You Can’t Steer A Stationary Ship

When I was in my early 20s, I worked at an advertising agency downtown Chicago.

I was a copywriter.

One day, I was sitting in a meeting with the creative director (who had become a very close mentor to me). We were in his office with a speakerphone positioned between the two of us. On the other line was the former Chief Global Creative Officer of one of the largest digital agencies in the world, Digitas.

“We can’t go on debating this. We just need to get started.”

He was referring to the launch of their new agency, a collaboration between my boss and him.

I didn’t know what the phrase meant.

When the call ended, I said, “What did he mean? You can’t steer a stationary ship?”

For almost two years, I had been working alongside my boss and mentor. He had taken me under his wing and allowed me the opportunity to sit in on calls like these that were far below my pay grade, but rich with knowledge. He didn’t want me showing up to work every day just collecting a paycheck — he wanted me to learn, and to take my destiny into my own hands.

“It means you can’t know where you’re going until you get started,” he said, simultaneously firing off another quick email before our next call. “You can’t steer a ship that’s sitting in a dock. You need momentum, wind, to decide whether you want to turn the ship left or right.”

I had written down so many project ideas, none of which had made any meaningful progress.

“You can’t steer a stationary ship,” I told myself.

And I’ve been steering ever since.

This is an Atomic Essay from the Ship 30 for 30 daily writing challenge.

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