Headwinds

Such a headwind!
Sometimes it requires
all my strength
just to end a line.

But when the wind is at
my back, we’re likely
to get carried away, and say
something we can never retract,

Connie Wanek, Umbrella

Finding a photograph to represent wind is a challenge. There are plenty of photographs of storm clouds. You can have the mime act of a person walking into the wind. There are lots of photos of things that use the wind: gliders, yachts and balloons. The challenge is tough because the wind is invisible until it bends you out of shape with its long years of assault.

Headwinds is one of those corporate terms that has a vague explanatory value hinting, but not defining, forces impeding progress towards a goal. Like many such terms, its value is as an excuse without specificity. Why aren’t things going well? Headwinds. Whether those winds are expected or unexpected is unaddressed. Use of the term ignores that headwinds can be of value; pilots deliberately land into headwinds to increase lift and control of the plane. Headwinds challenge is to be better, more adaptable and more flexible in the achievement of our goals.

Much of the time, we are like a tree bent by the prevailing winds. Our life and training either teaches us to bend or brace against headwinds. Some winds are stronger due to prejudice, lack of privilege or other disadvantage but there is always some form of headwind, light breeze or howling gale. In our current predicament, much of the opposition feels like a gale. We all enjoy the rare moments of relief from pushing against the force of invisible opposition. The test is not how well we rail against the wind but that we find ways to brace ourselves against its worst blowing and slip our way forward, if only on hands and knees.

Tailwinds are rare. When they exist, we need to be ready to take maximum advantage of the momentum they offer. Preparing ourselves for these rare opportunities is a life’s work. The sooner we escaping our headwinds brace to take the opportunity of a tailwind the more we achieve. Some never do. Take care that your stiff brace and determination to fight headwinds does not become a barrier to opportunity.

Invisible headwinds will always oppose our progress. The world may bend to wind but it doesn’t bend to our will. We can always find a way to edge forward, flex and adapt.

Wind sings in its whirling,
water murmurs going by,
unmoving stone keeps still.
Wind, water, stone.

Each is another and no other:
crossing and vanishing
through their empty names:
water, stone, wind.

Octavio Paz, Wind Water Stone

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