By Gary Priest, Curator of Animal Care Training, San Diego Zoo Global Academy
In January, I shared with you that it takes courage to launch into the unknown. Since then, we have been comparing the many similarities between launching the Academy online staff training program at your institution to taking a sailing voyage. Last month, we looked at the currents that are common to both oceans and organizations. Currents and wind can propel you toward your destination, or currents can create drag and slow your progress. So, how does one make forward progress when the prevailing wind is coming from the direction of your destination?
Whether sailing a vessel or launching your organization’s new Academy staff training site, we all want to reach our desired destination as quickly as possible. But, on this journey, you may discover that history or organizational culture (the wind) seems to slow your forward progress. No sailing vessel can sail directly into the wind, and, like the weather, there is little a sailor can do to change an organization’s history and culture. However, you can still reach your destination by doing something sailors call “tacking.”
The nautical term “tack” is at least 400 years old, and it means sailing diagonally at about a 45-degree angle to the wind. A tacking strategy is used whenever the wind doesn’t cooperate with making a direct approach toward the destination. At first, tacking seems counterintuitive. How is it possible to make any forward progress, when the majority of the time, a tacking boat isn’t even pointed toward the destination? Tacking is a zigzag course used to make forward progress incrementally. True, while on a tack, the forward progress is much slower than you might like or want, but it is forward progress. On occasion, that zigzag course is a sailor’s only option for forward movement.
Don’t be discouraged by the need to tack, because if you keep your eyes on the chart and your final destination, you will be making progress. Of course, there is another option. You could drop the sails, and drift with the winds and current away from your goal, hoping the conditions will change and become more favorable. However, this is not much of a plan, and that is why sailors learned to tack. When conditions require tacking, the vessel might travel two or three times more distance than with the direct approach, but progress is still made, not lost. The experienced sailor knows that the wind and currents won’t always be in opposition to the destination. And while tacking, savvy sailors keep their thoughts fixed on this knowledge. They know that incremental progress is still progress.
Helpful Tip: A few months ago, we learned that the chart is used to plot distance traveled and course direction. The chart can also measure a ship’s speed as a variable of time and distance traveled. Sailing with the wind and currents at your back is wonderful. Sailors refer to it as “sailing downhill,” because both the wind and currents work together to push the vessel forward at the fastest possible speed. If your staff is struggling with the two hours needed to complete a course from the professional certificate series, challenge them to take a couple of webinars. You will find some interesting webinars in the new webinar section of our website. In addition to the Academy’s website, the 2017 Academy Reference Guide can be a valuable tool for your own institution’s journey. Send me an email here if you would like your own version of the 2017 Academy Reference Guide.
For any questions, contact Gary Priest, curator of animal care training, San Diego Zoo Global Academy, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Getting Better All the Time:
Gratitude for Growth by Learning
By James F. Gesualdi
To keep ahead, each one of us, no matter what our task, must search for new and better methods, for even that which we now do well must be done better tomorrow.
—James F. Bell
Real education consists in drawing the best out of yourself.
Changing ourselves, our organizations, and our world for the better starts here, with each one of us doing our part to better serve animal interests and well-being. Taking ownership of our calling to serve empowers us to make a real difference. One way to keep moving forward is through continuous learning and consciously directed growth.
Learning is accessible in many forms. Experience is a great teacher, as are educational and professional development offerings, like those presented by the Academy. Sometimes we learn when we are tasked with expressing ideas and teaching others. We are also taught, though not necessarily willingly, by our colleagues and critics alike. As to the latter, Winston Churchill’s words seem apt: “I am always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.”
This Academy newsletter, the 50th issue, is a constant source of learning. Gary Priest’s column on advancing your organization, and yourself, through training and professional development has broad and insightful application. Difficult conditions may appear to impede zoological organizations and the zoological community, as well as many animal-related causes and organizations. These external factors, like the headwinds Gary writes about this month, do not prevent our progress, but actually challenge us to think differently, so that we may learn and overcome these things as we invest in ourselves as instruments of change and progress.
Choosing to learn and working hard on our own growth and development is necessary, if we are to better serve the animals in our care, and those species whose survival and well-being in the wild are threatened daily. We can make that choice now and build upon it every day. As noted in “Turning Challenges into Opportunities: the Principles of Constructive Engagement” (November 2015, available here ): “Be grateful that you can change yourself for the better, and, in doing so, help animals.”
Change is the end result of all true learning.
Please email me at email@example.com to share the good you are doing (as only you can), or with any comments or questions on this column or suggestions for future ones. For upcoming workshops and sessions, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2017 James F. Gesualdi, P.C. The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author. This is not, nor should it be construed as, legal advice.