Have you ever watched a tugboat in action? It’s truly a remarkable vessel.
The purpose of the tugboat is to help larger sea vehicles maneuver out of port or safely connect back to a pier when trying to dock.
You’ll see a huge cruise ship or cargo ship coming into port with a tugboat attached to both corners — connected at both ends with an iron chain as thick as a car tire.
As the ship gets closer and closer to shore the tugboats pull on either end to make sure that the larger vessel is perfectly aligned with the pier and doesn’t smash wildly into shore.
The tugboat is also used to pull damaged boats back to safety or haul trash in large oversized barges out to the middle of the ocean where it will be dumped.
The tugboat is small and powerful, with an engine built to maximize torque over raw speed.
But the dirty little secret of the tugboat is that it breaks down more than any other vehicle doing business on the water.
Every few months, the tugboat makes its way into the dry docks where its engine will be ripped apart and put back together by talented mechanics who know exactly what to do to make it all work again.
The tug boat might be the strongest of all the boats — especially given its ridiculously important job — but it also breaks down the most.
It gets beaten up the most. And it needs the most attention to its inner workings.
That’s because the tugboat is always doing something for someone else.
It’s not racing fast or exploring elegantly. It’s never shined up or painted beautifully. It’s always saving someone else. Always.
And that job requires a lot of upkeep.
Unless the engine gets rebuilt, it can no longer do its job.
But the tugboat isn’t the only monument on the ocean saving lives and doing hard work.
Along the shore of the world’s most dangerous locations stand tall statues of hope. These locations have a single purpose — to shine brightness on a situation that would otherwise hurt sailors and destroy their boats.
We call these monuments by a different name. You’ve seen one before. It’s called a lighthouse.
And if you’ve seen one recently or remember the last one you visited, you will note that it looked quite old.
It wasn’t built yesterday or last year or most probably in your lifetime. It’s likely that the lighthouse you’re thinking of right now is more than 100 years old. Still standing in the same spot.
Still doing the same thing it was built to do.
Not rebuilt. Not reworked. Still standing strong.
The lighthouse and the tugboat do the same thing. They save lives. But the tugboat needs to be repaired. And the lighthouse just stands strong.
And that singular comparison is a powerful bit of wisdom for all of us.
If you insist on dropping everything and jumping into your tugboat every time someone you love or care about needs help, you’re going to wear out quickly.
You’re going to need to be rebuilt.
And sometimes that’s necessary. Sometimes you do need to do something extraordinary to help others.
But you should be aware that your effort will come at an extraordinary cost to you. You can’t pretend to do it every day. Or build a plan expecting it to work out for you.
Like the tug boat you will break down. You will break into pieces. You will need to be put back together.
The lighthouse has but one job — to shine bright.
To illuminate the shore. To provide a warning to all that sail close by that danger is near.
The lighthouse doesn’t move.
It’s not even responsible for the people who crash onto the shore. The lighthouse did its job. It’s there to shine. To boldly show the way.
That’s your job as well. To shine bright. To stand tall. To be the ones others look to for help getting to where they want to be.
Spend less time pulling others to where they should be and more time shining a light on where they could be.
You’ll need less repair. And those you help will be all the more empowered to shine a light of their own.