“Everyone likes an underdog!”
Seneca Crane and President Snow in “The Hunger Games” (2012)
A while ago I watched the movie “Deep Water” — which is a movie about the fairly typical story of an underdog, trying to succeed in a competition with professionals for the first “non-stop, single-handed, round-the-world yacht race”, and failing miserably.
Wait. What? Fairly typical story of an underdog failing miserably?
Yup. The one thing that makes stories about underdogs so beloved and so memorable is that the success of an underdog is rare (and thus memorable). What this movie shows … and this extremely well … is how an underdog faces immense difficulties, is then “driven to cheat”, and then, when it became no longer possible for the cheating to remain undetected, to take his own life rather than to face the public humiliation.
It’s a sobering tale, and one well worth watching.
You often hear that failure is a part of success, but sometimes failure is the sole part of a story. And you can and should learn from other people’s failures.
For example, reading about the race and the protagonists struggles I came upon the following paragraph:
Crowhurst planned to tackle the deficiencies of the trimaran with a revolutionary self-righting system, based on an automatically inflated air bag at the masthead. He would prove the system on his voyage, then go into business manufacturing it, thus making trimarans into safe boats for cruisers.
But due to time constraints, he could not finish his boat in time. When the race started, it was not ready. And watching the video, I can’t help but think that he wanted to work on the boat during the race itself. Should be easy, after all, sailing is just that — (smooth) sailing, right? Well, no. Besides some material not being available, I think the daily business of running a sailing boat, especially a hastily build and unfinished one, made it difficult to impossible to get the boat ready. There was too much to do with insufficient tools and materials — and I think the daily business of running this unfinished boat proved to high a drain on his resources. And while the press and public seemed to love him as an underdog, competing under these circumstances was — with the benefit of hindsight — a recipe for disaster.
And I think that a similar story plays out countless times each day, on a much longer voyage than one around the world. The daily requirements do put a constant drain on our ability to invest in long-term improvements. And in contrast to people who really do have to go through a daily struggle to keep them afloat (e.g., people having to invest hours to get clean drinking water), many of our daily struggles are self chosen.
Too many commitments made with too little reflection.
And perhaps the attempt to make it from one day to the next prevents us from questioning whether the race we are on is really that important. And yeah, if you want to compete as an underdog, make sure that the daily business of the competition does not bog you down.
P.S.: One thing I can’t help but wonder: Was he so involved in the race that it did not occur to him to sink his boat? Torch it so that no/few evidence remained? It would have taken care of the faked logs and other (lack of) evidence. But that’s easy to say as an outsider, not immersed in the situation itself.