It’s Time to Let Go of Wilson


One of my favorite Tom Hanks movies is “Cast Away.”

It’s essentially “one-man” survival movie about tragedy, hope, and the dream to one day get rescued from this deserted island. Can you imagine the utter despair and disappointment of having an airplane or boat pass right by you without even noticing your desperate cries for help?

Hanks’ character spends 1,500 days on the island. That’s over 4 years! I wonder how many times he wanted to give up?

Every day I woke up on that miserable island, I would wrestle with these thoughts:

“I can’t do this. I can’t stand to be here one more day.”

According to a recent Gallup poll, employee engagement continues to be an issue for many organizations. Less than 20% of employees are actively engaged in their workplace. That means over 80% of employees are either mildly disengaged or actively disengaged from their work.

They’re on the island. They feel stranded and are desperate to get out.

Have you ever felt this way?

I have. There was a season a few years ago where I thought, “I’d rather work at a gas station making minimum wage than work here.”

I desperately wanted to do something else with my life, but where would I start? It was a quiet storm as everything looked right on the outside. I had a stable job within a respectable company in my college town. I had a young family, a great church, and an incredible community of friends.

But these weren’t the things holding me back. In the back of my mind, I had serious and nagging doubts. And they spoke to me every day. These would say things like:

  1. You’re too tired and busy.
  2. You have too much going on already.
  3. You’re not good enough, it’s too hard, your efforts won’t pay off.
  4. You’re a high school dropout, who would ever hire you to be a college professor?
  5. You already have a stable job, what more do you want?
  6. Don’t you realize how many people would want to be in your position?
  7. It’s too late for you.

Do any of these sound familiar?

I held onto those doubts and excuses like Tom Hanks held onto his buddy Wilson (the volleyball). These doubts became so familiar they became my personal mantras. My excuses protected me. They would act as a mental buffer anytime my dreams would come calling. It was easy to stay where I was.

I became comfortable on the island. I became comfortable holding onto Wilson.

Until I decided it was time to let go of Wilson and venture out to sea.

It wasn’t quite 1,500 days, but in 2007 – I started working more intentionally on getting off the island and started living my dream. My studies became much more focused. I started writing more academic papers and submitting to as many conferences and journals as I could find. I applied for multiple adjunct teaching posts and through a colleague – got a teaching gig in Maryland where I drove over 3 hours one way to teach a night class from 6-10 pm one night a week.

I don’t share this because I’ve done anything remarkable, I share it because sometimes you have to be willing to do a little more than you expected to achieve your goals.

It takes commitment and hard work to get off the island. And you still have your responsibilities to your family, your employer, and other commitments. But ultimately, the choice to live and pursue your dreams begins with letting go of your doubts and excuses.

If no one has told you yet, let me be the first: It’s time to let go of Wilson.

There’s no guarantee of safe passage once you start your journey, but if you keep on turning back and holding onto your doubts and fears, there is almost certain guarantee that you’ll never make it.

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
~Dale Carnegie


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