In my last post I explained how my wife is learning to sail. I focused on how learning to sail really comes down to one 'aha!' moment - when you finally 'get it' and start to feel at one with the boat and with the wind.
You stop analyzing, and start feeling.
And then it occurred to me that after that first moment of discovery, there are actually many others. There is a whole series of 'aha!' moments.
There's that first time you nail the timing of a tack and come out of it with the boat moving fast and in the direction you actually want to go.
You think to yourself, "Why don't I do it that way all the time?"
And from that moment on, you're a better sailor.
If I were a Zen master, I'd probably have a cool-sounding Japanese name for these 'Aha!' moments.
And I guess it's natural to assume that if you keep on sailing long enough, all the important 'aha!' moments will eventually come to you and all will be enlightenment and you will become the kind of sailor who exudes confidence and whom people call wise and salty.
But I don't think it actually works out that way.
I think we all have a quota of 'aha!' moments allotted to us. Some of us get more, some fewer.
Some of us could live to be 103, and no one would ever call us wise or salty.
Look at Tillerman, for example.
I think one of the most appealing things about his blog is that he's a mid-fleet kind of guy. If he won every race, I think he'd have fewer readers. Nobody likes the guy who wins all the time. In fact, I think if we were honest with ourselves, we'd probably discover some pretty ugly thoughts deep down inside about the guy who wins all the time.
I think we only get a certain number of 'aha!' moments in life and, the further we go, the fewer we find.
But please don't tell Tillerman this. He might find it discouraging. And one of his strongest character traits is that he's never discouraged, he never gives up.
He is always coming up with some new scheme or plan that might loft him into the ranks of the guys who always win. A new exercise routine. A new start strategy. A new training clinic that will finally reveal the unknowable and guide him with a Yoda's confidence to the finish line.
But the guys who always win are probably no smarter than Tillerman or work any harder than he does. They probably don't even realize what they're doing that lets them win all of the time.
They've just had a few more of those 'aha!' moments. They're not thinking better, they're just feeling some things intuitively that Tillerman and the rest of us are just never going to get.
In every sport, in almost every human endeavor, from playing the guitar to juggling, there are some individuals who seem to have a natural gift for effortlessly doing what the rest of us have to struggle to achieve.
I learned long ago to accept this. I have no aspirations of one day besting my fellow sailors at anything. Or of ever intuitively knowing why a diesel engine is unhappy, the way some guys do.
I have beer and that is enough.