May 31

Lessons I Learned from Watching 12 Years a Slave

years a slave

Photo courtesy of nypost

I’m not usually a fan of period pieces particularly those centering on racism and slavery but I was really curious to see what all the buzz was about the movie Twelve years a Slave so I gave it a chance and watched it this morning, one of the rare times I had time to spare for a movie or two and it didn’t disappoint.  The movie was not only moving, it was also inspirational.

Solomon Northup was an African-American who, unlike other African-Americans at that time, was born free from slavery.  He was a farmer and violinist who was kidnapped in 1841 by slave traders who drugged him and brought him from New York to New Orleans where he was sold to a Louisiana planter.

Twelve Years a Slave was a originally a memoir written by Northup himself that chronicled his life during slavery.  He had a wife, a son, and a daughter he left behind and later on reconciled with after a Canadian who opposed slavery (played by no less than Brad Pitt) he worked with, helped him by contacting his family and friends.

Watching this movie left me with valuable life lessons that we can apply in our daily lives.  Like Solomon, we all go through setbacks and suffering when we least expect it.  He was a living a wonderful life with his family before he was kidnapped and I am pretty sure, he didn’t have the slightest clue that he won’t be seeing them for the next twelve years.  He didn’t have a clue that the next twelve years would be like hell on earth, being treated by slave owners in a degrading, almost inhuman way.  He didn’t have a clue that the once lavish life he once enjoyed will be replaced by constant whipping and beating.

Solomon Northup was a remarkable human being.  For one to endure twelve years of suffering and humiliation is truly extraordinary.  So what’s our takeaway from this movie?  What lessons can we get from Solomon’s ordeal?


No one knows what life may bring

Solomon never imagined nor expected that something bad was about to happen.  The day he was kidnapped, he woke up just like he did the previous mornings of his life.  If he would have known, he would have spent time with family more, hugged his wife and kids like there was no tomorrow.

This is no different with what may happen to us.  We do not know what tomorrow will bring.  We maybe here today, but no one knows if we will still be here tomorrow.  Ever since I got into personal development and blogging, the one thing I’ve always put in mind is to live for the present because life is short.

Spend time with your family, hug your kids, tell your wife I love you, make the most of each day you are with them.  It only takes a split-second for our fortunes to make a complete turn for the worse.


We’re very lucky and blessed

Slavery takes away a person’s liberty and freedom.  It takes away our self-respect, our confidence, and our happiness.  I can only imagine how life would be like if I was in Solomon’s shoes yet here we are, always complaining for just about anything from the food we eat to the air conditioning in our cars.

We’re lucky to be where we are right now.  We’re lucky to have gone through college and to have a job that supports our needs.  We’re lucky to be able to do what we want anytime we want to.  Sometimes we need to see other people’s misfortunes for us to realize how lucky we are.

We all live in beautiful houses, we eat three times a day and we wear nice clothes but did we ever stop to think that there are people who doesn’t have anywhere to live?  That there are people who can’t even have a single meal for a day and doesn’t have anything to wear?


There are still good people out there

Solomon Northup was sold to different slave masters but not everyone was as cruel and brutal as the last one, Edwin Epps (played by Michael Fassbender).  His first master, William Ford, was a preacher and unlike other masters, he was kind and considerate.

Samuel Bass, the Canadian carpenter Solomon worked with, was responsible for his freedom.  He was the one who told the cruel Epps that black people are also human beings and not mere properties.  He even asked him what he will feel if it was his liberty that was taken away from him instead.

In our lives, we will always come across good people like Ford and Bass.  People who have nothing but good intentions toward others.  People who are willing to break the status quo and live by what they believe is morally good.

These were all white guys and in a story about slavery, white guys are usually the bad guys.

There are still good people out there despite of the times we’re living in where backstabbing and corruption has become a culture.  Just like what I said in a previous post, all we need to do is see the good in people.


Hope will keep us alive and moving forward

Surviving slavery, something he was not familiar to, for twelve years was no easy feat.  Anyone else would have easily given up a year after.  What Solomon had that kept him going was hope.  The hope that one day everything he was going through will come to an end and the hope that he will see his family once again was all he needed to endure the suffering and humiliation he went through for more than a decade.

Whatever problems or difficulties we’re going through, we should know in our hearts that these too will come to an end.  We may be in a place we didn’t want to be now but everything will come to pass soon.

We may be in debt, we may have lost our job, our marriage may have failed, but we should never lose hope that one day, these will all be over.  It took Solomon twelve years to get out of his ordeal but hope kept him holding on.

Is there a Solomon Northup in you?  Do you have hope that everything negative you’re going through will end soon?


If you enjoyed this article, I’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment below.

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Noel Rosos

About Noel Rosos

Noel is a husband, father, author, performance coach and self-proclaimed FAILUROLOGIST who helps business owners and struggling individuals convert their failures into opportunities through inspiring blog posts, life-changing books and exceptional one-on-one coaching sessions


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  1. Mandy Kloppers

    Hi, You have a great blog here – I have enjoyed reading the posts and like your philosophical approach. Regards Mandy

    1. Noel Rosos
      Noel Rosos

      Thanks Mandy! I appreciate your kind remarks and I’m happy that you like what you’ve read so far. I hope my blog helped you in one way or another. Thanks for your continued support!


  2. Feny F. Dewi

    Wow, what a good blog! I learned something here, and I hope I’ll learn something more :)

    1. Noel Rosos
      Noel Rosos

      I am definitely glad to hear that Feny! I hope my blog posts would bring about positive change to your life because that’s what I am after.

      Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

  3. Ms.Eriksson

    Wow, I’m so bad at watching movies. I have to see this one asap! Interesting article.

    1. Noel Rosos
      Noel Rosos

      Cool Ms. Eriksson! Go go go!

  4. Noel Rosos
    Noel Rosos

    Thank you so much for the positive feedback!

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