Do You Listen to Advice?

Are we alone in the universe? If not, should we try to make contact?

At the start of Battleship, scientists have found an Earth-like planet the perfect distance from its own sun to sustain life and big enough to have its own atmosphere. They don’t know if an intelligent species lives on the planet or not, so they send out a message using a deep space satellite.

One scientist assigned to the project worries this is a bad idea. “If there is intelligent life out there and they’re able to travel here, it’ll be like Columbus and the Indians. But we’ll be the Indians.”

Confident in human superiority, no one listens to him. The aliens show up years later as the Navy’s RIMPAC joint naval exercise opens. They’re not friendly.

Lieutenant Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) serves on a destroyer, and is out on the Pacific for RIMPAC. The aliens set up an impenetrable bubble, cutting off three ships from the rest of the fleet, and quickly destroy two of them. Because the captain and XO of his ship are killed, Hopper ends up the senior officer on the remaining ship.

Hopper is the worst possible choice for command. He’s been a screw-up his whole life because he’s too proud to listen to the wise advice of the people around him, and he allows himself to be goaded like a child. Before the alien attack, he was set to be dishonorably discharged for fighting with the captain of another navy’s ships. His natural intelligence and creativity are useless because they aren’t tempered by common sense and self-control.

You can tell by the looks on the crew’s faces that they think they’re doomed. And they might have been, except for one thing—Hopper finally listens to someone else. He takes the advice of his chief petty officer to retreat rather than ramming the alien ship with his destroyer the way he wanted to.

As the battle for earth continues, Hopper and his crew survive and destroy the alien ships within the bubble because he becomes humble enough to learn from others. He allows the Japanese captain (the one he fought with) to teach him a trick using water displacement and weather buoys to map an enemy’s position without radar. And when their destroyer finally goes down, they have only one ship left—the retired battleship Missouri. None of his men know how to operate the battleship, so Hopper humbles himself again to ask for help from the Korean War veterans, who most of the world sees as obsolete.

It’s important to trust our gut and to seek out creative solutions to problems. But there’s also a place for listening to people who have more experience and more wisdom than we do. We can’t always see our own shortcomings.

The closer we get to our goals and the more skilled we get, the easier it is to forget how much we still have to learn and how much wisdom older, more experienced people have to offer. It’s especially easy when the advice we need to hear comes from the lips of someone we don’t like. But if we don’t humble ourselves enough to at least listen, our arrogance can actually prevent us from achieving our dreams.

How do you decide when to listen to advice and when to go with your gut?

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