When do you say that a situation is really hopeless?
Two weeks ago, I bought a VCD of the movie Seabiscuit. I was looking forward to good entertainment, what I got was a lesson about life that I wish to share with you tonight.
Some of you are probably familiar with the story. If you say that it’s all about a horse, you’re mistaken. It was a true to life story of a homeless jockey, a millionaire, a washed up cowboy and a horse named Seabiscuit. Four unlikely heroes who found hope in each other and went to inspire a whole generation during the great depression. Let me tell you a bit more about them.
First is the jockey Red Pollard. Born in a wealthy family, Red was not prepared to live a difficult life during the depression. His parents lost all their wealth and practically sold him to a stable owner in order for all of them to survive. He earned his living riding race horses and fighting as a boxer. The problem was, he was too big and heavy as a jockey that he had to skip meals to keep his weight… and too small and ill-fed to win a decent boxing fight. He hardly succeeded in anything that he went into. He even lost sight in one eye due to a heavy punch. Later on, he broke his leg in a freak accident that doctors told him he will never ride again. What a loser!!! But this boy had the heart of a lion and a mind full of imagination. He wouldn’t give up even when the odds are incredibly bad. He rode Seabiscuit to a number of victories and towards history. The ultimate underdog champions
Now the cowboy, Tom Smith. He was like the last samurai of the west, fighting to keep a way of life that slowly gave way to progress. He lived in an era when “cowboyhood” lost its macho appeal and creatures like him became rare, uninteresting species. Not much was told about him except that he knew more about horses than horses knew about themselves. And one more thing, he was an exceptional teacher/trainer who saw beyond one’s limitations. He had an eye for talent no matter how deep it was buried.
The Millionaire was Charles Howard. Before the depression, he had the franchise of Buick for half the US. He was not a millionaire for no reason. Somehow there was a similarity between him and the cowboy Tom Smith. He knew where to place his bet; He placed a huge amount on Tom, Red and Seabiscuit. He lost some in the process but won big towards the end.
Now Seabiscuit, Seabiscuit was also called the long shot. You know why? He was small, hot headed, lazy, bitter and beat-up. Every trainer who handled him described him as incorrigible and gave up on him. How could a horse so out of his league become the champion of all champion horses? I’ll tell you why and this is the whole message of the story. Tom Smith played by the award winning actor Chris Cooper put it very succinctly in one scene and repeated a good number of times through out the movie. He said and please remember;
“You don’t throw a whole life away just because it’s banged up a little”.
You don’t throw a whole life away just because it’s banged up a little… There’s a familiar ring to it isn’t it?
If you look at the story closely and I encourage you to do so, like Red Pollard, the one-eyed jockey, how many times have we turned our backs on an intimidating challenge because we are afraid we don’t have what it takes? As teachers/leaders or managers like the cowboy Tom Smith, how many times have we been tempted to judge people under our charge that they don’t cut it? As investors, how do we deal with the prospects of losing over winning? And as an individual, how do we deal with people who refuse to bet on us because they just don’t see what we got? There is one common denominator in our four heroes, they refuse to look at what is seen, they went for what is felt, a desire to win, to believe, to fight a good fight…
Friends, I encourage you. Like Red Pollard, let’s look inside us and strengthen the desire to overcome our physical and mental limitations. I have a staff member who chose to take up a major in Math because she was bad with numbers. How about you, what can you do? Like the Horseman Tom Smith, look at the people who depend on us for guidance, they could be our children, our students or our employees. See beyond their inadequacies, and find out what’s in their heart. Let’s not think that they are too slow, too dense or too lazy to achieve something great. Do not dwell on what they failed to accomplish, rather, discover what they are capable of. Just look at Seabiscuit. Let’s invest on them like Charles Howard did and like Seabiscuit, let’s show the world that beneath these weak looking facades are great people capable of even greater feats.
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