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The surprisingly practical life lesson I learned from Moana

As soon as I got “Let it go” out of my head, I started singing “You’re welcome,” and “It’s so shiny...”—thanks to Disney’s latest mega-hit, Moana.

It’s a feel-good movie with music that I’ve been singing for months now. One of my clients recently told me that Moana changed her life. Naturally, I listen to the soundtrack while I’m writing for her now.

In the film, Moana lives on a Pacific island and is afraid to sail beyond the reef. She wants to get on a boat and go out there, but every time she tries, she gets hurt. Also, her dad doesn’t want her too. It’s dangerous out there in the big sea. In the movie, she’s 16. Would you let your 16-year-old daughter venture out on the Pacific ocean alone with no training?

“Screw them,” she says. [Not literally, this is Disney, you guys. This is just my translation]. And she ventures out.

She learns from Maui, the boisterous demigod of the Pacific islands that you move forward one step at a time.

Here’s the dialogue that turned a light-bulb on in my head:

Maui: [lying face-down on a canoe's outrigger] If the current's warm, you're going the right way.

Moana: [putting her hand in the water behind him] It's cold. Wait, it's getting warmer.

[seeing a relieved look on his face]

Moana: Aah! That is disgusting! What is wrong with you?

 

In case you didn’t get it right away, he peed in the water.

Take away the pee, however, and the current really does get warmer when she’s steering the boat the right way. This is just one way Moana knows she’s headed in the right direction. She also looks up at the stars for a constellation of a hook—one that resembles the one Maui carries around.

While en route to the island of Te Fiti, where she needs to take Maui to return “the heart” he stole from the island, she finds her way by moving ahead, little by little.

Checking the current, checking the star patterns ahead, adjusting her sails, moving forward, then repeating this process over and over again.

This is called wayfaring—someone who “lives on the way.”

Thinking about how wayfaring applies to our lives—how when we route a trip, we look down at our GPS map on our phone along the way to make sure we’re headed where we want to go.

If we apply wayfaring to our lives when we have a goal in mind, say, writing a book. We can’t just put our head down and write and write and write. We review what we wrote, check-in with facts and our guts to make sure we’re on the right track. We put it down for a day, or a month to let it sink in. We move forward, just a few paragraphs at a time. Adjusting our course as we go.

Living on the way. Writing on the way.

Running a race, we look at the mile markers on the side of the road, and constantly check in with how our body feels. Are my feet okay? Is it time for water or some electrolytes? Is that pee or sweat running down my leg?

We find our way in business and in life one step at a time.

If we don’t like the direction we’re headed, we adjust, change our course until we’re on a path that feels right.

Then, we keep adjusting until we “land” where we want.

Wayfaring.

Double, triple, and quadruple checking along the way to make sure we’re headed in the right direction and it’s not just pee in the water.