At this point, it’s safe to say that anyone who knows me would tell you I’m a huge “Avatar” fan. It’s quickly become my favorite movie, which isn’t something I say lightly – I’ve always been really into movies and in the past I have always had a hard time choosing just one favorite.
The difference here is that while on the surface, “Avatar” may appear to be a simple sci-fi/fantasy flick with lots of great special effects, the film provides a commentary on a lot of different aspects of our world, culture and society – some less obvious than others.
One of these is what I’d like to talk about today.
I think one of my favorite scenes in this movie (and I’m sure many other fans agree) is when the main character, Jake, first rides his ikran – the large flying reptiles that inhabit the world of Pandora.
Aside from the obvious thrill that this scene creates (who among us, at some point in their lives hasn’t wished they could fly?), this scene also provides some interesting insight into how we think and approach challenges.
One of the challenges that Jake faces while adapting to life on Pandora is the act of Tsahaylu – mental bond with other creatures. Jake must learn to embrace that bond and use it to impact the actions of the creature he bonds with – like the ikran he rides.
When watching this scene for the first (several) times, I noticed the trouble Jake has on his first flight, and didn’t really think anything of it – it made sense that he wouldn’t get it right away. Later on however, I noticed an interesting pattern in how he manages to gain control of his flight.
When Jake first climbs on the back of his ikran, Neytiri tells him to think “Fly,” which is exactly what the ikran tries to do – leaping out off of the cliff.
The interesting thing is that the ikran, which has been flying successfully it’s entire life, can’t seem to keep itself in the air – because it’s linked to Jake’s mind.
Jake isn’t thinking about flying.
He isn’t focused on success, or achieving his goals.
Jake is only focused on one thing, and that’s falling – which is exactly what he ends up doing.
Think about how this pattern applies to your own life. How many times have you leapt into a new project, or attempted something new and exciting – only to find yourself focusing on the potential pitfalls and failures that await?
What does that focus get you?
When Jake thought the word “fly,” he and the ikran took immediate action, but without the right focus, that action wasn’t enough.
Once Jake was able to calm down and stop screaming, the ikran was able to level out and regain control – just as you and I are able to when we shift our focus away from potential failures, and look instead to accomplishing our goals.
But what happens when we encounter an obstacle? We all know they exist – life isn’t perfect and things do happen. Jake experiences this moments after his ikran levels out.
He looks up and sees the wall of a cliff rushing toward him – his momentary composure (and controlled flight) come to an end as his focus shifts once more – rather than thinking about a smooth controlled flight around any obstacles, his mind latches onto the fear of crashing into the wall and scrabbling to stay in the air – which is once again, exactly what happens.
So often in our lives, both personally and professionally, we let the small obstacles that pop up in our way rob us of focus, and therefore of our control.
We, like Jake, need to strive to see beyond our obstacles so that we can look for ways around them.
Once Jake and his ikran got off the wall and continued to struggle through the air, Jake was able to finally take control and focus on what he needed to:
“Shut up and fly STRAIGHT!”
Now, this may not be the most eloquent way to phrase it – but how often would we benefit from saying those exact words to ourselves?
Stop complaining about the things that have gone wrong (like falling down when we try something new).
Stop stressing ourselves out about what could happen when we encounter obstacles (like running into a wall – both literally and figuratively).
Shut up. Fly straight.
Focus on what you’re going to accomplish, and how you’re going to accomplish it. Everything else is just noise that will drag you out of the sky.