Mind Your Helm!

Personally and professionally, we all face challenges. My greatest professional challenge came when I was put in charge of the Navy’s Security Forces in Washington, DC. There, I was responsible for the safety and security of 25K people on 9 different Naval Installations in the National Capital Region during the September 11, 2001 crisis. It was a difficult time for everyone on my team. Through the challenge of that day and the year that followed, I would like to say I always knew what to do, how to handle every situation, or when to pull back. But, I didn’t (as is the case with many challenges we face in life). For most, there are always times when we are faced with what seems like an impossible sea to navigate and oceans of doubt that we must deal with. In those times, this is what I know after 22 years of leading people and transforming challenges into opportunities: When you don’t know what to do, listen to that little voice deep inside and let it help you navigate the waters – like a helmsman steering the course you should take.

The Encarta Dictionary defines helmsman as a “steerer of a ship” or “a leader who is the director of an organization, country, or endeavor.” Our helmsman is our intuition, our “gut,” or could even be described as the power of the divine intervening on our behalf. Regardless of the name, that inner voice keeps us on task. When faced with difficult situations, people, or decisions that may require you to shift rudder, follow these simple steps to listen to your “inner helmsman.”

Be Still

We live in a busy, fast paced world. We continually want things bigger, faster, and more efficient than the year before. Like hurricane force waves, information continually comes crashing at our bow and the overall tempo of our lives can leave us feeling like we are diagonally parked in a parallel universe! With all of that noise, it is impossible to hear your helmsman! When the storm is raging we need to stop, take a breath, and be still. Absorb what is going on – separate the fact from the frenzied fiction and BE STILL. In the stillness of that moment, your helmsman will speak and you will be able to hear which course your ship should take.


When the commands our helmsman is shouting become audible we need to listen. Don’t just hear it – listen to the helmsman and push aside what you thought you knew and pay attention to what the course should really be. Sometimes we hear the obvious (but were too busy to notice) and other times we hear what we didn’t want to hear – that the course we need to steer won’t be an easy one. Our helmsman may want us to venture into fresh, unchartered waters. These could be waters we aren’t comfortable with and would rather steer clear of, but they are waters we must navigate through. Even when the destination seems dangerous or through rough seas, we need to listen, plot the course, and shift rudder if necessary.

Mind Your Helm

“Mind your helm!” is the call that goes out to pay more attention to how you are steering your ship. One degree in the wrong direction and you could, ultimately, change the entire course of where you wanted to go. Even after we have a course we need to keep listening because steering a heading requires constant adjustment. Failure to do could cause us to run aground or collide with something we could have avoided.

As I stated earlier, we all face challenges. I overcame mine and was there to help my team make it through theirs by letting my inner helmsman guide me as we worked through one of the most trying times our country has ever faced. No matter what you are faced with, you can do the same. Any challenge can be transformed into an opportunity if YOU want it to be! The ability to successfully navigate the challenging waters of life is reliant on how well we are able to be still and listen to our “inner helmsman.” LISTEN UP, STAY THE COURSE AND MIND YOUR HELM!

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