WHEN THINGS ARE GOING BADLY, people will tell you, “don’t lose hope.” But hope is not as valuable as most people think. Determination is a much more helpful feeling. What’s the difference? I’ll show the difference by telling you a true story of a rugby team.
They were taking a flight to a rugby match when the plane crashed in the Andes mountains. The pilots had miscalculated their position. They thought they were on the other side of the highest peaks, but they weren’t. So they started their descent and flew right into the mountain. As they were about to crash, they radioed what they thought was their position, but they were wrong.
As the plane came down, the tail section hit a ridge and tore off. The front end of the plane slid to a stop in the snow. Thirty-two people survived the crash. They were now in warm-weather clothes in very cold weather (the temperature was far below freezing at night). They assumed, of course, that the pilots transmitted their correct location, so they expected to be rescued. They lived on hope.
They had a little transistor radio they listened to all the time, and they heard about the progress of the search for the missing plane. They held onto their hope with understandable desperation.
Then one day, they heard the search had been called off. Many of them were crushed by the news, some weeping in despair. All hope was lost! But one man wasn’t crushed. All along, most of the others were fixated on getting rescued, but Nando was determined to get back to civilization, and didn’t like passively waiting for rescue. When they heard the news on the radio, Nando said, “We’d better go tell the others.”
The person he was talking to said they can’t do that. People will lose hope. Nando replied, “What’s so great about hope?”
To many of the survivors, the idea of saving themselves seemed impossible. They didn’t know where they were, or how far away civilization was, or in what direction civilization lay. They knew Chile was to the west, but the way was blocked by enormous mountains. They were at an elevation that was permanently snowbound and they were ill-clothed for an expedition in these conditions. The air was low in oxygen and it exhausted them to hike.
But Nando and a friend, Canessa, prepared for their hike, and then headed out. The hike over endless mountains in thin air, freezing in inadequate clothing, pushed these young men to their limits. At one point, Canessa said, “I can’t go on.”
Nando replied, “You must go on.”
Seventy days after the plane crashed, Nando and Canessa found civilization. During the ordeal, Nando lost fifty pounds, and he was a slim athlete to begin with.
Later in his life, Nando said, “When I was at the top of an 18,000-foot peak with Roberto Canessa, looking at the vast scenery of snowy peaks surrounding us, we knew we were going to die. There was absolutely no way out. We then decided how we would die: We would walk towards the sun and the west.’
That’s determination. Hope is passive and relies on people and forces outside of yourself. Determination is active and self-propelled. Determination is different from hope. If you have a challenging goal, don’t rely on hope to keep you going. Decide what you are going to do, and keep moving toward your goal no matter what happens.
When you feel disheartened, undemoralize yourself. It will keep your feet on the ground and determination in your heart.
Read the full story of the Andes survivors:
Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors (Avon Nonfiction)
Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home
Or watch the movie: