream, no matter how many people slam the door in your face.
What Columbus was doing was considered madness, or suicide by the majority of people. No one was known to have ever sailed that far into these uncharted waters before. So many unanswered questions, so many risks. The dream was greater than the fear for Columbus. It propelled him through the uncertainty. Courage is not the absence of fear. Rather it is action in spite of the fear. It is o.k. to be afraid. When you are done shaking in your boots, take action!
There is something to be said for tenacity here. What if Columbus had quit on October 11 and went home? What if he would have quit at midnight on October 12? What if he was so hurt by the grumbling of his crew he would have turned around a week after they had left the Canary Islands? It really is true; often it is darkest just before the dawn. Persevere!
For all of Columbus' vision, for all of his certainty….he still got it wrong. Many successful people push for their goal, only to find that when they finally get there…it is not exactly as they had envisioned. Still, if you had not gone for the dream you wouldn't be anywhere at all! Columbus' "mistake" was a happening of untold significance. Don't worry about the mistake…it still will be better than doing nothing at all.
For all of his failings, Christopher Columbus was a man of vision, courage, and tenacity. His "mistake" had perhaps been one of the most significant events in Western history. May we, like the good Admiral, believe in our dreams, sail on past the fears, and persevere till we make landfall. Even if it isn't perfect, our "discovery" may be a great blessing to many others.