Did you also grow up on Disney films? Day dreamed about fighting pirates in pirate ships with Peter Pan, making stew in a cottage with Snow White and the seven dwarves, and flying across continents on a magic carpet with Aladdin? Or perhaps you have sailed across the seas with Moana in your living room as you watched Disney’s animated film Moana with the kids.
These films provided us good entertainment when were children and they still do now – for some – but as a grown up I realized lately that Disney princess stories provide more than just feel-good entertainment. They contain within them valuable lessons that we adults can reflect on and even use to teach our kids the values that are dear to us.
Lately for instance, my husband (who also grew up with Disney princes and princesses) and I watched Moana with our boys. Yep, you heard it right. We only have sons. Who says princess stories are just for girls? Besides, Disney films nowadays have evolved in a lot of ways. In fact, Moana is perhaps the first princess I know who didn’t have any love interest.
Anyways, going back to the values I was going to tell you about, I think as a career advocate working with young girls and boys and helping them make wise and informed career decisions, Moana shows us three things — things that you might find helpful as you grow in your career or as you help other people grow in theirs.
No. 1 First is the stark difference between SKILLS and CHARACTER and the utter importance of one’s attitude vs. one’s skill set. For six years I worked with adolescents in a public secondary technical-vocational school and over and over we show them that while technical skills are important, they must also value the cultivation of right attitude.
Moana was not an expert sailor, in fact she didn’t know how to sail; she acquired this skill along the way, but why did the ocean choose her? She was chosen not because she knew what to do, but because she will know what to do. Notice the difference?
In the recent Integrity Management Seminar we had with teachers from the Department of Education, the speaker shared a quote (I don’t know by who, but if you happen to know the author please let me know so I can acknowledge him properly) that says “the one who knows how will always have a job, but the one who knows why will be the boss.”
Moana didn’t know how to sail, she said it so herself – she was “self-taught.” But deep in her heart she knew why she had to go for the mission – she was the daughter of the village chief and her people needed her help.
If she weren’t the chief’s daughter, she would be just an ordinary girl and she didn’t know the way but she knew someone who did – a demigod with super powers!
In this tiny town I live in, and probably in many other parts of the world as well, you would see big business establishments that are benefiting humanity and built from scratch by people who never even finished college but have in their payroll the best licensed engineers, licensed chemists and licensed accountants; the demigods in their trade. This rare breed of people are the ones who knew their biggest why and have built their characters over time.
I’m not saying skills are not important. They are! But skills without character are worth nothing.
No. 2 Second is the importance of knowing one’s self. Moana, just like every other Disney film, has an exuberant and heart-touching soundtrack. One of the songs my family loves and keeps listening to several days after watching it is We Know the Way by Opetaia Foa’i.
The chorus goes,
We set a course to find
A brand new island everywhere we roam
We keep our island in our mind
And when it’s time to find home
We know the way
Island and home here may mean the physical island but it can also mean the self. In this time and age, technology allows people to easily move from one place to another, travel a lot faster. An average school kid today can access more information in one minute compared to his peers five or ten years ago and the way things go now, these numbers can go even higher.
People get to do more things in less time.
It can be very easy to lose oneself in the fast lane and when we forget who we truly are, when we stop honoring our true self, life can get chaotic.
Maui, the demigod, is indubitably one of the best-loved characters in the film. He fought alongside Moana all the way through, but in the beginning he was actually the villain that made babies cry. In his desire for power and innocent longing to win the approval of humans, he stole the island deity Te Fiti’s heart. All sorts of evil sprang up and an environmental disaster ensued when Te Fiti lost her heart. Order was brought back only when Moana and Maui restored the heart of Te Fiti. The best part of the restoration was probably when Moana whispered to Te Fiti, “You know who are… who you truly are.”
There is a Te Fiti in all of us, capable of producing great, beautiful things. But the noise, the fads, the highly desirable yet superficial objects of this ephemeral world, can steal this ability – and sometimes even our identity – from us.
The true, real-life heroes I know who live extraordinary lives in this age, people like Robin Sharma, Vishen Lakhiani, Luminita Saviuc, Deepak Chopra, Juliet van Ruyven to name only a few, all agree about one thing – spending time in solitude is an absolute must. It is the only way we can keep our true identity; the only way we can keep our island in our mind, as the song goes, so that when things get muddled and confusing, we can always find our way home.
No. 3 Lastly, the importance of getting a mentor. If you saw the film, you would have noticed how great Moana was at whispering motivational words to people, a skill great leaders possess. We all laughed at how she whispered “Maui! Maui! You’re so amaziiiiiiiing” to Maui’s ears, and fought back tears when she pressed her forehead against Te Fiti’s and breathed the words, “You know who you… truly are,” and reminded the goddess of her true, wonderful nature.
“I have crossed the horizon to find you
I know your name
I may have stolen the heart from inside you
But this does not define you
This is not who you are
You know who you are”
-Auli’i Cravalho, Know Who You Are
But Moana would not have accomplished all these great deeds if she herself did not have a mentor in the person of Gramma Tala. Human as she was, Moana had bad times and she almost called the mission off. It was this time when her grandmother’s spirit appeared to her and consoled her, reminding her of her true identity and whispered — yes, you guessed it right — “You know who you are.”
Different people from all around the world have different things to say about this film, just as they would about any other Walt Disney animated feature film. I have read about the good, the bad and the ugly but today I choose to focus only on the good and inspiring side of Disney’s animated film Moana and try to bring this inspiration to you so you, too, will have the determination to pursue your passion, set a course to find your big why, set sail toward your mission and always know who you truly are.
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