Success Secrets of Christopher Columbus

A speech by Charles Cave given on 20th February 2008 to Chatswood Early Risers Toastmasters and the Area 34 International Speech Contest.
In fourteen ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

Imagine a ship. It is just before sunrise. Sailors are standing on deck, staring into a fog. As the sun rises, the fog lifts, revealing a single palm tree. The captain jumps down to the beach. His eyes are filled with tears of joy. After eight weeks at sea, he has finally reached land, and in doing so, achieved a lifelong dream.

This is a scene from the movie ‘1492 – Conquest of Paradise‘ which tells the story of Christopher Columbus. Released in 1992, it is an inspiring story of one man’s perseverance to realise his life dream.

Columbus is not taught in Australian schools but he is here in spirit to teach us about success and achievement.

Born in Genoa, Italy, Columbus left school at the age of 14 – that’s the equivalent of dropping out of Year 9! He went to sea and learnt his navigation skills on the job, sailing in the Mediterranean.

This is his first lesson: You don’t need huge amounts of formal education to get a job done. It is just a matter of getting out there, doing the best you can and learning as you go.

Columbus had a vision. He had read Marco Polo’s descriptions of the abundant treasures of the Far East – spices from India, jade from China and silk from Japan.  He studied the latest world maps and was convinced he could go east by travelling west.

This is his second lesson. Sometimes you have to do things differently or go in the opposite direction to get results.

Columbus was different to other maritime explorers. He didn’t follow the coastline. It is easy to navigate if you can always see the coast. That is the equivalent of ice-skating by hanging on to the wall and not letting go. Columbus sailed with no land in sight, just relying on his navigation skills, sextant and compass.

This is his third lesson – sometimes you need to lose sight of land. Take risks by allowing the familiar coastline to go out of sight, and to rely on other means of planning your journey.

How long do you stick with a task before giving it up as impossible?  Columbus had to persuade others to finance his expedition. He knew he would encounter resistance.

He first approached the King of Portugal. He wasn’t interested.  He next approached Henry the Seventh of England. He wasn’t interested either.  For seven years he was regularly knocked back. The people in power were opposed to the idea that the earth might be round.

Finally he approached Queen Isabella of Castille. In the film he said to her: ‘I see someone who doesn’t accept the world as it is. Who’s not afraid. I see a woman who thinks ‘What if?’. The next day, Columbus learnt that the Queen had agreed to finance his expedition.

His fourth lesson is persevere. Never, never, never give up, until you get what you want.

The most interesting quality of Columbus was Serendipity – discovering something good by accident, while looking for something completely different.  Columbus’ vision was reaching the Far East. When he first sighted land he was convinced he was in Japan, but in reality it was an island of the Bahamas.

Serendipity often occurs in our lives. You may have joined Toastmasters to improve your presentations at work, but along that journey you discover you have a gift for teaching. You quit your job and start your own training business.  His fifth and final lesson is to be prepared for surprising and unexpected successes on your journey.

Was Columbus successful? Yes! We still know his name after 500 years.

Columbus showed the qualities of having a vision of his goal.

He wasn’t afraid to leave the safety of the coast and travel in the opposite direction to others. It was not essential to have a vast education.

You can do the same by getting started now. Learn to navigate by getting on a boat, rather than staying in the classroom. Look for a new direction to reach your goal. Don’t be afraid to lose sight of land, and persevere until you reach your goal.  And always be open to the wondrous, unexpected discoveries on your journey to the conquest of your paradise.

The Success Secrets of Christopher Columbus

1. You don’t need a lot of formal education to get the job done. Get out there and do it, learn as you go and do the best you can.

2. Sometimes you need to go in the opposite direction or do something differently.

3. Sometimes you need to lose sight of land, take risks and rely on other means of guidance.

4. Persevere! Never, never, never give up until you get what you want.

5. Serendipity. Be prepared for surprising and unexpected successes on your journey.


Author: charuzu

I live in Sydney and interests include music, piano playing, technology, cooking, English language, public speaking, Toastmasters, Asian culture (especially Japan and Korea), cinema, personal development, productivity and making friends with people from around the world.

6 thoughts on “Success Secrets of Christopher Columbus”

  1. Have just finished some research on Columbus I found your blog. These were some excellent thoughts regarding his achievement and success. It does strike me that the “letting loose of shore” is exactly what mariners do in the normal course of their work which hardly seems applicable as you present it, but I did “catch” the sentiment. Thanks for creating and sharing your mind.

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