In his book ISLAND WORLD:  A History of Hawaii and the United States, Gary Y. Okihiro talked to master navigator Mau Piailug, the man who taught the Hawaiians how to navigate the Hokule’a, the Hawaiian sailing canoe in the manner of their ancestors.

Piailug talked about having a star compass in his head with Polaris pointing north and the Southern Cross south.  The navigator paid attention to the rising of certain stars (which indicated east) and others setting (which showed west).  Locating the canoe’s position on the open sea depended on his estimates of the canoe’s speed and direction.

The interesting thing was that Piailug plotted his progress in relation to a “reference island” which sat well out of sight over the horizon and to familiar stars whose rising and setting indicated direction.

The navigator’s goal was to keep his canoe stationary as the imaginary island moved from the bearing of one horizon star to another until the island had moved past all the horizon stars.  Once the island had passed all of those stars, the journey was completed.

“Polaris” by Susan Jensen via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
The navigator’s mental plotting system let him break the voyage into manageable segments which were marked by the movement of the imaginary island from one horizon star to the next.  This let him calculate his position.

In Piailug’s world,” Okihiro says, “islands move and canoes reach their destinations by holding steady.

For me, that sounds like the most beautiful metaphor for how to move towards a goal that I’ve ever run across.  You aim yourself, knowing that the goal is already out there, already moving towards you.  All you have to do is make sure you’re positioned just right, in its path.  It’ll come if you can hold steady, without manipulations and extraneous movements that take you out of its path.

I’ve always had problems when I chase after a “goal” or desired outcome I’ve set.  It’s like chasing butterflies if you do it the way everybody expert keeps telling you.  You zig, you zag, you run yourself ragged, and the durned thing flitters all over the landscape, making no sense whatsoever.

Ho’okele mindset, the mindset of the navigator, feels better to me.  You just sit in your canoe and hold ‘er steady, doing all the stuff you need to do to keep yourself right-side-up and moving into the right position for the goal to intersect with your path.

Here’s another poem…one made when I was thinking on these things:


Here’s the thing:

I start from trust.



I trust I will be able to

Deal with whatever comes at me.

(Either that or I shall be overwhelmed

And then I’ll die gracefully.)

I trust that even if I lose my way

I will keep walking – one-step, one-step, one-step –

Until I recognize some landmark, some attracting sign

That draws my compassed heart

Back to my own True North.



I know the Creative dwells in me.

It whispers even when I am not listening.



I know they have a hard time understanding why

I dance and twirl around so much.

I know my dance makes it really hard for them

To cover my back.

They try anyway.



I trust in its abundance, and

I know that I am punahele

One of the favored children –

I know that dancing in its abundance

Is my birthright.



I trust that it moves as it moves,

Following immutable, inexorable laws of give-and-take,

Turning and turning, moving and flowing,


If I can follow the lines of energy,

If I am strong enough to jump into

The raging rapids of the Tao’s flowing,

If I am skilled enough to negotiate

All of the ups and the downs,

Then I’ll climb out onto the bank on the other side

And I can go wandering off to see what is there.

How fun is that?


Most of all,


And I really feel it takes joy in my playing.

And isn’t that a very good thing?

By Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  by HongKongHuey via Flickr and Wikimedia Commons [CC BY 2.0]

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10 thoughts on “NAVIGATOR MINDSET

  1. I like the navigator mindset – keep still and what is for you will come to you, as long as you’re pointed in the right direction of course 🙂 I like your poem too. I particularly like the part
    “I trust the people who love me,
    I know they have a hard time understanding why
    I dance and twirl around so much.
    I know my dance makes it really hard for them
    To cover my back.
    They try anyway.”
    That’s really beautiful. What a soothing post thank you 🙂

    1. Thanks, Jyl….

      — Netta

  2. Lauren Kinghorn says:

    Oh Netta, your poetry is just soooo beautiful. I love this story, and it made me heave a huge sigh of relief. It doesn’t have to be so hard. I can R E L A X, open, let it come to me. Aaaaah… My favourite line today was: “You zig, you zag, you run yourself ragged… how true! Aren’t we all just doing that each and every day? Thank you for reminding us to take a step back, or rather, take no steps at all, to just move into position to receive.

    1. Thank you Lauren. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and that it had some value for you. Please visit again!



  3. Indeed a beautiful metaphor about just keeping steady as you move forward. Really beautiful poem at the end of the article as well. A very good reminder about trust and keep trusting in ourself and life as we take one step at the time. And that life is not just about the destination but also about enjoying the process/the journey. Thanks for sharing this poem and your thoughts.

    1. Hey Mikael…

      Thank you for your visit and comments. Please do come again….

  4. Interesting post especially the navigator mindset: islands move and canoes reach their destinations by holding steady. Certainly interesting to ponder further as it’s quite a unique perspective in the world that we live in. Thanks so much for sharing. Random note- this post made me think of Moana, have you watched it?

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, Cyndy.  

      I’ve gotten dragged to that movie by short persons several times.  My granddaughter (who is going on 16) fell in love with the character and wanders around cosplay gatherings as a Moana-clone.  (She spent a heck of a bunch of time experimenting and trying to figure out how to make a talisman for her character.) . It all makes me smile.

      Please do come again

  5. This is a very motivating post. I definitely agree that we should move towards our goals by holding steady. Recently, I have been super focused on being consistent. If we can keep our productivity rates steady and consistent, we will continuously produce more in the long term. Thank you for the amazing poem!

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, Kevin.  I do like your emphasis on consistency.  I agree that it is a big help in keeping your momentum going.

      Please do come again.

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