What We Can Learn From Christopher Columbus

Columbus day is one of my favorite holidays. I get the day off of work in honor of a sailor who didn’t even really discover America. I was sitting thinking about how fortunate I am to have the day off to go to the dentist when I realized how much we can learn from this great explorer. At 41 he led 3 ships; the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, crewed by teenagers, on a voyage to reach Asia by sailing West. We all know no he never made it to Asia on that voyage but we can learn from what he was able to accomplish.

Do More With Less

We as a society have become enamoured with big expensive things. I am no exception to this rule. I am sitting in my 3000 sq ft house, watching a 52″ TV, typing on my laptop. I do not need any one of those items to survive. I could live in a smaller house, use free computers at the library, and ditch TV all together. I enjoy my vices, and I enjoy these things. This is the biggest difference between people in the current day and age and people from Christopher Columbus’ time.

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1492 was a long time ago, there is no question things were a lot different then. I had the joy of actually boarding a replica of the Nina, Columbus’ favorite of his three ships the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. The first thing you notice when you approach one of these ships is the shear size, and it isn’t because of how big they are. The crews that crossed the ocean blue in 1492 were hardly living it up on their voyage. The boats were not big enough to have sleeping quarters and store food so the crews slept on the deck.

Columbus was able to take these three ships and his crew of 90 teenagers and do something some thought was impossible. He sailed into waters that were previously unknown and discovered “new” lands.  Similarly we as consumers can take this approach to do more with less. We don’t have to posses the latest and greatest to succeed where others have not. We can save by working with what we have and not constantly wanting more.

Persistence Pays Off

One of Columbus’ greatest traits was his persistence. When Columbus decided to make the voyage west to reach Asia he approached the King of Portugal to request three ships and money to make his voyage. He was shot down and he approached the kings of France and England to no avail. Finally he made his pitch to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. He was able to convince them the journey would benefit them greatly and he was granted three ships, a crew of 90, and money.

Columbus did not give up on his dream. Like Columbus we should take our dreams to the limit. Focus on what you hope to accomplish and don’t let setbacks get you down. If you have the next great business idea don’t give up because someone told you no, keep asking and be persistent until someone tells you yes. That persistence could allow you, like it did Columbus, to achieve something great.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 MLR October 12, 2009 at 4:29 pm

I hate Columbus Day. And the usage of words like “great” in relation to him.

For two reasons:

1) How did he “discover” the Americas? There were millions of people already living here in advanced civilizations. If we are celebrating the fact that he was the first European explorer to reach America, we are wrong on that account, too. Archaeological evidence shows that Norse explorers beat him by a few centuries.

2) He forced people to convert to Christianity at sword point. In four years, he killed 100,000 people. You could say his expedition was the catalyst of future colonialism.

I wouldn’t celebrate a single thing he did…

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2 Kyle October 12, 2009 at 7:24 pm

I don’t disagree with your statements, but you can’t fault the man for flying in the face of reason to prove a point.

There were certainly people here, and Leif Erikson is credited with actually making the first trip to to the Americas. Of course the Norse people weren’t known for their merciful nature either. Europeans have been making a habit of forcing their beliefs on others, Christian or not, for a long part of history.

Nothing has changed in the thousands of years either just the excuse for the intrusion, people now do it under the premise of democracy. I think Columbus achieved a lot, and after sitting on a replica of one of his ships, behind the wheel, I applaud his bravery regardless of what he did when got here.

Of course it helps I get the day off too.

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3 P October 13, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Columbus’s founding America led to abuse and killing of native americans and their land. And he was actually looking for India for its spices not USA. If you want to look at simplicity, look at the simplicity of native americans even now. (No, I am not native american but I do really think they are inspiration)

I am sorry, I do not find columbus inspiring.

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4 Kyle October 13, 2009 at 11:09 pm

Eveyone is quick to hate on CC, sure he was the first person to hop on over here and start abusing the natives. This isn’t a revelation limited to the New World. Had Columbus not wandered across the ocean another explorer would have and the outcome would have been the same.

I am not saying, nor did I say, anything about his abuse of natives to be inspirational. I spoke of his drive to succeed and the conditions he was under when he achieved them. You can’t tell me that is not an accomplishment.

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5 Steve October 13, 2009 at 11:30 pm

I’m with you, Kyle. Columbus was an explorer, and he can hardly be blamed for later abuses. That’s like blaming John Dalton for the nuclear bomb because he discovered the atom. Columbus’s achievements, both in getting the voyage funded and in actually completing the trip to the Americas, was impressive. There’s no need to blame later atrocities on him. His intent was clearly to prove that there was a trade route to the west to India – no more, no less. He wasn’t setting out to destroy the Native Americans (and let’s not overplay their simplicity; many of them were just as warlike as their European counterparts).

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6 MLR October 14, 2009 at 4:58 am

Steve —

I (can’t speak for the other commenter) am blaming the actual atrocities that CC committed on him. The later ones that happened may have been influenced by him, but are not directly his fault.

He financed his voyage with debt. Part of the stipulation was that he would have to pay back his loan using profits gathered along the way. Because of the debt he frantically jumped island to island, plundering along the way.

He started what would later become the Atlantic Slave Trade within a year of landing on Hispaniola. However, he ran into a problem. He couldn’t fit every native on a ship. So, with his determination and ingenuity, he instead put them to work on plantations.

His “posse” beat, raped, tortured, and killed natives. The bodies were then used as dog food. They wound hang natives 13 at a time (the 12 apostles and Jesus Christ), wrap straw around their bodies, and burn them alive. They took babies and smashed them against rocks.

Estimated population when he arrived: 3,000,000 (via Bartolome de Las Casas. 20th century historians have estimated as high as 8,500,000)
Estimated population when CC left: 100,000
Estimated population in 1550: 0

Once they had whittled the population to 0, they turned to other places for slaves. As we know, Africa was next.

Using your Dalton example, this would be akin to Dalton using test nuclear bombs on third world countries. After killing a few hundred thousand people he would come back to the USA with a perfected technology and we would honor him with a “John Dalton Day.”

The only other Federal holiday that celebrates someone on the basis of name is Martin Luther King Jr Day. Kind of disturbing that a man who virtually started the Atlantic Slave Trade and started a wave of genocide is celebrated just the same as a civil rights leader.

For the record, I am not attacking either of you. I am attacking the revisionist history that our schools teach.

Example: I walk into your house and see your brand new plasma TV. In order to steal it I have to beat you up, kick your dog, and stomp on your child’s teddy. By all accounts, I am a bad man. If you apply a revisionist history to this story: I was wandering around and discovered a brand new plasma TV in the vicinity of other people. Being the most worthy, I claimed it first.

Sorry for the graphic nature of some of the points. I think they will drive the point home a little better to anyone who thinks CC was just an average explorer.

Would you feel the same way if Germany had a “Heinrich Himmler” or “Adolf Hitler” day and gospelized the merits of the holiday to school children using revisionist history and cute cartoons?

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7 Steve October 14, 2009 at 6:20 am

Ah well, I won’t debate any of these points because you’re right – I wasn’t aware of most of that history and have no way of refuting it (and frankly, it’s hijacking the intention of the post). I have no dog in the fight.

Too bad that much of that story isn’t taught, then. And as far as Adolf Hitler Day goes, if Germany had won WWII you bet they’d have one. If the South had won the Civil War I doubt we’d remember Lincoln’s birthday. History is always written by the victors, which is a morally neutral idea – simply human nature.

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8 FFB October 22, 2009 at 7:59 pm

People’s History of the United States. Lots of incredible information in there. You’d be surprised about some of our president’s actions. I believe it was Jackson (?) that also contributed to the demise of the Native American.

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9 Kyle October 22, 2009 at 10:28 pm

We could say the same about any society, culture or people. The Indians had no qualms about wiping out the other natives as the English had no problem with the crusades, etc. etc. If you dig deep enough into the history of any society you are going to find atrocities that were carried out as part of the “greater good” call it population control, call it pure evil, or call it stupidity. No culture is immune and not surprisingly it is usually driven by greed. Greed to be the greatest, have the most land, have the most money, or the best religion. None of it matters to the people who lost their lives for no reason.

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10 kathleen November 22, 2009 at 11:21 am

does anyone know the name of christopher columbus’s dog???

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11 Aishah Bowron January 12, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Christopher Columbus is a serial killer
By : Aishah Bowron

I don’t like Christopher Columbus because he is a serial killer. He is the Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy of the 1400s. He enslaved, killed and butchered millions of Indians in the New World. I read about other serial killers before, but nothing worse than this guy. This Christopher Columbus guy is so evil and so pig-brain that all he cared about is gold and land. Yes , he stole the lands from the Indians, took their properties from them and sold them into slavery. He is also a damn blasted liar as Burning Spear would say. He and his merry men would torture the poor Indians, and after the Indians died. They (Indians) were fed to the animals. Christopher Columbus is certainly reincarnated from a pig, because he is so greedy. Also Lord Columbus hanged the twelve Indians over the fire and tied another twelve to then stake in front of as huge bonfire. Lord Columbus is possessed by the Devil and he worked for the Devil and he talked to the Devil. Also Columbus cut the hands and feet of the nIndians until their feet bled.

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12 Kyle January 12, 2010 at 1:35 pm

While I don’t condone the actions of Christopher Columbus or his crew he was acting in the interest of self preservation. He was supposed to find a trade route to India and he didn’t so he had to return with something and that meant gold and slaves. I am not a historian so I can’t pretend to know all of the facts but I am sure that we can make the same statements about all of the early explorers to the Americas. Hell even after America was well settled we still stole land from the Indians and participated in slavery. It is an unfortunate part of the past that may not have looked quite so atrocious to those people living in Europe at the time.

It is clear that time has a way of fashioning history to be something not necessarily untruthful but much more glamorous than the reality.

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13 megan April 12, 2012 at 8:24 pm

i love leaning about cstoumbus

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