How'd She Get To Be So Smart!

by DavalosMcCormack on July 1, 2010

Sometimes people just seem to be born wise beyond their years, old souls in a young body. That’s certainly the case with Abby Sunderland.

Abby Sunderland on board her boat

Abby Sunderland, sailor and all-around wise woman

You may have heard about her or read about her. Abby is the 16 year old Southern California gal who was trying to sail solo around the world when her boat was hit by a rogue wave and overturned in the middle of the Indian Ocean. There she was, thousands of miles from land or help, on her own. 16 years old. Scary stuff by any standard. But in an interview this is how Abby talked about coping with the emergency.

“You get scared and then you have to get over it because being scared, it doesn’t do anything good. It just makes you hesitate and makes more problems start coming.”

Calm mind in a stormy sea

How extraordinary. To hear someone that young have that much wisdom, something most of us have to spend many more years trying to gain, if we ever do.

But it’s true isn’t it. Getting scared doesn’t do anything. Getting panicked doesn’t help. Stressing out won’t make things any easier. Of course it’s one thing to say that and another thing to believe it and act on it. In Abby’s case it sounds as though she not only believed it but lived it. When her boat was in trouble she didn’t panic, she did what she had prepared for in case of such a moment, she set off her emergency beacon and then sat down and waited. The next day a plane, searching for her, flew overhead. Two days later a fishing boat arrived to rescue her.

Two days. Sitting. Waiting. Bobbing up and down on the ocean, thousands of miles from home or help. Not knowing for sure if anyone is coming to rescue you. Not knowing if you will ever see your family again. Yet Abby remained calm, knowing that the alternative wasn’t going to do her any good.

Life is an adventure

Now that she is back home, safe, does she think that it was ridiculous and silly for a teenager who doesn’t even have a driver’s license to try and sail around the world on her own? Not a bit of it. This is what she had to say about the risk. “I’m living proof that things don’t always work out the way you plan, but you can only plan so far in an adventure. You can reduce risk but you can never completely eliminate it.”

What an amazing gal. And she’s almost right. You can reduce risk by never trying anything, never stepping out of your comfort zone, never trying something that sounds fun but is a little out of the ordinary. That could be something as silly as a one-off bungee jump off a bridge, or something far more demanding like giving up a safe but boring job to do something you are passionate about.

If life is going to be an adventure – and why would you want it to be anything else – then you have to accept that there is risk involved. You have to accept that things won’t always go according to plan, that events may well take a course that is different than you expected or wanted. But that makes the end result all the more fun when you get there. It’s the uncertainty, the challenge, the overcoming of problems and the realization that the journey is the real fun. Everything else is details.

Don’t panic

And along the way you will run into challenges. So when you do, just think of Abby, out there in the Indian Ocean, all alone, saying “You get scared and then you have to get over it because being scared, it doesn’t do anything good.”

We all get scared from time to time. It is how we handle those fears that ultimately shape how we live our life. I don’t know about you, but I’m hoping to live mine like Abby.

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