Life Lessons – 9 Things I Learned from Watching One Piece.

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It’s no mystery that I’m a huge fan of Anime. Ever since getting introduced to Dragon Ball Z in my early teens, I’ve been hooked. Over the years, I’ve probably watched 3 to 4 dozen different shows about all sorts of different characters. Above all my favorite series by far has been One Piece.

It’s one of the most popular Anime shows out right now. Crazy to think the show has been running for almost 20 years and according to the author/creator, it’s only about 65% complete. I remember when I first started watching about 5 years ago. The series was at around 400 episodes at that point and I binge watched every episode for like, 3-4 months until I caught up! It’s been a wild ride to be honest and at the same time, I’ve learned a lot from the Straw Hat Pirates. Here are 9 lessons I learned from watching One Piece.

  1. Follow YOUR Dreams.

Growing up we often feel the influence of those closest to us. Many follow the path laid out for them by friends and family yet others look at that path and high-tail it the opposite way. The latter was how our Protagonist Monkey D. Luffy handled the path in front of him. His Grandfather Monkey D. Garp grew up to be a strong and respected Vice Admiral in the Navy. His Father Monkey D. Dragon took a different route and started a Revolutionary Army to oppose the World Government. You would think that with such prominent role models that Luffy would either join the Navy or the Revolutionary Army but no, Luffy chose a different path. He decided he would be a pirate living a life on his own terms.

Isn’t that amazing? Like I said earlier, many of us are influenced by our friends and family. You see it all the time – people join the armed forces/public service because people in the family did before them. Kids plan out their college careers hoping to go to the same colleges that their parents or idols went to. And we let those “Wiser” than us tell us what we should be doing with our lives. To me, that’s the craziest thing to do.

Why live the life that other people think we should? Often times the people advising you aren’t living the life they could be living. They live other people’s dreams and not their own. This is what leads people to be unhappy and unfulfilled in their later years, by time they realized they’ve made a mistake, it’s too late to adjust. So be like Luffy – live YOUR dreams!

  1. Start Somewhere – Just Get Started.

To be a pirate, you need a few things: a boat, a crew, a pirate flag; to name a few. At least that’s what you would think… We first meet Luffy afloat at sea in not a boat but a Whiskey Barrel. Growing up with his two “brothers”, they all decided to set off into the world once they turned 17. Luffy had nothing but a couple of goals to get a crew of at least 10 people and to create a Jolly Roger. He could have waited to find his crew to set sail especially since he knew nothing about navigating the sea but he didn’t. He set forth with nothing but faith that he could figure it out on the way.

What a refreshing message. There’s this saying that goes “If you fail to plan than you plan to fail.” What that saying doesn’t tell you is if you don’t act, then planned or not, you’ll still fail. It’s far too easy to get caught up planning, after all we want to be successful. We procrastinate and tell ourselves “I’m not ready yet”, “I need to do X, Y, and Z first”. Truth is, sometimes we need to just start. One of my favorite quotes goes ” An Entrepreneur is someone who jumps off a cliff and builds a plane on the way down”. Rather extreme but you get the point right? If you have the slightest idea of what you want to do, just go for it. You’ll learn and adjust on your way plus you’ll get more done playing in the game than sitting on the side lines.

  1. It’s ok to need help.

Perhaps one of the best things about the Straw Hats is that all 9 have their own goals while still sharing a goal of wanting to help Luffy reach his goal. But what are their goals you ask?

  • Roronoa Zoro – a former Bounty Hunter, Zoro’s ultimate goal is to become the greatest swordsmen in the world. As the first to join the Crew Zoro is a force to be reckoned with, second only to his captain.
  • Nami – Cat Burglar Nami is the second one to join the crew and the official navigator of the Straw Hats. Her goal is to chart a map of the entire world.
  • Usopp AKA God Usopp – is the sniper and third member of the crew. A habitual liar and often the comic relief in the show, Usopp is still an invaluable member of the Straw Hats. He’s a bit of a coward but always comes through in a clutch which is why it makes sense that his goal is to become a brave warrior of the sea.
  • Vinsmoke Sanji – Sanji keeps the crew fed as the ship’s cook. Not only is Sanji an amazing chef, he also rounds out the top 3 members in terms of strength. His goal is to find the “All Blue”, a rumored place where all four Regions of the Sea meet and is said to be a chef’s paradise of wildlife.
  • Tony Tony Chopper – Chopper is the 6th member of the Straw Hats and the crew’s doctor. His appearance is different being that of a reindeer… A talking reindeer that is. Chopper’s goal is to become a doctor that can cure any disease.
  • Nico Robin – Robin is the 7th member of the crew. Know as the ship’s archaeologist, Robin is the only member thus far to be a former antagonist to the crew. Viewed as a huge threat to the World Government, she is the sole survivor of the Oharan Clan who were wiped out by the World Government because of their extensive knowledge of ancient texts. Her goal is to find the Rio Poneglyph which is the only known record of the world’s complete history.
  • Cyborg Franky – Once a human, Iron Man Franky is a cyborg and the ship wright for the Straw Hat Pirates. The 8th member of the crew, Franky leaves his home and job as a ship dismantler to follow his dream to build and ride a ship capable of circumnavigating the world.
  • Humming Brook – The oldest member of the crew and the official 9th member of the crew. His role is the ship’s musician. Brook is by far the most seasoned pirate of the current crew, having been part of a crew some 50 years before Luffy first sets sail. That crew eventually met their demise in the Grand Line leaving Brook as the “soul” survivor due to his devil fruit ability granting him a type of immortality. Brook’s goal is a bit different as it is to keep a promise he made to his friend Laboon, a giant whale. 50 years ago, he and his pirate crew promised to return to Laboon after sailing the entire Grand Line.
  • Luffy – The Captain of the Straw Hats, he has the loftiest goal of all – to become the King of Pirates and find the One Piece, a treasure which the previous pirate king Gol D. Roger hid at the end of the Grand Line. Roger is the only pirate to officially make it to the end of the Grand Line and Luffy intends to do the same. This is the central goal for the Straw Hats as well. Each and every member is determined to see Luffy become Pirate King and Luffy is determined to help his crew achieve all of their goals as well. These goals are so significant that they need each other to reach them. Strive to have goals so big that you can’t do it alone as well.
  1. Some people won’t get it.

As entrepreneurs and people pursuing a less “traditional” path, we find out that all too often people don’t understand what we’re trying to do. They ask why, tell us to play it safe, assure us that the dream we pursue doesn’t exist. I used to think that these types of people were delusional but what I’ve come to realize is that most of the naysayers are simply uneducated. They don’t know much outside of traditional education and work so when we show such confidence in something they don’t understand, they only have their own point of view to reference from, therefore they think we’re making a mistake because they don’t know any better.

During the Sky Island Saga (ep. 144-195), Luffy and crew encounter another crew who doesn’t “get it”. Searching for the city of gold “Sky Island”, they stop at a bar on the island of Jaya to gather information. Shortly after entering the bar, Bellamy comes in wanting to test Luffy’s strength to see if he’s worthy of joining his pirate crew. At the time, Nami asks the bartender for info on the rumored island in the sky. Hearing this, Bellamy dismisses the trio (Luffy, Zoro, Nami) as a crew of dreamers and he and the rest of the bar ridicule the Straw Hats.

Believing in her captain, Nami urges Luffy to defend themselves as the insults soon become violent. Instead, Luffy and Zoro show their resolve by refusing to fight back or defend their pursuit of the island of gold or the One Piece. Eventually, they are beat up and thrown out of the bar.

What I got from these events was to stick to my guns. Just because a naysayer believes one thing doesn’t mean it has to become my belief. Likewise, not to feel the need to justify my beliefs to anyone. As long as I believe in myself and my team then what anyone else says is irrelevant.

  1. Don’t give up.

The Alabasta Arc (ep. 92-130) is where I feel the story makes its first real shift from fun to serious anime. After all, this is where Luffy has his first encounter with the 9 Warlords of the sea AKA the Shichibukai, when they come across the Kingdom of Alabasta. As they dig deeper into the mysterious Baroque Works Company controlling Alabasta, they realize the corruption taking place and move to usurp the leader of the organization. Mr. Ø AKA the Shichibukai Crocodile. Luffy’s first fight with crocodile doesn’t go very well. Crocodile, having devil fruit powers allowing him to turn his body into sand at will, proves impossible for Luffy to hit. So Luffy is defeated in just 3 mins.

Learning from his loss, Luffy comes up with a plan to fight crocodile. In their second encounter, Luffy brings a large barrel of water realizing that if crocodile can become sand, the water will nullify that ability and allow Luffy to hit him. This idea works, however Luffy is caught off guard and seemingly defeated a second time being left to die by crocodile. Luffy comes up with another idea for their third encounter instead of water which is scarce in the desert town, he uses the blood in his body to harden the sand. Using his fists covered in blood, Luffy eventually defeats crocodile once and for all.

This all shows that sometimes you have to get creative in your solution. Don’t give up but resolve to pivot and make adjustments to increase your chances of succeeding.

  1. Get a Great Right-Hand Man.

Zoro is largely agreed upon to be the first mate or second in charge of the Straw Hats. He was the first to believe in Luffy and join his crew. Zoro has proven time and time again to be reliable, always managing to hold his own when the Straw Hats get into a fight. His loyalty to his captain is evident, making sure to always protect his captain. No situation exemplifies this more than at the end of the Thriller Bark Arc (ep. 337-381). Let me give you some context. The Thriller Bark Arc finds the Straw Hats on a haunted island and confronted by the Shichibukai Gekko Moriah. This Arc is another turning point in the series that I’ve come to love. You see in almost every anime; the hero ends up defeating the villain after surpassing their own limits. Honestly, that’s every hero story ever: Hero fights villain, Villain defeats hero, Hero finds inner strength and defeats villain. Up until this point, One Piece has followed this same formula.

At this point, Luffy is faced with something he hadn’t encountered before – a villain that he couldn’t defeat alone. Luckily for him, the inhabitants help him increase his strength by stuffing him with the shadows of many warriors (it’s a long story). Finally, Luffy defeats Moriah, passing out in the process. As the pirates rejoice the celebration is cut short when the Shichibukai Bartholomew Kuma arrives with the intent to eliminate the Straw Hats. With Luffy out of commission, the Straw Hats hop into action. Only they prove no match for Kuma and are knocked out one by one, leaving only Zoro to defend the crew. Kuma claims the World Government is afraid of Luffy’s strength and opts to spare the Straw Hats if they give up Luffy. Instead Zoro bargains with Kuma offering his life in exchange for Luffy’s. Kuma agrees and at that point, removes all the pain and damage inflicted on Luffy and injects it into Zoro before he leaves.

Zoro survives through sheer will alone, leaving Luffy and the crew none the wiser. And that’s the lesson. When looking for someone to partner with, we all need to find someone that’s willing to have our back through thick and thin. If your right-hand man or woman wouldn’t take a bullet for you and vice versa, they aren’t the right one.

  1. Your best can only take you so far.

Narrowly escaping from Thriller Bark, the Straw Hats arrive at the Sabaody Archipelago (ep. 382-405). This is the half way point of the Grand Line and the last stop before heading to the “New World” (the second half of the Grand Line). Up until this point, the Straw Hats had found a way through all obstacles through tenacity and some luck. Unfortunately, tenacity and luck aren’t enough to save them after Luffy manages to incur the wrath of the World Government.

Here we arrive at yet another turning point in the series. Remember how I said before that typically the hero always wins after finding some innate hidden ability? Well that doesn’t happen here, instead the Straw Hats experience a crushing defeat at the hands of several associates of the World Government. First, they encounter the Pacifista (a Kuma clone). After struggling a bit, Luffy, Zoro, and Sanji manage to take down the Pacifista together, and surmise that there are many Kuma clones on the island. Elsewhere, Franky, Usopp, and Brook take on their own Pacifista opponent.

The Straw Hats regroup and take on the second Pacifista together. Zoro, still suffering from his injuries on Thriller Bark, is taken down by the clone before the Straw Hats use a combination of attacks take him down. Finally, the Straw Hats discuss their next move before being ambushed by yet another Pacifista and his human partner, Sentomaru. Exhausted from fighting two Pacifistas back to back, they realize that they don’t have the stamina for a third fight so soon. So, they decide to split and regroup in a couple of days.

The crew splits into 3 groups as they try to retreat. Sanji, Nami, and Franky head off in one direction only to be cut off by the Pacifista. Zoro, Usopp, and Brook head in another direction, only to be cut off by Navy Admiral Kizaru. Leaving Luffy, Robin, and Chopper to fight their way through Sentomaru. While trying to defeat the Pacifista, Zoro succumbs to his injuries, leaving Brook and Usopp to defend him and try to escape. Realizing that their chances of survival were dropping sharply, Luffy orders the Straw Hats to focus on running and to stop trying to fight.

Eveyone is shocked to suddenly see the appearance of the real Bartholomew Kuma who swiftly attacks the Straw Hats. Starting with Zoro, Kuma uses a strange ability to make Zoro vanish. In utter shock, Luffy again commands his crew to run as Kuma advances on the remaining members. One by one, he makes them vanish until only Luffy is left. Completely demoralized by his inability to save even one member of his crew, Luffy collapses in defeat before suffering the same fate as his crew.

Shortly after it is revealed that the Straw Hats had not been killed but instead were split up and sent far away to different islands. Shortly after awaking, Luffy finds out his brother Portgas D. Ace is scheduled for execution and over the course of 3 Arcs attempts and fails to save his brother’s life. Devastated Luffy realizes that in order to survive in the new world, he and his crew must get stronger. So, he sends a cryptic message to his scattered crew to regroup at Sabaody Archipelago in 2 years. The show skips ahead 2 years and the crew meets up much stronger from 2 years of training, ready to continue their journey.

People will always tell you that you should do your best and I couldn’t agree more, except that they don’t tell you what to do if your best doesn’t get you to where you want to go. Truth is, your best will only take you so far. In order to continue moving forward, you have to be better than your best. And when you get to the end of where that will take you, you have to continue to get better and do your best again.

  1. Trust your people.

After reuniting on the Archipelago, the crew’s first destination is the underwater town, Fishman Island (ep. 523-574). It’s not long on the island before Luffy and crew find themselves getting into trouble. The Straw Hats find themselves in the middle of a Coup d’Etat orchestrated by the Fishman Hody Jones. Since befriending the members of the current ruling kingdom, Luffy and crew decide to help stop the Coup.

The Straw Hats (and Jimbei) face off with the New Fishman Pirates, 10 vs 100,000. Luffy takes off first using a new ability to dispatch 50,000 of the fishman pirates in an instant with the rest of the crew close behind. It is these fights that always gets me excited by this Anime. Besides their roles on the ship each Straw Hats knows their role in a fight. All nine numbers manage to act independently yet in perfect synchrony.

Each member more than pulls their own weight and can be counted on to act at the right time without much communication, anticipating the moves of their comrades. To me, this is the type of organization to strive for, and not just when it comes to fighting, lol. Anyway, an organization that can anticipate each other’s movements and act according is a well-developed organization that has been built on trust. 

  1. A good team becomes your family.

Currently, One Piece sits at 800+ episodes and 13 movies and throughout one thing is clear. The Straw Hats are not yet just a crew, they’re a family as well. Each member interacts, bickers, pokes fun, and supports each other like only a family would. This is inevitable when you build strong bonds based on trust. I can only hope that the teams I build become family as well.

Hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it!


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