audiology the martian

Life and Work (and Hearing Care) Lessons from The Martian

Some time ago I read a book that became a very successful movie starring Matt Damon (Jimmy Stewart for our times, if you don’t mind my saying so). That book/movie was The Martian by Andy Wier. The movie very much recreates the tone of the book (tho I would recommend reading the book for a fuller understanding of the main character and the themes). 

Upon recent reflection (and watching the movie again on demand) it occurs to me that there are several themes in this book and film that can serve us well, in life and in work.  It has nothing to do with hearing care… and yet – it does.


Be a Weeble!  


My brother is a Weeble.  There have been numerous occasions in his life where he has striven for success, been knocked down, gotten up, dusted himself off and immediately moved on to the next challenge.  Not that he has not had success – indeed he has. But I venture he would not have had nearly as much success in his life had he not repeatedly reached beyond what others perceived as his grasp.  

Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down!”  They are persistent and they are annoyingly positive and stubborn.  But they get stuff done!

The protagonist of The Martian faces the ultimate knock-down.  He is stranded on Mars alone with no communication.  That is about as hopeless as it gets!  But he doesn’t give up!  He feels sorry for himself for a few minutes, then starts working at a solution.  After all, what choice does he have?  Lie down and die or get up and figure it out.  

Life just has a way of knocking us down on a regular basis.  But staying down is a choice. Even when the situation is not life and death, it is important not to give up.  Persistence pays! 


Figure It Out


Homemade KEMAR

I love McGyver!  And I enjoy emulating McGyver.  I recently had to video screen views of REM procedures.  I couldn’t use my own ears (tortuous canals and too much moving around involved), there was nobody nearby I could corral to be my “patient”, and no KEMAR. Oh well, so much for that little project. But then I started looking around the office.

How can I make this work?

An Otoscope speculum, a tymp ear tip, some Fun-Tak and a little tape later, and I was in business.  Kind of hard to see, but here is my home-made KEMAR. It worked great!

In The Martian, our protagonist is alone and completely isolated, so he has to figure it out.  He becomes the ultimate McGyver.  He works out a very low-tech way to communicate, he transforms his living quarters into a Martian hothouse for cultivating potatoes, and he re-purposes about everything he touches.  As he says at one point, “I am going to have to engineer the s*** out of it.”

I was recently fortunate enough to visit Peru; a trip that has been on my bucket list for most of my life.  Winston, our guide at Machu Picchu, made very clear to us what he thought of the idea that the Inca wonders were created by ancient aliens (not much).  No, we have not yet figured out how they built what they did. But it is simple arrogance to assume that since we, with our “advanced technology”, don’t understand how they accomplished everything they did, the Incas of the 15th century could not possibly have figured it out on their own.  

As our guide Winston suggested, given time, imagination, motivation and perseverance, nearly anything can be accomplished. 

Thank goodness we all have support systems and knowledgeable people around who can help us.  I have been fortunate throughout my career to have been surrounded by people smarter than me that I could buttonhole for advice and counsel.  But, we are not helpless! 

Whatever it is, given enough motivation and time, we can figure it out.  We will not always have THE EXPERT available to walk us thru the steps.  What we do is not simple, but neither is it rocket science.  We can refer to some of that advanced education we have accumulated, use a little imagination, and remember that manuals were written for a reason. 


Keep Your Sense of Humor


OK – I get it – it‘s a novel!!!  It is easy to keep your sense of humor when you aren’t a real person in a hopeless situation.  Still, the protagonist of The Martian was selected for the mission, in part, due to his positive personality and sense of humor. 

Even when things get bad, humor can put things in perspective and sometimes change perspective.  One of my favorite movie scenes is from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Butch and Sundance have been pursued for days and are cornered a hundred feet above a river.  Butch suggests jumping, but Sundance refuses, finally admitting that he can’t swim. Butch replies, “Heck, the fall will probably kill us.”  Whereupon they jump, living to rob banks another day. Again, yes it’s a movie – but that quip is what broke the impasse.

Humor puts people at ease, it can be an effective teaching tool, and it can open a space where new ideas can take hold.  So lighten up!  

And finally…

“…there is a basic human instinct to help each other out.” 

In the book and film, thousands of people all around the world spend millions of man-hours and hundreds of millions of dollars to get one guy out of a serious pickle. 

That same instinct is functioning when one hearing professional helps the couple before them to improve their lives by providing the hearing help they need.  The difference is only a matter of scale. 

So – Be a Weeble, figure it out, keep your sense of humor, and help someone hear better.  It’s what we do! 


Paul U. Teie, MS, has been an audiologist since 1991.  He has spent much of his career in direct clinical care but has filled other roles in the hearing care industry as sales representative of a special instrument dealer and a hearing instrument manufacturer.  Since 2007 he has provided sales and clinical training for large hearing care networks and currently trains for HearUSA/HearCanada. 


*featured image, The Martian, 20th Century Fox

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