Note: In this column, I discuss the film Spare Parts, including the ending. If you have yet to see the film, please read at your own risk!
Today’s column is inspired by the movie, Spare Parts, based on the Wired Magazine article “La Vida Robot.” The article chronicles the true story of a group of students from a mainly Latino high school who won first place over MIT in an underwater robotics competition!
The main character, Oscar, is forbidden to join the U.S. Army because he is an undocumented immigrant. He pursues the opportunity of competing in the robotics competition as an avenue to build a better life.
Working with an advisor, Fredi Cameron, they put together a team to compete in the competition. Due to a lack of funds, the team looks for spare parts and asks for donations.
Throughout the movie, the boys’ path to the competition is filled with adversity; however, they are driven by the joint goal of creating a better life for themselves.
“Your big opportunity may be right where you are now.”
– Napoleon Hill
From this inspirational movie, there are several important lessons:
Take big risks.
Despite being high school students, the team chose to enter the college competition. They believed that if they did moderately well, they would have at least been able to say they could compete on the collegiate level.
The challenge for many of us is avoiding the tendency to aim below what we are capable of. If we will only demand more of ourselves, oftentimes we rise to the occasion.
Less is more.
“Don’t use a lot when a little will do.”- Proverb
In the movie, the high school team did not have access to the level of funds the college teams had. Their underwater robot was lighter and had thinner cables which actually allowed them to complete one of the challenges no other team could.
Sometimes bigger or more expensive isn’t always better. Less can spur a higher level of creativity- when we have less, we have to find ingenious ways to use what we have.
Assemble a team of complementary strengths.
Every team member played a vital role, and the strengths of each person formed a high-performing team. One young man’s role was to lift the robot in and out of the water. He was able to handle the weight of the equipment, which proved to be just as crucial as the one who understood mechanical design.
Who is on your support team? Are you able to each use your strengths to create a stronger team? Doing so allows us to achieve greater results than we would on our own.
The team did not have funds on hand or sponsors like the college teams did. Oscar, the leader and motivator of the team, asks the towns people and local businesses for donations. Throughout the movie, their story demonstrates how to maximize what is available to us- people, resources, potential, inspiration. They had to maximize if they were to have a chance at reaching their goal.
How do you maximize your life? Are you consistently using all available resources?
Persevere even when the odds are against you.
To travel from Phoenix, where they lived, to the competition in Santa Barbara, CA provided its own set of challenges. Three of the four boys were undocumented immigrants and could have faced consequences for crossing state lines. Despite the obstacles they faced building the robot, coupled with their family challenges, the boys stayed the course.
When you persevere even when the odds are against you, do you notice how your confidence level rises? You walk away feeling, “If I can handle ‘that,’ I can handle anything!” How much more determined does that make you to achieve your goal?
When you have to make it, you do.
The boys were able to connect with their burning desire or the “why” behind the pursuit. For them, the “why” (to get ahead in life) fueled their passion to build the best possible robot.
When a leak in the case appeared the day before the competition, they accepted no other alternative but to come up with a solution. They knew they had to compete. Not only did the boys repair their robot in time to compete, they beat all other college teams (even though they were only in high school!) to win first place over prestigious schools like MIT!
When there is no other alternative but to succeed in life, you do. When your future depends on it, you find a way to make it. These boys used everything they had, even though what they had was very little. If they can do it, you can too!
At the end of the movie, images of the real people behind the article and film scroll across the screen. The competition had given them the opportunity to attend college if they chose, and two in the group started their own catering company. It’s a wonderful example of the power we have to shape our own lives. Start wherever you are, and go for it!
I hope this story inspires you. Using what you’ve got when it’s all you’ve got is the place to begin!
You do not have to be wealthy or well-educated. You do not have to have connections or be popular. You do not have to be prettier, smarter, thinner, or anything more than who you are.
Commit to becoming fully who you were created to be and using whatever you have.
I believe in your ability to achieve greatness! You have what it takes!
All the best,