Monday, March 16, 2015

The Kon-Tiki Principle

In 1947, two years after the end of the most brutal war the world had ever experienced, the population of most western countries was largely devoid of any inspirational figures or adventurous explorers.  Here in the United States most young families, if they were lucky enough to have the entire family survive the war, were looking for nice suburban homes to hunker down in and pleasant neighborhoods to raise their families within.  The year 1947 was a season of "playing it safe" for most people who lived in modern civilized societies.

One man, however, a zoologist and geographer from Norway had a deeply held notion and theory.  This theory would propel him, and a small band of explorers on one of the most remarkable trans-oceanic voyages in history.  His name was Thor Heyerdal.  While living in the Polynesian islands on a study trip, he developed the radical theory that people in Polynesia (those living on the islands of Tonga, Samoa, Easter, New Zealand, and Hawaii), were actually biological descendants of people groups who were from South America.  While Heyerdal's theory was controversial at the time, and still remains so for some cultural anthropologists, recent DNA research has pointed to the possible link between these two people groups.

To prove Heyerdal's theory, he had to show that it was possible for people from South America to travel, by boat (or raft) all the way from South America to Polynesia.  And so, with a handful of 5 men, he set out on April 28, 1947 from Callao Peru to the Polynesian islands.  None of the men on Heyerdal's crew were experts of sea voyaging or particularly well-versed in early building construction techniques of primitive peoples.  Incredibly, Thor himself did not even know how to swim!  The voyage lasted 101 days, and crossed 4,300 miles of turbulent, shark infested waters.  Floating on a hand-made raft, built with timbers and ropes that ancient peoples of South America would have used, the would-be crew crossed one of the most dangerous and expansive oceans on the face of the earth.  The boat that the men constructed was called "Kon Tiki", named after an ancient Inca God.  Today, explorers and scientists alike hail the voyage as one of the most daring feats of courage and ingenuity in world history.

But why am I writing about this voyage in my blog post this morning?

Because of this.  Once the crew launched themselves on this epic voyage, there was really nothing for them to do but sit on their raft and float to their hoped-for destination.  After the advent of this "big idea", Heyerdal's only real skill was to keep his men from arguing with one another while onboard, and to hope to heaven that he was right.  In short, it was 101 days of lying on a raft and floating to a hoped-for destination.  There was nothing really for Heyerdal and his men to do, after setting out, except sit and enjoy the ride.  And so, I have come up with a leadership principle based on this famous voyage.  It's called:

The Kon Tiki-Principle

A lot of leaders think that in order to do great things, they have to be highly anxious and driven in the midst of their goals.  Many leaders feel that they must be scrupulously involved in the thousands of details of a vision, and entirely "hands-on" in their day to day oversight.  The business executive who is up at 5:00AM to check his/her Blackberry, before heading out for a 17 hour day of handing out orders and edicts, is seen as more involved than the executive who hires competent employees and allows them to do the best they can (think Warren Buffet).  The pastor who lays awake at night to think about more and more programs for a church to be involved in seems more adept than the pastor who calmly navigates his/her church through the challenges that face the modern church.  The frenetic coach who is constantly yelling at his players on the basketball court is sometimes viewed as more "in-touch" than the coach who sits on the bench and watches.  But none of these are examples of;

The Kon Tiki-Principle

The Kon Tiki-Principle is simply the notion that a great leader only needs two qualities.  First he/she needs a big, bold, out of the box idea.  The idea must be one that is unique and that perhaps nobody before has ever thought of or attempted.  The idea is often totally radical and unaccepted by those who pride themselves on conventional wisdom.  The second thing that a great leader needs is patience and faith that the course that they have chosen is the right one.  Again, nobody around the leader may quite understand the guiding vision or the dream involved in the task at hand.  This patience and faith does not have to be fraught with tension, anger, anxiety, restless activity or aggressive course correction.  The great leader, after having embarked on a great voyage sometimes just needs to sit, and as the saying goes, "enjoy the ride."

In short, the

Kon Tiki-Principle

is two fold:

1.  Have a big idea
2.  Trust that God, having given us the idea, will get us there!

Lastly, the Christ follower doesn't just have faith in the whims of the ocean currents to carry him/her to the desired destination.  We believe in a God who is directing the rafts of our lives (however primitive or ill-constructed) to the places that we feel God is calling us to go.

All For Now,


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