What Pixar's Soul Teaches us about the Pursuit of Big Goals

Over the December break, my kids and I watched Pixar's new film Soul. The story follows a high school music teacher, Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx, who has a must-listen-to podcast episode with Tim Ferriss), with aspirations to be a world-famous jazz musician.


What can we learn from Joe Gardner and Soul?


Pursuing a big goal sometimes blinds us from what is already around us


Joe Gardner is pursuing his dream, yet what is he missing along the journey? What is already there? At one point in the film, a successful musician who he looks up to shares the following with him:


I heard this story about a fish. He swims up to an older fish and says: "I’m trying to find this thing they call the ocean." "The ocean?" the older fish says, "that’s what you’re in right now." "This", says the young fish, "this is water. What I want is the ocean!"


I've written before about the never-ending pursuit of success. When we focus so much on the ocean, we can be blinded from the people and things around us that already provide us with fulfillment. I'm not saying don't have big goals. I am saying don't lose focus on what you already have that fulfills you.


Note: Some of you may know a related fable about fish with deep lessons about life. Check out David Foster Wallace's 2005 commencement address This is Water.


"Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." - Ferris Bueller


Imposter syndrome, which affects most of us, is beautifully (eerily?) expressed in the film

Many of us battle a harsh inner critic or imposter syndrome. We tell ourselves we are an imposter, that we aren't good enough for what we want to be (or are) doing.


Telling ourselves we're not good enough, or that we are an imposter, isn't the truth. It is just a story we tell ourselves. Yet these stories shape our reality. The stories are part of what constitutes our mindset: the underlying beliefs, attitudes, and assumptions we bring to every situation we face. Our mindset affects what we choose to see in the vast mountain of data around us every second.


You don't have to choose imposter syndrome. You can choose a powerful, supportive mindset that will have you focusing on data that helps you succeed.



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