The Lighthouse

There’s a pretty funny joke I’ve heard a few variations of. Apologies if you’ve heard it before, but here it is:

This is the transcript of an actual radio conversation between a US naval ship and Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland.

US Ship: Please divert your course 0.5 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.

CND reply: Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.

US Ship: This is the Captain of a US Navy Ship. I say again, divert your course.

CND reply: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course!


CND reply: This is a lighthouse. Your call.

Hahaha! Yeah, it’s cheesy, but that joke makes me smile. I think it’s clever. I also think it’s wise.

In life, you’re the only battleship. Everyone else is a lighthouse. You can get all mad and blustery and indignant about other people not getting out of your way, but that’s just going to result in a lot of collisions.

Have you ever been walking towards a street you need to cross, and at the same time a car is headed down that street? You see each other, and there’s some awkward shuffling as each person tries to figure out who’s going and everyone gets slowed down as a result? I have a trick for that. When I see the car approaching, I turn and walk in a different direction. The driver will no longer see me as potentially crossing their path and they’ll just drive on by. I won’t get two steps out of my normal path before the car is passed and I can just cross the street, saving us both about 30 seconds. I don’t try to affect the other person’s behavior at all. They’re the lighthouse; I change course.

People almost never change their behavior without stimuli. So if you have a neighbor that does something that annoys you, it’s pretty silly of you to expect them to change. If they’ve let their dog bark at 11 PM every night for six years, they’re not going to suddenly now realize that it’s pretty rude of them to do so. You, only you, can create change. You can create change by going over and having a nice talk with your neighbor or you can create change by soundproofing your own house, but in either case you have to be the one to act.

The lighthouse isn’t going to move.

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