Inspiring lessons from Christopher Columbus

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Christopher Columbus was a self-educated man who read extensively on astronomy, science and navigation. He also became fluent in Latin, Portuguese and Spanish.

Lesson 1

The importance of self-education:  There are many who depend on conventional schools for an education. While this is fine, such schools usually nurture students based on subject-specific syllabus and may not cater to the interest of students. Compounding the problem is the fact that all of us are unique and thus, it’s best that we pursue our own interests, especially in higher levels of learning. While universities offer different degrees in their various faculties, they cannot be as diverse as the interests of mankind.

An interesting aspect here is that Christopher Columbus self-educated himself in areas of his interest, such as astronomy, science and navigation. This is probably what caused his eventual breakthrough in his exploration of the world. Along the same vein, we must also educate ourselves in areas of our interest as playing to our passion and interests may well be the only way that we can excel. If traditional education doesn’t permit it, then we should educate ourselves outside schools at our own time and effort. The achievement we attain through pursuing our passions will be well worth the effort.  

Columbus estimated that the circumference of the earth is smaller than its actual size and set about his goal to sail the journey to prove it. His efforts to finance the journey failed to materialize numerous times, where he was rejected by leaders in Genoa, Venice and the English King.

It was only through perseverance that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella approved his expedition, with fundings from the Italian bankers.  It was then that Columbus opened the way to European trading and colonization. His multiple voyages to the Indies pave the way to a vast Spanish colonial empire.

Lesson 2

Perseverance in one’s vision: Christopher Columbus’s tenacity to get what he wanted until he attained it was admirable. His courage to explore and his foresight to travel west all contributed to his massive success as both a traveller and explorer of new lands.

While we may not be as adventurous as Columbus, we can draw a lesson or two from his perseverance to realize his vision. In order to realise our life goals, we need to do what it takes to achieve it, even in the face of repeated failures. Failures are what we steer away from, but it’s failures that will ultimately lead us to success. Such an irony!

On the other side of the spectrum, Columbus has displaced numerous indigenous people, with many losing their lives and culture through an influx of foreigners, and with many falling to diseases introduced by these foreign hosts, which the natives had no immunity to.

Lesson 3

Multiculturalism: In the age of globalization, cross-border travels and migration are common. Such travels facilitate an exchange of cultures and enable us to be more open to differences and diverse cultures. It is an important lesson that we learn.

However, measures have to be taken to ensure that such travels are smooth and amicable, such that harmonious relationships can develop between all parties. With advances in medical technology and transportation, travelling and migration have been made easier. Now it is up to us to develop compassion and understanding on our part to increase our receptivity to differences between cultures and people.

Lesson 4

Development of compassion: There are many who commented online that Columbus – in his exploratory efforts – had displaced many indigenous people and caused many of their deaths through diseases. Slavery is also a commonly discussed issue.

Through both the experiences of Columbus and the indigenous people who were displaced and died, it makes us think about the price of exploration and expedition in those days. Fortunately, in our current times, slavery is already abolished and a higher degree of humane consciousness has already developed in our psyche. Through this spiritual awakening, we have already begun to develop our compassion for ourselves and others as we go about our daily dealings. Let us continue to develop compassion at a deeper level, both for ourselves and for others.

Christopher Columbus was credited with proving the world wrong by affirming his stand that that the earth is round and not flat. Now, this myth has been debunked as we now know that the fact that the earth is round is not revolutionary as many people knew about this in Columbus’s time. It was the size, shape and how much is covered by the ocean that Christopher Columbus made the biggest breakthrough, the most well-known being the declaration that earth is pear-shaped.

Lesson 5

Dare to think different: Yes, Columbus wasn’t the first to think that the earth is round, not flat. But we cannot deny him the fact that he does think of other things that are revolutionary, with the courage to act on them.

Most of us feel a social obligation to conform, especially within the Asian context. While collectivism is beneficial as it encourages collaboration over competition, doing so carries with it its own set of issues, the more serious being falling into the potholes of groupthink, where creative ideas are seldom realised. Daring to think differently is not the same as trying to stand out among our peers. It’s about finding innovative ways to discover new things or solve problems. And there is nothing wrong with that ,if such ideas are beneficial to communities and societies.


Biography Online. (n.d.). Christopher Columbus Biography. Retrieved from:

Lane, K. (2015). Five myths about Christopher Columbus. Retrieved from:

NHD 100 Leaders in History. (n.d.). Facts about Christopher Columbus. Retrieved from:

Psychologytoday. (n.d.). Groupthink. Retrieved from:

Wright, M.A. (2015). Christopher Columbus and the New World. Retrieved from:


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