I’ve been thinking about something I encountered a couple of Saturday mornings ago before a recent speaking gig in San Diego. I didn’t speak until after lunch, so I had the opportunity to take a self-guided tour of the aircraft carrier USS Midway. If you have the opportunity invest a couple of hours and take the tour.
What’s been rattling around my mind this last week is a little factoid I learned during the final part of the tour, explaining the refueling-at-sea process necessary to keep carriers battle-ready. In fact, one of the reasons the USS Midway had been mothballed and turned into a museum was because it was the last of two aircraft carriers known as “oil burners.” (The remaining diesel carrier, the USS Kitty Hawk is to be retired next year.)
Refueling at sea is done by “oilers” who pull along side and match the carrier’s speed. Lines are shot between each vessel that are used to support the 3” fuel line. It’s a rather serious maneuver, especially in the middle of battle operations!
The factoid that sticks in my mind? That they refill aircraft carrier fuel tanks when the gauge shows the tanks are 60% full. Interesting figure. Apparently, when you’re on the front lines you don’t let the fuel gauge get anywhere near empty!
It got me thinking. Would someone interested in wellness care allow his or her car’s fuel gauge to hit the “E” before filling up? In fact, I can imagine that those who take care of their health and have a wellness orientation fill up their gas tank long before those who take a more symptomatic approach to their health (and car maintenance).
It’s called “margin.” Do you have a fresh printer cartridge in the cupboard ready to go? Or do you go to the office supply store only when the copies get faint and hard to read? Do you have a stash of fresh batteries in a drawer? Or do you make a special trip to the store when your flashlight dies? Is your barbeque ready for grilling, or would you have to clean it first? Are you putting something into savings each month? Having plenty of margin (preparedness) in our lives contributes to a sense of ease and assurance, offering a source of psychological well-being.
Margin gives us choices. It allows us to be proactive rather than reactive. At the center of this is the tension between living in the now, yet making wise preparations for the future. Good fortune favors those who are prepared and capable of acting on opportunities, and not worried about running out of fuel.