The other day I watched Cast Away, at about 6 a.m. as my daughter was finishing her morning milk. One of the lines in the film really hit me – Tom Hanks’s character, Chuck Noland, has finally made it off the deserted island on which he’s spent most of the film, only to find that his wife has given him up for dead and remarried. Instead of letting this crush him, he draws on the fortitude and optimism that kept him alive on the island for four years:
“…I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?”
It got me thinking about how I would survive in his situation: would I give up and rot, or try to be clever? I just don’t know what it must be like to mentally surrender. Physically, I know I’ve been there – during a recent marathon run I thought it was going to happen. My body just told me “No,” and I was feeling almost paralyzed. But I finished.
But in other respects, that quote makes a lot of sense to me, especially in the business world. Often I find myself struggling with tough choices, and I feel like I must make decisions without the perfect conditions I’d prefer (lack of time, resources, budget, etc.). I find myself shaking from anxiety on most Sunday nights.
But then the tide invariably brings something to me. Sometimes it carries along something positive; other times it’s just an added complication. But I keep breathing, keep moving, and keep fighting. And every now and then, something amazing washes in on the tide.
In Cast Away, Chuck salvages some plastic from the ocean and fashions it into a sail. Plenty of times I’ve had tools land on my shore, disguised as junk or something ordinary (a boring meeting, passing conversation, a fleeting thought), that ended up changing my life.
Even as I’m writing this, I keep thinking on that quote – it’s not enough that we keep moving, but we also need to retain that hope. It’s vital to hold fast to the desire to make something happen, and then use anything and everything that comes our way. Let’s face it – we’ll never get what we want served up to us on a silver platter. Chuck didn’t stumble on a fully functioning radio transmitter. He got a hunk of dirty plastic. But he kept working, and gave himself the best opportunity for success.