Open Minds | Chat with Students

John GattiBy John Gatti10 May 202218 Minutes

I have had conferences in front of guys who aspire to a career in the merchant navy and see, almost always, the lack of knowledge on what will wait for them once the diploma is achieved.

The decision to work at sea is often born from the imagination, romance, and the idea of a world built on “heard” and then elaborated by the vision of a teenager attracted by adventure.

Starting from school, obviously generalising, we try to figure out how we should live it and what we can do to optimise this period.

Abstraction, especially at school, is the first thing we face. Teachers often explain matters that they have never practised, and they may not update the arguments they deal with.

On the one hand, it is correct because knowledge represents the base to build your career, the foundations on which to base your experiences; on the other, it will be insufficient if there is no clear idea of what is ahead.

If we do not clarify, the ingredient of a reality told by those who lived in a few square meters, alongside men of different nationalities, religions and habits, will be missing. By those who know a hierarchical system that has little to do with that applied by onshore societies. There will be no awareness of the strength of character needed to overcome small and large problems in solitude. A force must have a different thickness when you have hundreds of meters of water around, an expanse of sea and family and friends so far away that they seem to belong to another world.

How will your life change when you walk on the gangway of your first ship?

What will your practical tasks be? What will you expect from yourself?

How can you get ready to take better to face what awaits you?

You will experience that they will make you grow much faster than the boys your age who will not undergo a complete life change; this is certain, but how many of you will be able to overcome the trauma of the first negative experiences? How many of you will give up the peaceful world you know to face the unknown future of a future you can’t even imagine?

Experience the school/work alternation and contacts with people who work actively at sea. Take advantage of opportunities to meet men who have already been there—Looking for answers to what you don’t know. Be curious!

Below I will signal some of the points on which, in my opinion, you will have to concentrate attention:


Communication is one of the most important things you can learn, and the school period must serve as a cutter to make the tip to what will be one of the weapons that will give you more satisfaction in life.

We all communicate. It is simply impossible not to do it. We do it with our voice, hands, facial expressions, words, and silence, consciously or unconsciously, and the more we are good at doing it, the more we become effective in transmitting what we want.

But there is a considerable difference between communicating spontaneously and communicating as clearly as possible to avoid misunderstanding.

As I have already written, work at sea helps grow, but it does it for certain things, not everything. It helps, for example, to count on themselves, to respect the hierarchy and rules and to be responsible; but, as it is easy to intuit, it does not help in relationships: there are too few occasions to enhance this skill.

I realised the need to improve in this respect, and I started following several neurolinguistic and public speaking programming courses. They have been formative experiences, able to clarify the effects of words in various contexts, help me consider the points of view of the people I compare, and understand the importance of feedback.

You might be prepared, but – if you cannot effectively transmit 100% of what you learn – in questions, exams, or work interviews, it will decrease your value perceived in proportion to how much emotion or wrong words you use. They will have filtered you.

We are in the era of immediately complete information: books, television, the web, and courses, only spoiled for choice. The possibilities to fill the gaps are available to everyone. It is sufficient to identify those that are for our case.

Going into the practical, I advise you to attend an NLP course (neuro-linguistic programming) because it will give you the theoretical bases to begin communicating with knowledge. On average, it lasts a week. It will help you ensure that the emotional side wouldn’t be an obstacle between you and what you want to transmit.

A door will open, beyond which you will find something that will condition your way of behaving.

The importance of English

Good. At this point, we go to another true statement, even if taken for granted: today, speaking English is fundamental!

We can say that this matter represents a problem that places Italian people in a disadvantageous position compared to the inhabitants of other countries.

In Northern Europe, English is the second language everywhere. Aside from their natural predisposition, they often use original language films, which lead them to learn it as a child.

Well, this is a good habit you need to start following. You can begin using Italian subtitles, move to English, and finally watch television in the original language without subtitles.

If English is so important, why take this “problem” for life?

I advise you to think about a study summer vacation in England. A good school is a new experience that allows you to get to know uses, costumes, and people. It’s essential to avoid other Italians: it must be total immersion, in and out of school.

Two full months will take you ten years ahead in studying this language.

After the course, dedicate a few tens of minutes a week to maintaining what you have learned. It will be sufficient to download a program like ABA English or Bubble and continue to watch movies in the original language. Even the English books offered by Kindle work: tapping the word you don’t know how to define is translated in real-time, facilitating reading.

Let us summarise:

  •  Look at the movies in the original language.
  •  Attend a full-immersion summer course in England.
  •  Download an English course on your mobile phone, iPad or computer.
  •  Read English books on Kindle.

The school generalises

The school sets a program and allows everyone to reach a certain level of knowledge.

Unfortunately, the adopted system goes behind some “side defects” that will act from imprinting on your character and personality if not identified and fought.

One is the concept of “6”.

The “6” in Italian school corresponds to the minimum level and certifies that you are ready to move forward.

Teachers’ questions and exams are the system judgment tool, and being ready to skip these obstacles is your primary goal.

If you follow the rules, you will have a promotion.

Quite right! The solution is simple: follow the rules.

But are you sure?

Let’s widen the frame of the picture and get a look at a more significant piece of life: do you want work from “6”, a relationship from “6”, friends from “6”, a life from “6”? Or do you think, how do I think, that you have to settle only the best?

The school offers you a standard preparation. It’s up to you to expand your knowledge, understand what is helpful to you and adapt it to your personality to get to your goals.

I followed the same school path you are following now; my son’s friends have had problems and doubts similar to yours; I met and dealt with many guys who attended or attended the nautical school. This experience allows me to express a thought that arises, more or less, from inferential statistics: not always the best at school reach the highest goals. Indeed, more often, the opposite is true.


It cannot be generalised, yet I am convinced that, in many cases, the problem originates from the brain’s automatisms.

Those who are good at school, responsible, and always prepared for questions and exams tend to convince themselves that “if he behaves well, the result is right in law”.

But in life, does it work like this?

Unfortunately, no, and this is a certainty.

In real life, you will meet competitors with a “toolbox” filled with tools other than yours, more screwed people with fewer scruples, more motivated, others still recommended, or men or women ‘in the right place at the right moment’.

Nothing will be obvious.

Everything can change and will not always depend directly on you. That’s why I want to talk to you about a deliberately provocative concept:

The art of getting by!

A good student demonstrates a sense of responsibility, constancy, seriousness, and reliability; he manages to program the study constructively and effectively; He has a method.

Essential qualities, but not sufficient, often collide – because they originate from different contexts – with those that can make a difference in achieving success.

If I have, as an employer, to give a task to do, I am sure that the latter will apply seriously and, being reliable and responsible, will take it forward to the best of my ability. I would have any doubts if I would entrust him with a non-ordinary task were, to be able to do it, it would be necessary to leave the schemes and contest the obvious. Developing that quality is known as “the art of doing it by yourself“.

Where do I want to go? I’m saying that you shouldn’t study? That is beneficial; who does not apply?

No, absolutely, but I invite you, sooner or later, to overtake the wall that separates you from the boys who skip school. Those who prepare for exams only at the last moment succeed in passing them. Those who try not to give up anything because even the holidays, friends and relationships are essential.

You must get out of the boundaries of social programming, circumvent the rules and conventions, risk something to make a new experience, and change habits while remaining guys who apply.

Difficult, not impossible, but who has ever said that conquering the right balance in life is easy?

Now and then, overcome the wall and feed your art to arrange by yourself.

The objectives

Let’s go back to the school limits and do it, day after day, year after year, which works to form a very thick synapse in your brain.

The objectives follow a relatively regular cadence. If we analyse them within a vast temporal setting, we realise that each of these is very close. For example, being prepared for the Query of the next day, the following week and – pushing us a little further – we reach the maximum to overlook the goal for the achievement of the diploma.

I’m sure I will put you in difficulty if I ask what you will do at forty. Perhaps it would happen even if I asked if you will navigate or not or on what ships you will chase your career: will they be passengers, oil tankers or tugs?

To reach a goal, it is necessary, first of all, to define the plan and the main steps.

The future imagined at 14, 15 or 16 years will hardly be the definitive one, and that, therefore, will suffer wheel changes as the ideas will make more clear and concrete.

Imagine a path without prospects: You would seek your way by looking at three hundred-sixty directions, wasting resources and time by engaging in things you may never use.

Now think of a dream to come from here to twenty: go ahead, day after day, advancing between two tracks, with clear ideas about what you need to get there, on what will be the next step of the ladder that will take you to success. During this journey, you will undoubtedly lose the route, but thanks to the focus of your lens, you will notice, and with a rudder stroke, you will put the bow back in the right direction.

In addition to the good habit of thinking and planning, several tools are made available by technology that helps the organisation. Below is a list of some apps I use daily:

  •  “Google Calendar” for commitments and deadlines;
  •  “GtaskSpro” to remind me of things;
  •  “Mindly” to structure the concepts, to make brainstorming and planning projects;
  •  “SimpleMind”, a program for mental maps to put thoughts in order and generate new ideas.

There are so many others. Find your modus operandi.

I realise there would be many other things to say, addressing various aspects from different points of view, but I think it can now be enough.

I want to add that Intelligence is a vital component of success. Still, mental opening – the ability to accept feedback as a constructive component – gives the possibility to use even the Intelligence of others.

Good luck!