Soul Surfer and Career Success

I saw Soul Surfer over the weekend.  Not a great movie, but an inspirational story.  It’s the story of Bethany Hamilton a professional surfer who lost her left arm in a shark attack when she was 13 years old.  There is some great career success advice in her story.

On October 31, 2003, Bethany went surfing with her friend and friend’s father. She was lying sideways on her surfboard with her left arm dangling in the water watching some sea turtles.  A 13 foot tiger shark attacked her, biting off her left arm just below the shoulder.  Her companions got her to shore, put a tourniquet on her wound and got her to the hospital.  She lost almost 60% of her blood, but recovered.

Bethany was determined to return to surfing. Less than a month after the incident, she went surfing again.  It was rough at first.  It was hard for her to paddle with one arm.  Also, her balance was affected.  But she taught herself to surf with one arm and returned to competitive surfing.

Bethany Hamilton is now a professional surfer – and she’s pretty good.  AnnaSophia Robb portrayed her in Soul Surfer.  Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, and Carrie Underwood are also in the cast.

As I was writing this post, I got to thinking about a similar story.  Anthony Robles won the NCAA 125 pound wrestling title in March.  He was 36 – 0 this season.  He was an All American three years running.  He has only one leg.  He was born without his right leg.  However he has a burning desire to succeed…

“I took sixth in high school state, and a good friend of mine was the state champion that year.  I wanted to be a state champion just like him.  And once I won that, it was like I want to be the best in the nation.”

While there is a lot of career success advice in Bethany and Anthony’s stories, there are two pieces that stand out for me.  First, both Bethany and Anthony had a very clear picture of their purpose in life – surfing for Bethany, wrestling for Anthony.  Second, both Bethany and Anthony didn’t let major setbacks stop them from pursuing – and accomplishing – their dreams.

Tweet 5 in my career success book Success Tweets says, “You vision should be a BHAG; a Big Hairy, Audacious Goal.  Make it something worth accomplishing.”  Bethany’s BHAG was becoming a pro surfer after a terrible accident.  Anthony’s BHAG was becoming a national champion wrestler. Both of them succeeded.

Tweet 21 in Success Tweets says, “You’re in charge! Commit to taking personal responsibility for creating the life and career success you want and deserve.”  Tweet 32 says, “Stuff happens as you go about creating your life and career success.  Choose to respond positively to the negative stuff.” 

Losing an arm to a shark and being born with one leg certainly fall into the “negative stuff” category for me.  Both Bethany and Anthony committed to taking personal responsibility for their success – and they responded positively to some pretty traumatic terrible stuff.

The common sense career success coach point here is simple.  Just like Bethany Hamilton and Anthony Robles, you are capable of great things – if you know what you want out of your life and career, and are willing to commit to taking personal responsibility for getting it.  What do you want from your career?  How do you define career success?  What are you willing to do to get it?  How will you react to the setbacks that will inevitably come your way?

That’s the career advice I take from Bethany Hamilton and Anthony Robles’ inspiring stories.  What do you think?  Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment.  As always thanks for reading these daily musings on life and career success.  I value you, and I appreciate you.


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