A few weeks ago, I watched a documentary about Hawaii – specifically about its history and culture.
It’s a good documentary overall, but the story about how Hawaii was discovered particularly caught my attention. It is easily one of the greatest stories about perseverance and determination I’ve ever heard.
If you ever need an inspiring kick in the butt to reach your goals, this is it.
The Story of Perseverance and Determination
I’ve often heard that the only sure-fire way to fail is to give up.
It’s no secret that big goals take time. You have to think months or even years down the road. Because they take so much time, we’re often tempted to quit before reaching them.
This story will show why you shouldn’t easily give up.
Hawaii was discovered around AD 1000 – no one knows the exact date – by a group of seafaring Polynesians who inhabited and explored many of the islands in the South Pacific.
If you look at a map of the world, you’ll notice that Hawaii is one of the most isolated spots on the planet. So it’s already incredible that it was discovered so early in human history.
But what they did to get there makes the story even more amazing.
Because of its isolation, they would never have known Hawaii was even there.
They suspected it was there though. They noticed a bird called the Golden Plover which migrated north out into the open water every year. Land must have been out there somewhere – they just couldn’t see it.
So they set sail from the Marquesas Island to follow them. That island is as close as you can get to Hawaii, but it’s still about 2500 miles away. Nowadays it takes roughly 30 days to sail to Hawaii from Marquesas using modern day equipment.
Back then, they were only using carved wooden boats and their own understanding of naval navigation.
The Polynesians followed the birds closely, but they always flew faster than they could paddle. They could only keep up with them for short distances.
At some point, they would lose track and have to turn back.
Each year they would try again, picking up where they left off the previous year. Years passed by and they kept getting farther into the Pacific. But still they never saw land.
According to the documentary, it took the Polynesians 400 years to finally reach Hawaii using this method.
Every time I hear the documentary say this number, I’m amazed.
Imagine the determination and perseverance you would need to do this.
After generations of hard work, belief, perseverance and determination – after years of uncertainty and doubt they finally reached their goal.
By this point, Hawaii might have become something like a mythical idea. To actually reach it, must have brought many of the travelers to tears.
That was almost 1000 years ago. Yet their struggles relate a lot to our own goal-setting.
We’re all working towards an unknown destination just like the Polynesians. The principles are exactly the same.
Your big goal is like Hawaii
After a lot of hard work and perseverance, the Polynesians reached the goal that took them years to accomplish.
There was no guarantee they’d reach it. For all they knew, they were sailing out to nothing.
This is what goal setting is like. You’re not completely certain it’s out there, but you work on the faith that you’ll reach it. Sometimes you have to risk going out into nothing in order to get where you want to be.
Your clues to success are like the birds
The Polynesians saw the birds flying in the direction of Hawaii and deduced that land was there. That was their clue that they’d eventually reach their destination.
We’re all setting big goals or dreams on a clue or a hunch that we’ll reach them. It’s our determination and belief in those clues that keep us going.
Your obstacles are like the ocean
Reaching Hawaii meant paddling across 2500 miles through the Pacific. Navigating over the open water and making sure their boat didn’t sink were huge obstacles.
All goals have obstacles to overcome. We all have things standing in our way. They can often seem insurmountable, but with enough perseverance we can usually get around them.
Don’t Stop Working Towards Your Goals
The big takeaway to this story is that you have to keep working towards your goals. Determination and perseverance pay off.
That means working hard even if you don’t see an end in sight.
How often did the Polynesians stop at some random place in the middle of the Pacific and see nothing?
You’ll face that moment too while pursuing your goal. You’ll stop to look around and see nothing.
There will often be nothing to encourage us.
There will often be nothing telling us if our hunches are right.
The problem is that when we see nothing we might think there really is nothing.
We all get afraid that our goals won’t really be there. We all feel like we’re working towards something that will never arrive.
You have to have faith that your “Hawaii” is out there. You have to have faith that all your work will get you to your destination.
It often just takes time and small steps. You have to persevere and see it all the way to the end.
Sailing too far away from the shore for so long can be scary, but it will get you places.
photo credit: Wendell