Lessons From ‘The Martian’ : How to deal with extreme adversity

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(This article might include spoilers)

The Martian is my new second favorite space film, after Interstellar. The film manages to capture both the irreverence and the respect of the book and tells just as exciting a tale.

The story is straight forward : Matt Damon plays an astronaut who’s stranded on a desolate planet. Being all alone takes such a toll on his mental state that when his fellow astronauts come to save him, he goes bonkers. He kills and eats one astronaut, makes attempt on the life of another, and — oh, shit! Wrong movie, guys. Sorry about this. Let me start all over again…


The Martian, directed by Ridley Scott, is an adaptation of the best selling book by Andy Weir (Also called the martian). The story revolves around astronaut/botanist Mark Watney, who is left behind on Mars after an accident causes his crew to believe he’s dead. With no help in sight, Watney has to depend on his resourcefulness and sharp wit — “I’m going to have to science the shit out of this,” as he tells the audience — to stay alive in the harsh Martian environment. In that sense, the story is like a love child ofCast Away and Apollo 13.

Accepting the fiction doesn’t mean we can’t have fun with it though. I’ve read many reviews from NASA scientists. “Everything is so much easier and faster in movies than in life”, they say. But the techniques Watney used to survive are all legit and applicable in life. And most of all, we can learn a lot about how to bounce back from adversity from his attitude. We may never find ourselves completely alone in one planet but sometimes, everything in life seems to go against us. And when it does, we can either choose to accept it and give up or work our way out of it.

Without further ado, Here is what we can learn from ‘The martian’ about Persevering in the face of adversity.

  1. Never deny the problem : Watney knew he was likely to die on mars. The crew left him thinking he was dead, the atmosphere on mars is 95.97% carbon dioxide and is about 85% thinner than the atmosphere on earth. Even if he manages to survive, he would eventually run out of food. If not, complete isolation from humans could drive him crazy or even kill him. He realized this and it was an important step to surviving. Often, we tend to deny our problems. Just ignore them and not think about them. We even drink or get high to forget them. or we get overly optimistic too fast.
    Many people in life who try to be “positive” and by doing so they never acknowledge the very real negative things in their life. Their optimism has crossed over to a state of willful delusion. Not so with Mark Watney. He acknowledges the seriousness of the situation, but he doesn’t let it win out.
    Owning the problem helps to analyze possible out comes and to plan solutions. Don’t stay too caught up in the problem but live this step for a moment. Own the problem.
  2. Decide your outcome and Get cracking: Even in situations where it’s unlikely to overcome the problem, giving up is the worst thing you can do. After realizing what’s likely to happen, Mark decided “I’m not going to die here”. He was going to ‘science the shit out it.’ Deciding before we tackle the problem is 60% the work. Having a positive result in mind before beginning gives extra punches of hope and perseverance.
  3. Do the math :

    Watney, a botanist by profession, then analyzes what he needs and how to get it. Food was his short term need. And being found by his team at NASA was along term one (It takes years to get from earth to mars). And he tries till it works.
    This was an emotional moment for me when I watched the movie. He actually manages to grow potatoes in a planet where nothing grows. I consider myself an emotionally stilted girl. I just don’t react too much to the emotional moments in movies. But there’s this moment that really tugged at my heat strings: I just never thought a fucking potato sprout would ever make me get tears in my eyes. I think I may have clapped at it. That little, itty-bitty sprout, when we saw the leaves of the potatoes grew was really a great moment.
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  4. Humor :- It turns out, if you have to be stuck on Mars, Watney is the guy you want to be with. One of the first characteristics of Watney we are introduced to is his sense of humor. He faces at least a dozen separate, meticulously researched disasters and challenges while attempting to stay alive long enough for rescue, and that’s the lead-in to the biggest shocker of all. Being isolated from humans can have serious psychological effects on the brain. His sense of humor through out all of this is inspiring. There were many scenes Watney made witty jokes and danced to nothing but commander Louis’s disco music. Humor is a healthier habit for all and the greatest weapon to dealing with life’s most pressing disasters.

    5. Believe in yourself : If you were to ever find yourself in a situation where the only person you could count on is yourself, does that scare you? Are you able to be alone with yourself and still be happy, or do you need others? I don’t think anyone should be an island to himself, but I do think that we should be able to entertain ourselves and enjoy being alone with our thoughts. On Mars, Watney has no one else he can count on. If NASA tells him the wrong thing, he will die. Every decision he makes has to be cleared through him. Sometimes he does it his way, and other times he does it theirs, but one thing is for sure, Watney both trusts in himself and his decisions, and is also comfortable in his own skin.

    6. Resilience : Time and again, Watney would try something and it would fail, often times horrifically. He didn’t have anyone around to cheer him up or calm him down. When everything looked bleak, he only had himself to boost his spirits and he used all of himself to make it happen: humor, intellect, hopeful thoughts on the future, and dogged determinism. When life knocks you on your ass, how do you handle it? Do you sit and sulk in the gloom, or do you stand and face the rising sun?

    Over All Thoughts

    There is a lot to be said here. But that’s what the movie is for. I personally loved The Martian. I just saw the movie and I can’t wait till I get my hands on the book. The movie was very inspiring and beautifully made. Mars is surely a treat for the eye. And Watney is a character to fall in love with and to aspire to. He’s tough, no doubt, but he’s also smart and resilient. I highly recommend the movie. It’s one of those movies that is really long but you wouldn’t notice and that you’ll remember ever moment of.

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