I will start with a question - What could be a big goal for a 12-year-old? If you have one around ask and see what they say. My son says Doctor without thinking much about what it takes.

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For a change, I will start with a question – What could be a big, crazy goal for a 12-year-old? If you have one around ask and see what they say. My son says Doctor without thinking much about what it takes. There could be more adventurous answers like an astronaut, an athlete, or even a cricketer. However, most of the kids at 12 are not serious about these pursuits and hence we don’t take them seriously.

Today’s story is about Jessica Watson who shows us that 12-year-olds can be deadly serious about their goals even if it is an impossible one. Jessica Watson, born on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia is the second of four children to her parents, who relocated to Australia from New Zealand in 1987. 

Growing up, the Watson children, including Jessica, had an exciting upbringing. All of them took sailing lessons and lived in a cabin cruiser and double-decker bus for years and got home-schooled. 

At the age of eleven, Jessica’s mother read the story of a young Australian sailor Jesse Martin to the children as a bedtime story which captivated Jessica. The idea stuck with Jessica and at the age of 12, she made a big, bold, crazy decision.

“I will sail around the world, alone like Jesse did.” Said Jessica to her mom.

Jessica had made up her mind and was telling her parents than asking for their permission and her supportive parents did not crush her ideas seeing the determination in her eyes.  

From the age of 14, Jessica dedicated herself to preparing for her sailing journey. She found a coach, trained tirelessly, studied navigation and weather patterns, and learned everything she could about sailing. Jessica’s dyslexia made everything harder but she did not give up.

At 16, she was finally ready to set sail and make her dream a reality. She decided to go solo circumnavigation, non-stop and unassisted. A feat never achieved by anyone as young as she was.

She hit her first big setback just before she was about to start her journey. During a test run from Brisbane to Sydney, Jessica Watson’s boat, Ella’s Pink Lady, collided with a 63,000-tonne bulk carrier and got severely damaged. Despite this, Jessica managed to regain control of the boat and got it back. This led to much media attention, questions and criticism of her planned journey. 

Despite criticism, doubts and concerns, Jessica embarked on her epic journey from Sydney Harbor on October 18, 2009, facing the vast and treacherous waters of the world’s oceans. She crossed the equator for the first time on November 19, 2009, By Christmas, she found herself near Point Nemo, the most remote location on Earth. On January 13, 2010, she successfully passed Cape Horn, covering about 9,800 nautical miles in 87 days. On the way, she encountered a severe storm with 10-meter waves and 70-knot winds, which damaged the boat. 

Jessica arrived in the Australian economic zone in April 2010 and the goal seemed near. However, her biggest challenge awaited her. Within days, Jessica encountered severe weather conditions where she had to face swells of up to 12 meters causing multiple knockdowns in a leaky boat. The worst of all was when the boat went underwater setting off the alarm and Jessica was uncertain if she would make it. Moments later, the Pinklady sprung to the surface and Jessica escaped miraculously without serious injury.

“There was a period, a couple of hours maybe, where I was contemplating whether this was it,” Jessica told the ABC’s Australian Story.

Jessica completed her journey on day 210 of her voyage at 1:53 pm on 15 May 2010 when she arrived in Sydney Harbour, 3 days before her 17th birthday.

While her journey did not meet the distance criteria to qualify for a circumnavigation, her story of bravery and courage continues to inspire young and old people all around the world. 

Lessons from Jessica’s Impossible Journey

1. Listen and Tell Stories: Stories, real or fake, have the power to inspire. Jessica would not have set her goal on sailing if not for her mother’s narration of Jesse Martin, another young sailer’s story. This highlights the power of stories and how they can shape our perspectives. Make it a habit to read or listen to stories of people who have done amazing stuff which can rewire the way you will think about something in life from there on. If you can gift this to a child, nothing like it

2. Set Inspiring Goals to beat your own expectations: Despite facing scepticism and doubts from others about her age and experience, Jessica remained steadfast in her determination to achieve her goal. Her journey teaches us the importance of setting ambitious, inspiring, near-impossible goals for ourselves, ones that push us beyond our comfort zones and compel us to strive for a version of ourselves that we can be proud of. 

3. Listen to your Intellect, Follow your intuition: Throughout her voyage, Jessica had the guidance of her coach on the phone. However, when she faced her toughest challenge when she was days away from the destination where she chose to go against her coach on how to deal with severe storms. While this looked too risky at one point which may have cost her life, she managed to get through and reach safety. 

This teaches us the importance of balancing logic and intuition in decision-making. Sometimes, our gut feelings can provide valuable insights that our rational minds may overlook. By listening to both intellect and intuition, we can make more informed and empowered choices in pursuit of our goals.

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