438 Days Adrift on the Ocean

On November 18, 2012, Salvador and his 22 year-old crewman Ezequiel Cordoba were ambushed by a massive storm on their way home from a 2-day deep sea fishing trip in the Pacific Ocean. The storm forced them to jettison anything that was too heavy, their catch of fish, extra gasoline, and the destroyed motor and navigation systems. For five days, Salvador and Ezequiel took turns bailing water to keep the boat afloat and huddling together inside an empty ice box for warmth. On day six, the sun finally shined and they realized they were far out to sea. With no raised structure, no glass and no running lights on their boat they were virtually invisible. They could do nothing but wait for rescue.

After two months adrift, Salvador had become accustomed to capturing and eating fish, birds and turtles. However, after being sick from eating raw meat, Ezequiel began a physical and mental decline. He refused all food and gave into his worsening depression. Before long, he was dead and Salvador was left all alone.

Floating across the Pacific Ocean, Salvador had battles with loneliness, depression and bouts of suicidal thinking. Because his Catholic faith took the option of suicide off the table, he coped by remaining adaptable and resourceful. When fresh water was scarce, he drank turtle blood or his own urine. When trash and water bottles floated by, he used them for anything he could. He learned to fish without a hook, and capture birds and turtles. He tried with all his might to capture the attention of container ships that floated by. He kept his mind occupied by allowing it to drift it into elaborate fantasies of the imagination.

On day 438, Salvador spotted land in the distance and swam for his life. He reached the Eton Atoll in the Marshal Islands, a small remote island 6,700 miles from the place he had set out from. Salvador now holds the record for the longest time adrift at sea (and surviving).

Salvador and Ezequiel were on the same boat but headed on different paths. Each day brought new challenges and changing circumstances. Salvador adapted to each new problem. Each day he moved forward and looked for any opportunity to be successful and survive. Meanwhile Ezequiel resisted. He could have put his energy into bringing himself to eat again after being ill. Instead he refused to adapt. He chose to shut down and give up.

Just like Salvador and Ezequiel, we each experience changes and challenges every day. The height of our success each day and week can be measured by how well we adapted to changing circumstances, while still keeping our eyes on our goals.

Sometimes change also triggers a core wound and prompts a powerful emotional reaction that makes us want to resist. In these triggered moments, the situation may seem hopeless, and impossible to overcome, like being adrift for months on a boat. But the change itself is not more severe, only our reaction and perspective are.

Just like Salvador, we each possess the tools of resiliency, determination, resourcefulness and adaption. Just like him, we can overcome the odds of any change we are faced with and survive. All we need to do is choose to put our energy into moving forward and looking for any opportunity to optimize our behavior for success.

Where are you resisting change in your life and what are the opportunities presented to you? What are three things you can do right now to move yourself through it?

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” — Alan Watts

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