Just Keep Swimming

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places.”  – Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

clownfish under water

When Finding Nemo first came out, I liked the sweet movie about a father doing all he could to find his lost son. Now, as a father myself, I appreciate it on a different level. My son likes the movie a lot—as many toddlers do. We had watched it not that long ago, and he really liked the goofy fish, Dory – voiced superbly by the amazing Ellen DeGeneres.

In the movie, Dory is a seemingly aloof blue tang fish with a short-term memory. She serves as the comic foil to the grumpy clownfish, Marlin, voiced by the equally suburb Albert Brooks. Throughout their adventure, Dory keeps trying to cheer Marlin up, who hasn’t been happy in years. No matter what Dory does, she annoys Marlin.

My son and I were watching, and he was laughing and I was smiling when Dory sang her famous line. No, not “I will name him Squishy” — although that was a pretty good line. The line that pretty much sums up what I believe to be the theme of the movie.

“Just keep swimming.”

It’s such a succinct, beautiful way to describe perseverance.

Perseverance is a remarkable skill, but a hard skill to learn and to master because to learn it, we must be broken. At some point, life will break us all, sometimes it will break us over and over again. However, that’s how we learn perseverance. If people are never broken, how can they learn to put themselves back together?

There’s a Japanese art form called Kintsugi. When a cup or a plate is broken, rather than throw it away, the item is glued back together and dusted with gold creating a beautiful sparkling seam. The item was clearly broken, but now it’s stronger than before, as well as more beautiful. The art of Kintsugi acknowledges that we can’t separate the broken pieces from our history. Whatever we faced in life, and overcame, is now a part of us. We are stronger at the broken places. It’s important to remember this — always.

I understand the irony of using a Hemingway quote to begin a post about becoming stronger when the world breaks us, but I did it intentionally. While Hemingway lost his final battle when the world broke him for the last time, we need to remember to never allow ourselves to get to that point.

At the end of Finding Nemo, Marlin and Dory kept swimming. Through it all, they kept swimming. Both Marlin and Dory had moments where they were tempted to stop swimming. Yet, they ultimately decided to keep it up, and they found Nemo.

Perseverance is will. It’s a matter of endurance – nothing will stop us, not even ourselves! All the great philosophical and literary quotes on perseverance can be incredibly challenging to keep in mind when the world is in the middle of tearing us apart. That’s why I feel Dory’s line matters. It’s simple. It’s powerful. It’s inspirational. It’s truth.

When life is breaking you, just keep swimming. Your Nemo is counting on it.


If you or someone you know is in need of help, please know there are millions of others who have gone through or are going through similar challenges. They understand. They feel it, too. Getting help is not a sign of weakness. Getting help is a sign of power. Keep swimming for yourself and for others in your life. Just keep swimming. I got the following information from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website: suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Published by Paul LaLonde

Husband. Father. Passionate about HR, helping people, and doing the right thing. Also, heavy metal, craft beer, and general nerd things! #SHRM19Blogger. Find me on Twitter at @HRPaul49 and LinkedIn. Thoughts, views and opinions on this site are solely my own and do not represent those of my employer or any other entity ​with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated.

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