Charting Your Path to Greater Success and FREEDOM

December 20, 2022

Magellan Route Map

September 6, 2022 marked the 500-year anniversary of the first circumnavigation of the globe.

This great feat was precipitated by a decree in 
1484 by Pope Alexander VI in the Treaty of Tordesillas between Spain and Portugal.

Portugal was granted control over the valuable eastern trading route to the Spice Islands/East Indies (modern day Malaysia) by way of the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa.

Spain needed a new route, so 
King Charles I turned to an ambitious sailor from, as fate would have it, Portugal, to lead an expedition westward in search of that new path to the East Indies.

History knows that sailor as Ferdinand Magellan.

The expedition was ultimately a success, leaving an historical legacy for Magellan, including his namesake passageway around the tip of South America (the Strait of Magellan) and the honor of naming Earth's largest ocean, "Mar Pacificao," which means “peaceful sea” in Portuguese.

However, the legacy for which he is most famous, the honor of being the first to circumnavigate the globe, in fact does not belong to Magellan.

Map and compass


Making a Plan

Magellan had been to the East Indies by the easterly route, but had envisioned a route to the west, and spent many years devoted to studying charts to find a gateway from the Atlantic to the Pacific when sailing westward.

An expedition of such magnitude required not only vision, i.e. where he wanted to go, but also a plan for how to get there.

The trip was estimated to take two years, so enough provisions, ships (5), and men (roughly 250) were assembled, and a route planned that included numerous stops, or goals, along the way.

The first goal was to sail to South America, and the next to find a pathway between the seas, assuming one actually existed.

Once on the other side of South America, the next goal was to reach the East Indies, assumed to be only a few days journey from that point.

Having ships loaded with valuable spices from 
the Moluccas Islands in the East Indies (cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg), the next goal was to retrace their route, heading back to the east by way of South America, and finally returning to Spain with their cargo.

Of course, plans are one thing, but the reality of events tests even the best laid plans.

Spanish Galleons

(Graphic:  Wikipedia Commons)

Achieving Goals,
Overcoming Obstacles

On September 20, 1519, Magellan set sail from Seville, reaching the first goal three months later, South America.

The second goal of finding a passageway proved much more challenging, with a mutiny during the search, orchestrated by three of Magellan's captains, and the loss of one ship during a storm.

Why was there a mutiny?

According to one of the mutineers, 
Juan Sebastian Elcano, because Magellan would not show anyone the route he was planning or share exactly where the Moluccas Islands were (1).

After quelling the mutiny, 
in October of 1520 Magellan found the passage he was searching for, but lost another ship shortly afterward when the captain and crew deserted and headed back to Spain.

With the three remaining ships, fresh provisions, and new recruits from South American ports, Magellan set sights on the next goal, the East Indies.

Rather than three or four days, the Pacific crossing took almost four months, and the expedition lost many more men to a lack of food, fresh water, and scurvy.

Victoria on Map

(Graphic:  Wikipedia Commons)

On March 6, 1521, the three ships finally arrived in the eastern islands of the Philippines. 

Unfortunately, only two months later, the expedition experienced their greatest setback.

Magellan was killed on the island of Mactan in a skirmish with the native inhabitants.

The fight broke out when the Mactan natives resisted Magellan's efforts to convert them to Christianity (2), a goal of Magellan's that had nothing to do with the actual goals of the expedition.

The surviving members of the expedition, with only two ships remaining 
(Victoria and Trinidad), pressed on, eventually reaching their primary goal in November of 1521, the Moluccas Islands.

They loaded both ships with the 
precious cargo of spice, but only the Victoria was fit to sail.

Captained by the mutineer, Juan Sebastian Elcano, and a crew of 47 that included only 17 other men who started the journey from Seville 
two years and three month earlier, the Victoria set sail on December 21, 1521 for Spain, not by returning east as originally planned, but instead continuing west by way of the Cape of Good Hope (3).

On September 6, 1522, the Victoria landed back in Spain, completing an epic 50,000 mile journey circumnavigating the globe and bestowing the honor of being the first to do so on captain Elcano rather than Ferdinand Magellan.

Elcano & Coat of Arms

(Sources:  Wikipedia Commons and The Christopher Columbus Encyclopedia)

Vision & Goals

Magellan's vision, shared with the King of Spain, was a world that included a new western route to the East Indies, controlled by Spain under the 1484 Treaty of Tordesillas.

It was this vision of the future that brought the expedition to life, served as the basis for goal setting, and kept the operation moving forward as it overcame obstacle after obstacle.

From this vision flowed the plan, with the ultimate goal of reaching the East Indies within two years to buy spices by way of South America.

In the words of Jim Collins in his best-selling book Good to Great, this was Magellan's BHAG (“big hairy audacious goal”).

To accomplish the BHAG required medium-term goals: reach South America, find a passageway by sea to the Pacific ocean, then reach 
the Moluccas Islands.

To achieve the medium-term goals required short-term goals:  secure 5 ships, 250 crew members, and all the necessary provisions for a two year journey; reach the Canary Islands; cross the Atlantic to Santa Lucia Bay (present day Rio de Janeiro, Brazil); proceed south, exploring the east coast of South America until a waterway that connects the Atlantic to the Pacific is found; etc. (4).

Lastly, there were the daily activities that must be completed over and over again to accomplish the short-term, medium-term, and ultimately the BHAG:  the captain's constant navigation and course corrections, food to be cooked, decks to be swabbed, sails to be trimmed, bilges to be pumped, etc.

Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat, just like the fable of the 
tortoise and the hare... gradual and steady progress wins the race.

Tortoise & Hare

Lessons Learned

The power of a great vision was evident in the Magellan-Elcano expedition, focusing everyone on a primary objective.

For small business owners, establishing a crystal clear vision for the future that defines where the organization is headed and what the future holds in store, is essential for creating and maintaining buy-in, enthusiasm, and cohesiveness in your team.

Magellan had a powerful vision for the future, but in failing to share the specifics with the rest of the crew (for justifiable reasons or not), i.e. 
what route he was planning or exactly where the Moluccas Islands were, Magellan did not have full buy-in, especially from the Spanish captains who were not won over by a leader from Portugal with suspicious motives.

As we saw, this lack of buy-in, reduced enthusiasm, and a lack of cohesiveness amongst the crew lead to outright mutiny!

Magellan's second failure as a leader, was straying from the original vision and primary objective of the expedition:  finding a western route to the East Indies that would be controlled by Spain.

When the expedition reached the Philippines, 
rather than proceeding to the Moluccas Islands (about 1,500 miles further west) as soon as possible, Magellan kept the fleet in the Philippines for months while he worked diligently, even forcefully, to convert as many of the local natives as possible to Christianity (5).

This change of objective not only caused greater consternation amongst the crew, who had already suffered greatly since the start of the expedition, it ultimately cost Magellan his life.


Charting Your Path

The very best way to realize a vision is to do it collectively, with full participation from your team to help achieve your vision.

Your leadership team should help to define the goals necessary to achieve the vision, 
because after all, they are the ones responsible for achieving the goals.

Begin with the BHAG, your primary objective, then break it down into smaller and smaller goals, e.g. 3-year goals, 1-year goals, and 90-day quarterly goals.

Once the goals are established, the rest of the team should then be made aware of the specific goals, so they are clear about the path to achieving the vision for the future, and how what they do each day helps to accomplish the goals and, ultimately, the vision.

Lastly, goals should be reviewed regularly so course corrections can be made along the way.  How you do these "reviews" matters.

Too often, teams can become overwhelmed, and even paralyzed, by everything that needs to be done to achieve all the goals that have been set.

To avoid overwhelm, the leadership team should focus only on the immediate short-term 90-day goals established to meet the mid-term 1-year goals.  Don't worry about any goals that require attention later, i.e. after the current 90-day period is finished.

Ideally, the leadership team should review the 90-day goals at least every two weeks, or weekly if necessary, to make certain that all activities are aimed at accomplishing the goals.

At the end of each quarter, evaluate each goal with your leadership team to document your progress, analyze why some goals were not achieved, and set new 90-day goals to keep you on course for accomplishing the 1-year goals.

Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat.

Again, just like the tortoise and the hare... gradual and steady progress towards your goals inevitably ends in accomplishing them.

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Your organization may not be large, and you may not have a vision for the future as grand as charting a new route to a far off destination on the globe, but what worked for Magellan 500 years ago to fulfill his vision, will absolutely work for you and your small business today.

What didn't work for Magellan serves as a reminder of what not to do!

Establishing your own clear vision for the future, then creating concrete long-term, mid-term and short-term goals to make that vision a reality, is essential to building an organization that is truly Freedom Focused.

Brittany and I are meeting this week, just prior to Christmas and the New Year, to evaluate our 90-day and 1-year goals, and push our 3-year goals out one more year into the future.

It's always excited to look back on all that we've accomplished the past year, and look forward with anticipation to all that we plan to accomplish in the coming year.

Make a point to do the same for your small business before the end of the year, or at latest the first week of the new year, then share those goals with the rest of your team.

In doing so, you will be setting yourself on a well charted path to a more successful year ahead, and you'll also be staying...

Focused on your freedom!

Listen to the podcast episode: #036 A Fresh Start to the New Year Begins with Goals

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