How to start the new year with the right attitude

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Furling the jib

During the Christmas break, I watched a great movie called “All Is Lost”. Now bear with me, I know the title sounds ominous to say the least, and yes, it was a disaster movie but there were many morals I’d like to share.

The story is about a man played by Robert Redford who is at sea on his sailboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. One afternoon, he is blissfully relaxing down below deck reading a book when all of a sudden, wallop! His boat crashes into a shipping container that’s floating and adrift. This rips a hole into the side of his boat the size of a microwave oven. This happens in the first few minutes of the movie and from this point on, the character is in full on crisis management mode.

I’d love to say that he made all the right decisions at the right time, but that simply isn’t true. What I can say is that he never stopped “making decisions”.  For better or worse, he kept moving forward. Paralysis or over analysing was not an option, there simply was no time for any of that. As soon as he was presented with a problem or challenge, he’d look at the situation and think of a couple of solutions, then spring into action and do them. Sooner rather than later, he’d have another problem to solve and the process would repeat over and over again. This went on for a total of eight days during which time, he had to solve a myriad of problems ranging from:

  • His boat sinking
  • Running out of food
  • Running out of water
  • Being thrown overboard
  • His radio stopped working

and the list went on and on and on.

What I like best about the character, I can’t remember his name, so we’ll call him John for argument’s sake, is that throughout the entire movie, John faces life-and-death situations constantly, yet he rarely lost his temper, got flustered and never panicked. This guy was a legend! He hardly even says two words throughout the whole movie. What made John’s character more believable, was that he was an elderly gentleman. Full of life experience and wisdom.

Whenever presented with a new challenge, he simply stares intensely at the problem, thinks about it for about 10 seconds, then sets about fixing it(or tries to fix it!) as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Whilst he is staring at the problem, you can almost see the gears ticking over in his mind. He is working through the different scenarios and solutions, weighing up the pros and cons etc.

I remember thinking, Wow! That is exactly the kind of temperament you need in a crisis situation, on a boat, with no help in the middle of the ocean. And then I thought, do you really need to be in a crisis situation to benefit from this kind of temperament, calm and control? Of course not! As far as John was concerned, it made no difference whether he screamed, shouted or made a noise of any sort or even bitched and moaned about it. There was no one around him to hear him, console him or comfort him. He never seemed to feel sorry for himself, bury his head in his hands, feel shame and say “how did I get here, or what have I done to deserve this?”.

Stories like this really help to put things in perspective. We all have problems, no doubt about it. Sometimes we feel lost at sea, but I suspect many of our problems and daily dramas pale into insignificance compared to John’s. So how about a little more resilience and perspective for 2016 everybody?  What do you say? Why don’t we all learn something from this characters ability to “roll with the punches” and keep his chin up. Have an excellent 2016!


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