1492: A man and his crew set out to reach India. They don’t. 1498: Another man and his crew set out to reach India. They do. 1492: The crew departed Palos de la Frontera with three ships and sailed west. 1498: The crew departed Lisbon with four ships and sailed south. In 1492, Christopher Columbus failed to reach India, but discovered a whole new world—with its own dangers and resources. In 1498, Vasco de Gama sailed around the tip of Africa to reach India, opening up trade with Asia and providing a boost to the Portuguese economy.
Those were the differences, but the critical element that forges a link between Columbus and de Gama is the fact that, in part, they sailed into the unknown simply because it was there.
It’s one of the wildest concepts in our day and age: doing for the sake of doing. Today, everything has to have some explicit purpose or benefit to be thought of as being even remotely worth doing. That, my friends, is what made the fourteen and fifteen hundreds the Golden Age of Exploration, and what makes our age so seemingly stagnant. While it can be argued that there was more knowledge back then to be discovered compared to today, it can also be argued that there really isn’t. One of the key pillars of science is the concept that answering a question also raises two or three new ones. That means that there is always something new to look at and learn.
However, today, we urge children to take majors in college that can get them jobs. We only learn skills that are immediately applicable to our careers, we refuse to consider other alternatives and we refuse to dwell in the world of possibilities. Yet, by learning those skills and by doing those tasks that seem useless at first—and by constantly acquiring about new skills—useful or not—we can become more valuable to ourselves and to others.
1984: A man and his crew set out to revolutionize the way we navigate the ocean of information laid out before us. The crew departed with one idea and sailed with it—they succeeded. This modern-day explorer is now one of the most widely recognized icons in the world of technology. What sets apart Steve Jobs from others is his skillset: over the course of his life, Jobs invested time picking up arcane skills and talents beyond those which he would need in his immediate plans to start a computer company. He was able to use those skills in one way or another when designing the first Macintosh. Today, his legacy lives on in the iPhone, iPod, Macbook, iTunes, i…….get the picture?
In part, greatness stems from a depth of ability—from being able to take different aspects of knowledge and applying them in a way that creates a benefit. The only way to do that is to have our own Golden Age of Exploration and focus on picking up those new skills just because they’re there.
2013: What will your story read?
Works Cited (which is basically a “lemme plug this into Wikipedia and roll with it…cited):