Be the Captain of Your Own Ship

By | April 2, 2021

[April 2, 2021]  Yes, indeed, be the captain of your own ship.  If you want to be satisfied with your life and not look back with regret on what you did or did not do, then take the wheel of your ship and steer it.  You are accountable for what happens in your life, and you are also responsible for helping others see this unalterable truth.

You are the captain of your own ship; don’t let anyone else take the wheel.” – Michael Josephson1

I’m a U.S. Army veteran, but I always liked this particular quote for several reasons.  The sea captain, I can imagine, is a man weathered by the hardships of life, alone at the helm of his ship, plying inexorably into the rough seas.  He knows where he is going, and he is confident in his abilities.  He is self-reliant, full of courage, and undeterred by the test before him.  The symbolism is clear.

Here are some of the ways that you can become the captain of my own ship:

  1. Look for opportunities everywhere to advance yourself by: a) asking those you trusted to look for you, b) proving you can handle a lot of work without complaint, c) showing that you are not afraid of doing difficult, complex, risky jobs, and d) demonstrating moral courage.
  2. Make sure all your paperwork is in good order by: a) writing your own performance evaluations as well as those for your boss and subordinates, b) writing up awards for those closest to you, your boss, and yourself as well, and c) verifying all your health and career records are accurate with verification documentation.
  3. Find excellent mentors by: a) being on the lookout for those who are the best in your career field and can advise you on your career development, b) know that their success or past successes will reflect on you if they are your mentor, and c) be upfront and honest and why you want them as your mentor.  More than one mentor is okay.
  4. Be yourself and promote yourself by: a) being likable, b) honest and truthful, c) inspirational, and d) energetic.  If you do not possess these traits, fix them now.  It’s hard work.  Make it so.
  5. Make your own decisions by: a) not blindly following the path others take, b) being original and different to stand out in the crowd, c) not letting negative people influence you, d) staying focused on your career and family objectives, e) prioritizing your values, and f) by recognizing that not all your decisions will be good ones but learn from those mistakes.

I do my best to make my own decisions, and I am grateful that I have chosen this route; how we handle ourselves in those decisions matters.  All else is irrelevant.


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

20 thoughts on “Be the Captain of Your Own Ship

  1. Voter in montana

    “Be yourself “ but be sure you know yourself first, else you will be a parrot.

    1. Jonnie D

      …. my prediction is that most don’t even know what this article is even about. Seniors in high school are really bad off.

  2. Harry B. Donner

    I think finding a good mentor is darn good and the best advice I can see people having to improve.

  3. Tom Bushmaster

    This phrase is full of symbolism and I do think this is why Gen. Satterfield likes it so much. Yes, it denotes real manhood but doesn’t imply that women cannot also be the captain of their ship. In fact, the phrase is about ALL people and I do mean all. In fact the best time to be a captain of your ship is when you are down.

  4. Jerome Smith

    Some may disagree but the one I like the best is No. 1 “Look for opportunities everywhere to advance yourself.” Gen. Satterfield tells us that we are the ones who must look out for ways to make ourselves and our families better. Abdicating this to others will never work out well for us because we become a victim.

      1. Harry B. Donner

        Ha Ha…. old warrior, you are absolutely right. Tough stance but weakness only invites tyranny.

      2. Eric Coda

        😊 Old warrior, great comment. Kick ’em in the butt (yes, I know, I just had to write that).

  5. Dead Pool Guy

    Here is hope that more people read and pay close attention to this article by Gen. S. He has laid out a pathway to the good life (not just to good leadership). Note that he avoids using the word “happy.” Because happiness is fleeting.

  6. Steve Dade

    Great article. Thanks Gen. Satterfield. I sent this off to my brother in Chicago. The city of Chicago is undergoing massive changes, nearly all bad. This will help lift his spirit.

  7. Max Foster

    Hi Gen. Satterfield, great job this morning with this new post. “Be the Captain of your own ship,” my dad told me that when I was a kid. So there is a little memory that you ignited. So, I am a bit biased in agreeing with you. It means that we must ultimately be responsible for ourselves. That doesn’t mean all the time because we are responsible for setting up a network of people in our family, among friends and community that can help us if we need that help.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      Max, spot on comment. Responsibility is implied here but is the core of the symbolism.

      1. Atkinson

        Too many folks couldn’t captain a toy ship in a mud puddle. I continue to be amazed at the fact some young people know how to breathe.

    2. Greg Heyman

      Yes, Gen. S., got that this right. I like your list and explanation for each is right on target as well. I see your theme really hasn’t changed much from “adopting responsibility” and “telling the truth.” Those two things are so important that they cannot be overlooked for living a satisfactory life without regrets.

  8. Frank Graham

    Best one of these, IMHO, is #4, Be yourself and promote yourself by: a) being likable, b) honest and truthful, c) inspirational, and d) energetic. If you do not possess these traits, fix them now. It’s hard work. Make it so.

    1. Stacey Borden

      Frank, I have to agree. But most of all I like it that part of this is being “honest and truthful” in all we do. If ONLY, If ONLY folks were honest and truthful, we would all be better off. At least we would know what people wanted.

    2. JT Patterson

      Frank, well said and I, like Stacey, agree with you that #4 is the best on here. But also being inspirational makes up for a lot of the lack in leadership so many of us are stuck with.

      1. Colleen Ramirez

        Hi JT, I’m not so sure that “inspirational” is the key here. Frank had it right. Remember that some of the most destructive leaders ever were inspirational and look at how that played out in the 20th century.

      2. Wilson Cox

        I have to agree that being inspirational is important and is a critical skill for a leader but it must be part of a whole package of skills, else you can inspire people to do things that are evil.


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