Nothing has happened for hours. The drone of the engines and roll of the boat rock the guests to sleep as I stand and stare at the lures and baits dancing in our wake. Then, like a sudden bolt of lightning, a yellowfin tuna bites, causing a rod to bend over and start screaming as the line quickly peels off of it. That bite is immediately followed by another mere seconds later, which is followed by another and so on until five rods are bent over and chaos ensues.
The above scene was my summer in a nutshell — hours of waiting and staring followed by a few minutes of pandemonium. That’s fishing, and my job as a mate on a charter fishing boat out of Ocean City, Md. was everything I had dreamed of as a child. This was my first summer working in the sport fishing industry, so I had a lot to learn in three months. However, the most important knowledge I walked away with was not about fishing — instead, it was about attitude.
Ultimately, attitude was the reason I remained employed this past summer, and it was the catalyst that allowed me to live out my dream of chasing pelagic fish like tuna and marlin every day. Most people in this industry grow up in it, learning and perfecting their craft over a lifetime, so to say that I was a few years behind was an incredible understatement.
For example, the first mate on the boat I worked on would make fun of my lack of dexterity and grace while tying different knots to form the connections between the main lines and hooks. My intuition of how to mitigate the chaos that ensued when fish would bite was nonexistent. I even struggled to operate the large, cumbersome rods and reels we needed to use every day. As a result, I endured the constant — albeit warranted — yelling from the captain to correct and point out each mistake I made.
However, in spite of all my shortcomings, I showed up to the boat every morning at 3:30 a.m. ready to work, to go above and beyond and to complete my responsibilities to the best of my ability. When the captain gave not-so-polite directions and teachings from the bridge, I would simply reply with an “OK capt” and do as I was told. I didn’t complain, and I didn’t make excuses.
About a month into the summer, I thought everything had been going well. That is, until one morning, on our way out to sea from the harbor, the captain leaned over and said, “Look, you should know that you’re not here because of your skills. You’re only still here because of your attitude.” As one might expect, I was taken aback by this comment. Of course, I knew my skill set as a mate was more or less nonexistent relative to others in the industry. However, I knew that I had also learned and improved so much over the course of a month, so obviously I was still disappointed to say the least.
Eventually, though, I realized that his painfully honest comment was a compliment about my attitude. I came to understand that my lack of ability was fully expected by the captain, but my work ethic and attitude were not. So it was my attitude that made a difference, especially since it seemed to be the single reason that kept the captain from firing me from my dream job in order to hire someone more qualified.
Now, I almost definitely didn’t need to write a column to tell you that attitude is important in life. However, I want to emphasize that how we approach life not only impacts outcomes in our own lives, but it also inadvertently influences the outcomes in the lives of others, as well.
For example, if I show up to my morning classes ready to go back to sleep and not wanting to be there, then that negativity could easily rub off on my peers. The reverse is also true. If I meet with friends and they’re tired and in a bad mood from a rough week of classes, then I know I can easily bring up their energy and help them enjoy life by simply engaging them and suggesting we go out for dinner somewhere.
As students, it can be difficult to remember to savor moments — moments that can become treasured memories — in real time, especially when midterms are looming and every club we’re in is having an event or mandatory meeting in the next week or so. But that is all the more reason why it is so important to always carry a good attitude, since it impacts not just ourselves, but also our peers. So, whether you’re chasing pelagic species 60 miles offshore or diving into midterms, keeping a positive attitude will always make a difference in someone’s life, if not yours.
Mario Rosales is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.