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10 Leadership Principles from Soul Surfer

Normal is overrated. That is the main principle I took from the inspiring true story of Bethany Hamilton, played by Anna Sophia Robb in the movie, Soul Surfer. Hamilton was a teenage surfing champion who lost her left arm in a shark attack but worked her way back to champion status once again. It is a great movie that I recommend for everyone, especially people dealing with self-doubt or feelings of inadequacy.

The following are the leadership quotes and principles that I took from the movie.

  1. “It’s hard to look at things that are too close.” – Those are the words of Hamilton’s Youth Minister Sarah Hill, played by Carrie Underwood. Often, we don’t understand why we face the struggles in our lives. We only understand them with perspective that comes with time.  
  2. “A small step in a good direction.” Bethany was struggling with a decision she made to participate in a competition rather than fulfilling a previous commitment to Hill to go on a Mexican mission trip. Her mother Cheri, played by the marvelous Helen Hunt, communicates that often our internal struggles point us in positive directions. If you are currently struggling with a decision in your life, press into that and don’t simply dismiss the struggle. 
  3. Peace – What ultimately saved Bethany’s life during the shark attack was staying calm. If you are feeling attacked in your life, one of the most important things you can do is stay calm.
  4. “I don’t need easy. I just need possible.” Leaders and champions just want a chance.
  5. “Compassion can drive us to do amazing things and give us perspective.” – The turning point in the movie for Bethany was a relief trip to tsunami-ravaged Thailand with World Vision. It was there that she received the perspective needed to move forward. If you are feeling down or hopeless, the best remedy is often serving someone less fortunate than yourself.
  6. “Normal is overrated.” – If you don’t fit in, that is a good thing. You are uniquely and wonderfully made.
  7. “Love is bigger than any tidal wave or fear.” – The Hamiltons are a great example of what a loving and supportive family can do in a child’s life. Conversely, it also occurred to me that often dysfunctional families are more dangerous than sharks are.
  8. “Why would they want me to compete?” asks Bethany to her father Tom, played by Dennis Quaid. This was asked after a difficult first competition back but also after receiving hundreds of letters from people inspired by her. “(Because) You tried,” he answers. Effort and a desire to compete in spite of our circumstances honors God and inspires people.
  9. “When you get in the Impact Zone, get back up because you never know what’s over the next wave.” – Surfing has a period of time called “The Impact Zone” when things can get very difficult. Like life, often the difference between a champion surfer and everyone else is when the Impact Zone knocks them down, they simply choose to get back up. Some of you reading this simply need to get back up!
  10. “I could never have embraced this many people with two arms.”Jeremiah 29:11 is quoted in the movie and states, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Often, what you think is one of your greatest defeats or challenges is something that God is using to give you more blessing and influence than you ever imagined.

I encourage everyone to see this movie. We all face things that seem impossible either currently or in the future. It’s inevitable and no one is immune. The principles contained in this movie will help carry you through that difficult time.