The VASA is a Swedish warship from 1628 that sank 1400 yards into its maiden voyage killing 30 of the crew. The ship was ordered to be built by reigning King of Sweden; Gustavus Adolphus. During the 17th century, Sweden was growing in world prominence partly due to their military dominance led by King Adolphus. At the time he commissioned the VASA to be built, they were at war with Poland and he needed to create a show of massive strength and force in the Baltic. Up until that point, most of the naval fleets were small to medium size vessels with only one gundeck and armed with medium size cannons. The king’s vision was to create a more massive ship with a double gundeck and more/larger cannons and artillery.
That goal, in and of itself, was not a bad idea. He saw a problem and worked out what he thought was an outstanding solution. The problem was in the execution of the plan, and that is where we get into trouble in our own lives. The king took shortcuts, didn’t listen to wise advice and let his pride overtake his sensibilities. The result was disastrous, and oftentimes we are guilty of those same mistakes. As we travel through life we find ourselves in conflict or struggling to overcome adversity and instead of thinking the problem through or following helpful advice, we plunge headfirst with our own impulsive ideas and find ourselves in worse shape. So how could the VASA disaster have been avoided? And what can we learn for our lives today?
1. Plan And Prepare. The king knew he had a problem, but he was in a hurry. He was impatient to show his power and wanted to get that ship out on the water with her double gundecks and massive artillery cannons. He put unrealistic timelines on his builders and allowed them to take shortcuts to get the job done. How often in our struggles do we rush to a conclusion? Do you get so focused on winning that you do not properly prepare for the battle? Whether your goal is better finances, strong relationships, a healthier lifestyle; none of those things happen overnight! They take thought and planning. Showing impatience or bypassing proven methods will not yield the results you want and you will end up right back where you started; or worse.
2. Ask For (And Consider) Wise Council. Naval engineering has come a long way since the 17th century, but there were still those working on the project that knew the ship was unstable. They could not simply add another level to the ship, straight up, and not widen the base to handle the extra load. Questioning the king’s command is always a scary thing, but history records that a few did try to warn him. However, in his arrogance and presumed self-wisdom, he brushed aside those warnings and ordered the work to continue as he designed. He did not want any more delays or financial investment; he just wanted a grand new ship leading his naval fleet into battle. We also ignore good advice sometimes. Those near us and who love us, will show us the flaws in our thinking and offer suggestions and even their help, but so many of us are legends in our own minds and we are convinced that we are the exception and don’t need any help from anyone. Our decisions can become clouded for any number of reasons, and we can’t see the error of our ways. If there is someone in your life whom you trust and respect, and they are asking you to reconsider or revamp your plan, listen to them! You don’t always have to take their advice, but you should always give it thought and consideration. It is true, that sometimes, two heads are better than one.
3. Stick To Solving The Problem/Not Self-Promotion. In addition to the extra level of cannons on board, the king also wanted his new ship to be adorned with great sculptures. This was traditional for those times and a sign of the king’s wealth, position and power. He hired artists to render huge ornamental pieces that were bolted to the ship; all totaled about 500 were recovered in the wreckage. It is said the sculptures themselves took almost two years to complete. One could argue that if the king was willing to invest as much time and thought into the stability of the ship as he was the adornment, it might have made it past her maiden voyage. How much does pride go into your decisions? How important is it for you to look good instead of actually striving to be a person of integrity and stability? Looks and opinions are fading and subjective. My suggestion, dear friends, is to focus on the quality of your life’s decisions and not so much on your life’s ornaments or trophies.
The morning of August 10, 1628 dawned clear and calm. It was the day of the launch and hundreds were at the waterfront to watch The VASA depart. Her gun ports were open and she was scheduled to fire celebratory shots as she sailed away. As she moved past a gap in the bluffs, a gust of wind blew in and lurched this top-heavy and unstable vessel onto her side. As the lower open gun ports reached the water’s surface, it rushed into the openings and began filling up the bottom chambers of the ship and eventually made its way to the hold where it began to sink. While the crew frantically tried to save the ship, and then themselves, it sank in full view of the crowd gasping and helpless at the shore; 390 feet away. 30 men lost their lives that day. The king was furious and demanded an explanation, but sadly, most of the fault pointed back to him. He was impatient, careless, prideful, refused to listen and with no checks and balances, his decisions came to an embarrassing and extremely costly end.
My Hopefuls, it is my goal today to encourage you to give time and thought to the decisions in your life. We all have the responsibility to handle issues and problems, and we even have to take risks sometimes. I trust in your ability to find solutions and in your courage to carry them out; I just hope we all put in the time and work it takes to execute them properly. Use wisdom. Plan out the pros and cons. Talk to a trusted friend. Pray. Then, when you believe you are doing the right thing for the right reasons… SET SAIL!
Hope With Abandon