Classes Entrepreneurs Can Be taught From an Olympic Runner Who Confronted Sharks and Survived a Battle
This article was translated using AI technologies from our Spanish edition. Errors can occur due to this process.
The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur’s contributors are their own.
Unbroken is a film that portrays the life of Louis Zamperini. What does a film about an Olympic champion, a WWII bomber, and a prisoner of war have to do with being an entrepreneur? If you know the story of Louis Zamperini, you probably already know that this man had courage.
Louie, as his friends knew him, is an example of perseverance. As a child, he was frequently bullied by other children for his Italian origins, which resulted in his misbehaving and drinking alcohol, to the disappointment of his parents. His older brother decided to train him to be a long distance runner – something that would help Louie build discipline and focus. He got so good that as an adult he was nicknamed “The Torrence Tornado” (for the Californian city he was born in) and qualified for the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In the tournament Louie managed to take eighth place in the 5,000 meter race.
Later this incredible man decided to join the military and become a bomber in a B24 Liberator for the US Air Force on the Pacific Front during World War II. In 1943, his plane was badly damaged in combat and crashed into the sea while on a rescue mission.
Louie and two companions floated on an inflatable raft for 47 days, witnessing storms, a shark attack, the death of one of the survivors, and a lack of rations (they ate birds and fish and drank rainwater).
The athlete and his remaining friend were captured by Japanese sailors and made prisoners of war who were incarcerated in various concentration camps. Louie was cruelly treated by the camp manager for being a former Olympian and an American soldier.
One day, two Japanese journalists helped Louie send home a message that he was alive (the government had pronounced him dead on the front lines). However, the Japanese tried to force him to record anti-American propaganda, which the soldier refused. The director of the concentration camp allowed every prisoner there to beat him to teach him a lesson.
Louie managed to endure the abuse and returned to his family at the end of the war to tell of his incredible journey.
It was a movie that was actually very real. He had an extraordinary life and refused to give up in any situation. An entrepreneur’s adventure is based on the same characteristics that define Zamperini.
Here are five key lessons you can learn from this great character:
1. Luck is not needed. Zamperini did not grow up with any skills or assets. In fact, it had its disadvantages in many ways. His family came to California as a child and did not speak English, making him an easy target for trouble. In his youth he got into great trouble. He worked hard to train and become a runner, a situation that eventually led him to the Olympics.
Whether it’s true or myth, the repetitive line on the tape is, “If you can take it, you can do it.” This ability to withstand the challenges and obstacles life throws at you is what sets an entrepreneur apart. Do not regret the difficulties that life brings you: accept them. Run towards conflict and overcome all challenges. Innovation comes from solving the world’s problems, not from a simple answer. Be glad it is difficult: because of this, you will be extremely good.
Photo: Louis Zamperini before his death / Wikipedia
2. Big risks lead to big rewards. As an entrepreneur, it is important that you take small, calculated risks. Your ability to take risks and survive will help you build your confidence. By doing this, you can develop the courage to face future problems.
Zamperini certainly understood that taking risks sometimes leads to failure, but it will pay off in the end. Taking risks is part of the business journey. The more you develop the ability to be comfortable with discomfort, the greater your reward.
3. Failure is part of the journey. Never let your mistakes define you or you will lose the game. As a kid, this Olympic champion seemed like a failure. He got into an argument, drank at eight and robbed strangers and neighbors. When he was a teenager, his parents knew the local police very well.
I wouldn’t call this a good start, but with the support of others and some initiative, Zamperini turned things around. It would have been easy to give up and be defined as a failure, a lost cause. Why are you on a business trip? Don’t let others define your success. You can always find the right support and take the initiative to keep improving. The path of an entrepreneur is never straight, easy or easy.
4. The right support makes the difference. Speaking of support, it is questionable whether Zamperini would have been successful at the Olympics without the support of his mentors. It wasn’t just his parents who didn’t give up on him, his brother, the school teacher, and even the police became guides to lead him on a path that would eventually lead to the Olympics. Also, remember that you can give this support and motivation to other people who are just starting out as well.
5. Never give up. Not only was Zamperini very clear about the message of never giving up, he literally wrote a book about it. At the age of 97, he published a book called “Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give Up: Lessons from an Extraordinary Life”. If anyone is qualified to share advice and wisdom, it was this man.
In the movie Unbreakable (2014) you will learn a little more about the life of this incredible man:
With information from Martha Elena Violante.