Lessons from ‘My Octopus Teacher’

Lessons from 'My Octopus Teacher'

Last night I watched ‘My Octopus Teacher’, a documentary that had been highly recommended, and was on my list for a while. 

I was fully absorbed, in awe, and mesmerized by the depth, thought-provoking nature, feel-good factor, and beauty of the movie. Never did I think I would build up compassion for an octopus and as a result, for all of life and its magnificence of harmonious co-existence.

There is much to learn from Craig Foster’s heartfelt journey, which got me thinking on how we could take some of the lessons from the octopus, and apply them into our own way of being, our presence and our roles.

During an attack from a pyjama shark, the octopus finds herself trapped. She swiftly jumps onto the shark’s back to evade the attack. In an instant, the shark has lost its power, carrying the octopus on its back. She allows this, until she spots an opportune moment to subtly slide off the shark’s back, unnoticed, and safe. Such incredible intelligence! 

Facing crisis situations at work can at times be dealt best with endurance, a joining of forces, working around the crisis hand-in-hand, until and when we see a propitious time of strategic action. We get from this incident an exploring of options, an out-of-the-box thinking, an experimental quality that gives way to possibilities, options and finally choices we make when solving problems.

By its very nature, the octopus is fluid, flexible and agile. It can transform itself into any shape, squeeze itself through holes, flatten itself under a rock, or turn itself into a ball, adapting itself to meet a purpose. We see today in our work place, being flexible is a way forward, and adapting to a changing environment is intelligent and progressing, pushing us towards the achievement of our goals.

My favorite moment in the movie is when, again under attack from predator sharks, and left out in the open, the octopus quickly grabs several shells around her, turns herself into a ball, and attaches these shells all over herself. Then all you see is a beautiful, mutli-coloured rock of shells. Who would think there is an octopus camouflaged under that. Certainly not the shark who simply swims past. Such creativity with such flair! In our workplaces, in moments of crisis, we can delve into the depths of wondrous creativity, crafting great results by looking beyond what we see obviously.

Another moment that has stuck with me is when the octopus chases a crab for food. The clever wait, the patience, coupled with the determination and persistence pays off. When the crab finds a solid hiding place, the octopus does not give up but waits with vigilance, a confident resolve, ready to act whenever the crab may emerge, and it does. Sometimes we give up too soon, be it our dreams, our journey, our challenges. But if we could only see it as a period of ‘wait, gather thoughts, revive, re-strategise, action’, we could all get there.

I absolutely loved the part where the octopus plays with a shoal of little fish. What would life be without its playful moments, a light-heartedness we need to bring even into ourselves and our organizations from time to time, a touch of humor, or camaraderie with our colleagues.

One cannot miss the heartwarming relationship between Foster and the octopus. Though the octopus initially wraps herself in kelp so as to assess if this man is friend or foe, she soon senses the gentleness and compassion from him, and extends her arm to him in friendship. All we need to show is the intention for kindness, consideration and respect for the well-being of all, leading to a healthy working environment. What a beautiful association emerges thereon.

Those who deep-sea dive, would know of the myriad of life in the ocean. Such diversity and co-existence, allowing one to live reverentially, with authenticity and in harmony, with a sense of non-judgment, and non-interference. Can we allow the same in our workplace? A respect for all, accepting diversity, creating a place of compassion, appreciation and wellbeing. 

Share your lessons if you have watched ‘My Octopus Teacher’.


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