Lessons on flying from My Octopus Teacher

July 14th, 2021 in Blog

I absolutely loved watching this programme on Netflix last night and I realised it shared so many ideas on learning to fly and learning how to help our children fly. 

Briefly the story follows Craig Foster who in an attempt to recover from burnout, starts swimming in the ocean near his home in South Africa. After a year, he comes across an octopus and senses there is something special about her so he decides to visit her every day.

In relation to learning to fly and learning how to help our children fly there are some great lessons here.

  1. He followed his heart – the story starts with Craig choosing to get closer to nature. He didn’t have a reason for doing it, he just kept going because it helped him feel better and he didn’t question its ‘purpose’ for quite a while. After a year swimming in the cold ocean, he came across this special octopus. If he hadn’t done this early work, he wouldn’t have been ready when he did meet her to make the most of the opportunity.  As Steve Jobs taught us – You can only connect the dots looking backwards and therefore you have do things just because they feel right for you.
  2. He danced in the unknown. After meeting the octopus for the first time, he set himself a “What if” challenge. “What if I came back every day?” This curious inquiry gave him a purpose to live into, without needing to know whether it would be worthwhile.
  3. He showed up every day and practised patience and curiosity, learning as much as he could about the octopus and it’s environment from his own experience and scientific experiments as well as from books and research by others.
  4. He built a deep trust with the octopus by not pretending to understand her world and by practising vulnerability – he chose not to have a wet suit or any breathing gear- he got as close to being part of her environment as he could and this ultimately led to the octopus approaching him and making the first move. I don’t think she would have laid on his chest had he not been humble and brave enough to show up with bare skin.
  5. His purpose got messy when he made a mistake and frightened her off – at this point he could have given up and decided that his inquiry had come to an end, but he kept going and chose to put the work in to learn even more in order to find her again. When this miracle happened, he patiently began again slowly building her trust. 
  6. When the predators came the first time – he didn’t interfere or try and rescue her. Instead, he watched her figure out all the ingenious ways to protect herself – if he had jumped in to her rescue, she wouldn’t have been able to test her theories and develop her own resilience muscle. This took huge trust and belief in her ability as well as a complete unselfishness.
  7. When it was coming to the end of her life, he stepped back and accepted that this was nature and he let her go rather than try and hold on too tight and make this natural process so much harder for her. 
  8. Finally he started to inspire others, passing on his legacy firstly to his son – spending time teaching and sharing his knowledge and insights and then inspiring the rest of the world through his foundation and this wonderful film.

So in summary – learning to fly means:

  • Following your heart without knowing
  • Finding a purpose to live into
  • Learning from yourself and others
  • Developing trust and being vulnerable
  • When it gets messy, being patient and working harder and keeping going

Thank you Craig and the makers of this film,  for your inspiration on helping me learn to fly and on showing so beautifully how we can help others fly.

Learning how to help others fly means:

  • 1. Being patient and not interfering or trying to rescue too soon so they can develop their own resilience

  • 2. Being Accepting – finding trust and belief in their ability and letting go of our needs

  • 3. Being inspiring – finding the energy to pass on our ideas so that others can be inspired too.

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