What would you do if you were stranded in the ocean on a boat with an engine that stopped working, with no food, radio to call for control and most of all past the normal time search rescue squads spend looking for someone lost at sea?  

It was only a couple years ago while watching CNN when I heard about this incredible story of a man who was lost at sea for 438 days.  I also remember the serious disbelief I had in the story; in fact, I remembered saying to myself, “Give it some time and soon news will break that this was a fraud.”

My reason for thinking this was simple: no one survives in the ocean for 438 days… no one!

Like who are we kidding here!

Well, it took almost two years to past before I heard about the story again and it didn’t come the way I expected.  There was no breaking news on CNN about the original story being a fraud.  Instead, it was while riding the subway I noticed a book called 438 Days being advertised; it was about an extraordinary story about survival at sea. 

I knew right away what it was about.

I shook my head in utter amazement. 

I knew I had to read this book written by Jonathan Franklin about a man called Salvador Alvarenga who was born in El Salvador but spent his life in Mexico as a fisher. 

I purchased the book that week and in less than four days finished reading it.  I know that may seem long for many but for me that was impressive – finishing a book in four days is exceptional compared to the four months it usually takes me. 

You see I couldn’t wait to read about how this man survived for so long in an area of the ocean that stretches from Mexico (Central America) all the way to the Marshall Islands. 

To give you an idea of how far this is, the Marshall Islands are about half way between Australia and Hawaii.  It’s approximately 9,270km.  It would be the equivalent of driving from the East coast to the West coast of the United States and almost back. 

I will give you a minute to think about this and keep in mind this was an open boat whose engine had failed.  In fact, his boat was 25 feet long which the Guardian news describes as being two pickup trucks long and as wide as one. It carried a crew of two: Alvarenga and Ezequiel Cordoba his fishing help. 

Both men drifted almost 6000 miles.

6000 MILES – not Kilometres but MILES… 6000 of them!


There were so many questions to which I wanted answers.

How did they eat?

What did they eat?

How did they survive?

What was it like being in the ocean where waves were five plus stories high? 

Unlike many books this book was a definite page turner; the more I read the more I wanted to read.  That being said, I also found myself taking a break from reading so I could try to comprehend the sheer magnitude of what these two men had gone through. 

The author, Jonathan Franklin did an amazing job in telling the story and at the same time sharing input from experts about what these men had to endure to survive.  What these experts share with you are simply jaw dropping and makes you realize the sheer enormity of Alvarenga’s survival. 

The one area through which their boat drifted and that I can’t stop thinking about is called the Doldrums.  The Doldrums is a part of the ocean around the equator where it can take boats days and weeks to pass. 

It’s a place where you don’t want to be without food or water because you never know how long it would take to cross. 

This area is both a physical and mental challenge to those who have travelled through it.  It’s a part of the ocean where there is little to no wind, sometimes for weeks on end. 

It’s described by the Merriam Webster dictionary as a part of the ocean near the equator abounding in calm similar to that of being in a state of inactivity, stagnation or slump. 

In addition, it is an area that has thunderstorms that come on you unexpectedly. 

These storms can be devastating to ships; so imagine what it must have been like for Alvaregna and Cordoba.

They didn’t even have the benefit of a boat with an engine or even a sale to at least travel the average speed of one mile per hour in that area.

Logic says that if the environment out in the ocean didn’t get these two men physically then it would surely get them mentally.  Well, this is true and to read how both men dealt with the situation is a life lesson itself and worth the read.  

Alvaregna had a saying he got from this experience: “If you think you are going to die you will die.” 

It is at the end of the book where he makes his most profound statements with these words.  They serve as the platform on which he puts into context his experience for a world filled of people that dream of achieving great things but so often fail to believe they ever can.

I can continue to write for days about this book but it would be an injustice for me to tell you any more about it.  I can think of the number of books I read in high school with none of them ever coming even close to teaching me what I learned from this book. 

This book should be a recommended reading in schools but even more importantly it should be recommended reading for everyone.

There are many lessons to take from this true story but I will leave you to experience the incredible learning you gain from reading about Alvaregna’s experience.  What I will tell you is I now understand why he was able to survive for so many days out at sea and the answer has nothing to do with his fishing skill but everything to do with the kind of person he was on land.

What I will share with you are the three lessons I learned from Alvaregna about achieving dreams and goals.

1. If you still have a passion and a belief in your heart towards pursuing your dream, don’t give up on it!

There are many fiction based books that have a great ending to its story that inspires and motivates us to believe in our ability to overcome any odds – 438 days is one of these books – but it’s not fiction.

I am still amazed this is a true story.

The ending of this story, like many survival stories, is incredible.

Another incredible story which came from his survival at sea was how this ordeal led to him having his greatest dream fulfilled: reuniting with his daughter who he last saw when she was 1.

She was twelve years went he went adrift in the ocean. 

He held onto the belief that if he could survive this situation he would have a chance to reunite with his daughter – and he did.

What he had to go through to see this dream become a reality will leave you speechless.  It will allow many of us (certainly me) to put into perspective the many challenges and obstacles we have and will encounter, while pursuing our own dreams, into perspective.

Okay you really need to read this book.

2. Someone you don’t know is rooting for you to achieve your dreams

A group of Alvarengna’s fishing friends, who searched for days trying to rescue him, never gave up on his ability to survive.  His friends knew that their friend possessed strong will, determination and the ability to do what it took to survive. 

Days after Alvarengna went missing his friends gathered to share their stories of him.  One of the stories was about a time when he was asked to take care of a friend’s house who didn’t leave any money or food for him to eat.  Willy, another one of those gathered, said he saw him with a bowl of dog food pellets upon which Alvarenga poured milk and proceeded to eat like cereal. 

When Willy told him that he was going to get sick, he looked at Willy and said

“You don’t see the dogs dying, do you?” 

It was this and many other experiences they all had with Alvarenga that made them believe he would find a way to survive.

When Alvarengna was on the ocean with Cordoba it felt like they were all alone. 

Alvarengna wondered why his friends never came to rescue him but little did he know they did attempt to search and rescue him.  In fact, they spent more time trying to do this than was the norm. 

It was only after re-uniting with them after surviving his ordeal did he realize his friends never gave up hope on him surviving. 

The same applies to you and your dream! 

The road you travel toward pursuing your dreams can be a very lonely road where your emotions and mind plays games with you.  During this time, you will feel like most people you know do not believe you will ever accomplish that dream – and those who believed in you at the start will, after a while, begin to question your ability to succeed. 

Do not let these thoughts and feelings distract you from your objective which is to achieve your dream. 

Focus on doing what you need to do to turn your dream into a reality.

In the end when you have successfully achieved that dream or goal you will meet people you know and don’t know, who were rooting and believed in you, even when you thought they didn’t.

3. Beware of the Doldrums

How you handle the mental game is what determines your physical outcome.

This was the case in Alvaregna’s 438 days adrift at sea and the same applies to anyone pursuing a dream. 

Anyone who has seriously pursued a dream knows what it’s like to give everything, take every action, follow-up on every lead, and so on without seemingly getting any closer to achieving your dream.  Despite your steadfast and unwavering efforts, it seems like you are not making any progress and even beyond this you wonder if you are even going in the right direction or doing the right thing. 

It seems like you are lost in a world of trying and failing and for every one glimmer of hope that comes your way there are ten disappointing events that follow. 

The question “Why don’t I just give up?” begins to play, in your mind, like a chorus to a never-ending sound filled with lyrics of all the discouraging words people have told you. 

I can go on and tell you all the reasons why you should ignore what these people have said and why you should keep pursuing your dreams but I will not.

Instead, I will let Alvarenga tell you in his own words.  When he was asked by Jonathan Franklin (author of the book) why he wanted to collaborate on a book, this is what he said:

“I suffered so much and for so long.  Maybe if people read this they will realize that if I can make it, they can make it.  Many people suffer only because of what happens in their head; I was also physically being tortured.  I had no food. No water.  If I can make it so can you.”

Jose Salvador Alvarenga reunited with his daughter.

Call to Action: Give Your Dreams a Chance.

Get off the court side of procrastination, self-doubt, analysis paralysis, lack of planning, poor time management, worrying about what people think, etc. and get in the game… your game!

Come join and help us build a global community whose goal it is to bring the world together by inspiring, motivating and empowering 8 million people globally to Think BIG, be BOLD and ACT NOW towards pursuing and achieving their dreams and goals.

If you think this is a crazy, pie in the sky kind of talk you definitely need to read what comes next.

What is the commonality among the following:

  • Horse and buggy, car, train, plane
  • Radio, television, satellite
  • Internet, Facebook, Google, Twitter
  • Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela

If you guessed they all in some way brought the world closer together, then you are correct.

In some way, each one of the inventors and activists etc. allowed us to reach out to millions of people through their inventions, social activism and so on.  In other words, they brought the world closer together, so why can’t you… in your own way?

Okay Paul, I am going to give my dream a chance; how do I get started with your challenge to Think BIG, be BOLD and ACT NOW towards pursuing at least one of my dreams and goals?

Congratulations!!  Imagine where all this can lead! 

To register for this challenge, visit our Facebook page…Think BIG, be BOLD, ACT NOW (hyperlink)

Quote by Theodore Roosevelt:

“Do what you can with what you have wherever you are”

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