Last week, one of my favorite movies of all time, Finding Nemo, celebrated its 15th anniversary. I've loved Finding Nemo since I first saw it on the big screen back in 2003 in the weeks leading up to my wedding. One reason it continues to be a perennial favorite of mine is because it features a full cast of underdogs and, if you know me in the very least, you know how much I love underdogs.
I'm not alone in my love for Finding Nemo. I currently have students who speak about watching Finding Nemo all the time. None of them were even born when the movie was released. In addition to being visually stunning, entertaining, and hilariously funny, the movie touches on many life lessons that I think resonate with people the world over. Finding Nemo is a timeless classic that will always be relevant.
Having said that, here are 9 life lessons Finding Nemo taught us:
Bad Stuff Happens
Right off the bat, within the first few minutes of the movie, Nemo's mother, Coral, is killed. The first time I saw the movie, I had Bambi flashbacks and thought in disgust, "Way to go, Disney, way to set the tone of a movie!" But, I later realized that, despite the sadness of the situation, it's a good life lesson for everyone because bad things can and often do happen. No one is immune - not me, not you, not even preciously cute Disney animations.
Sheltering Kids Can Backfire
Marlin, for good reason, is an overprotective, helicopter parent. His intentions are good, for they are driven out of genuine love for his son and his desire to keep him safe. But, his overzealous overprotective nature is a driving force that contributes to Nemo being in the situation that separates them.
Peer Pressure Can Get You in Trouble
Oh, the butt... The young sea creatures just have to see who is brave enough to touch that butt. If all your friends swam out beyond the drop-off to touch a butt, would you swim out there, too? This is the other contributing force that gets Nemo in trouble. It's hard to resist pressure from friends, but it's important to remember that your friends may be wrong and may not have your best interests at heart.
You're Never Too Old to Be Young at Heart
One of my favorite characters in the movie is Crush, the 150-year old sea turtle with a laid back, surfer-dude attitude. Crush shows us that age is just a number and that our spirit and personality do not have to be defined by that number. We can live and act as young as we feel and want.
Life Happens Beyond Our Comfort Zone
At the beginning of the movie, Marlin is a scared, overprotective
guy fish. He's scared, overly cautious, and is living a safe life that is, let's admit it, boring. Some of the most rewarding, fulfilling, and beautiful experiences in life are the ones that require letting go, leaps of faith, the testing of wings, etc. - all the things that lie outside of one's comfort zone.
Teamwork is Key
Without Dory's help, Marlin wouldn't get very far in his quest to get his son back. Without the collaboration of his tank-mates, Nemo wouldn't escape the dentist's office and would become Darla's latest victim. Teamwork is often more effective than going it alone.
Karma is a Bitch
The negative energy you emit out into the universe will find it's way back to you, just as it did to Darla.
Focus on the ABILITY Not the Disability
Dory may not be able to retain much due to her short term memory problem, but there are so many other things that she can do - she can read for goodness sake! Nemo may have a gimpy fin, but he can still swim. (He may need some encouragement from Gil to believe that he can do more than he thinks he can, but that's ok - we all need some cheering on from time to time.) All too often, it's easier to focus on what people can't do than rather what they can do, which is a disservice to everyone.
Just Keep Swimming
I'm sure that this is probably the most obvious lesson learned in Finding Nemo, but I do feel it is the most important and that's why I saved it for last.
Dory's simple three word mantra reminds everyone to hang in there, to keep pushing, to keep trying, to not give up, to fight. As I've gotten older, I've witnessed how important perseverance is in all aspects of life - be it with work, school, relationships, or personal quests.
It reminds me of two other quotes that I hold near and dear to my heart that stress the importance of not quitting:
"It doesn't matter how slow you go as long as you do not stop." - Confucius
"Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place, and I don't care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!" - Rocky Balboa
Bottom line - life can be tough, life can be challenging, but if you want to make it through the tough spots and the trials, you cannot quit.
What are your thoughts? Any that I missed? Feel free to share.
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