Storytelling clip selected for critique by Hollywood story-master, Michael Hague
MICHAEL HAUGE works with people who want to change more lives, and make more money, by telling compelling stories. He has been one of Hollywood’s top consultants and story experts since 1985, and has worked with countless writers and filmmakers on projects starring (among many others) Will Smith, Morgan Freeman, Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise and Reese Witherspoon.
Five-minute inspirational submission selected for SpeakerMatch competition
A Story Well-Told Can Be Seen With Your Eyes Closed
I was once, like many of you, a hard-working, in high-demand professional. I was a trial attorney, working seventy hours a week, billing sixty, for years so much so that I often found myself falling asleep at my desk, without any recollection of when I’d shut my eyes. And, I realized it’s because I never took a vacation.
Now I could tell you about my years as a medical malpractice defense attorney, the trials I handled, the partnership, the big salary, the big title, that I had worked so hard for, and why I turned all of that down to sail across the big Atlantic Ocean, but I think you’ll understand better if I share a moment with you from my first vacation.
So, what I decided to do to get away from work and really unplug was to hop on a 35-foot sailboat and sail 500 nautical miles offshore across the Gulf of Mexico. That makes is very easy to unplug that way because I can assure you, you don’t have cell signal out there. You can’t just call work, much less someone you might need for help. You are truly offshore and truly checked out. And, I was one among a crew of three. I knew very little about sailing. It was all in theory, in books. I could barely tell the bow from the stern. And when you do that—throw a new crew together, on a new boat to you—it’s likely something’s going to go wrong. And, we definitely had many things go wrong but this was one of my favorites.
The second night on passage, and we had been about eighteen hours getting our teeth kicked in out there. It’s amazing, a fifteen-thousand pound boat. and what those waters can do to it. We were being tossed around like a rubber duck in a bathtub. And the crew is getting shoved and pushed and falling all over each other sometimes, and running into things. And there is also one other person on this boat that’s getting flailed and clanged and banged, and this person was ready to jump ship.
Now on a boat like this, you usually have the big sailboat, and a small boat that you use to go to and from shore. And the small boat on this boat was suspended above the water on these bracket arms off the back of the boat. And while I am wet, and exhausted, and cold, and tired, and having the time of my life—I am nowhere near ready to get off that boat—Small Boat was ready to jump ship. He’d been bashed around back there for about a day and half and he was ready to go. And that was fine with me. I was like “See you later, Small Boat. I’m on the time-of-my-life passage, so just move it on down the road.” Until the Captain told me if Small Boat goes, there is a very good chance he could rip a huge hole in Big Boat, which could sink Big Boat. So, all of a sudden Small Boat’s departure became very important to me.
I made this makeshift sailboat surgical tray, where I had scissors, and a steak knife, and a hacksaw. And, sure enough, later that night, in big waves of black denim, just bashing around, Small Boat jumped ship. And he is swamping himself. He’s this huge anchor behind the boat, dragging her down and pulling her over to the port side and starting to swamp the cockpit and the Captain yells: “Cut if off!”
Now, I wasn’t much of a sailor at the time, but growing up in Alabama, I darn sure knew how to use a hacksaw. So, I went to it, furiously cutting these lines and throwing these wet, salty knots back into the cockpit. And, I still to this day, I struggle to see it through my own eyes—see my hands, see the flashlight, see what I was doing. I really remember the scene from afar, as if it’s an out-of-body experience, and I’m watching myself. I’m stretched out over the water, one leg hooked back on the stern rail, and I’m hacking away with this hacksaw. And it was one of the coolest moments of my life.
I was so proud of myself because it was a huge accomplishment. We cut the small boat off. And the big boat, like she had just put down a fifty-pound ruck sack was like: Ahhh … Comfortable. And then we’re safe and we sailed the boat across the Gulf of Mexico, and it just rejuvenated me. It was so invigorating, to find a new passion, that I knew had to be incorporated into my life to find balance. I had found new excitement and purpose, and I brought that with me every day to work since then. And, it’s because I checked out and I took a vacation, and I challenge you to do the same.
My office has changed many times since that moment, but I can assure you I have never since fallen asleep at my desk.