Star Wars: The Force Awakens is playing in theatres across the galaxy. It’s all that people can talk about and, if you’re like me, then you might even be more excited to see Star Wars than for Christmas! With seven films that span five decades and yield dozens of characters who have delivered classic lines, there is a lot of career advice to be gleaned from these movies. Even the bad ones. Here are seven professional lessons from Star Wars.
your gut the force
Being able to leverage your instincts – or “gut” – to make decisions is essential for career success. According to Fast Company’s Lydia Dishman, “The more you pay attention to the outcome of trusting your intuition in combination with facts, the better your future decision-making can become.”Whether you’re a fan of the light or dark side of the force, letting it “flow through you” will empower you to make the right decision by relying on feelings as much as on analysis. As it turns out, the gut is faster than the mind.
Be a respected rebel
Han Solo is probably cinema’s greatest respected rebel. He’s a fast-talking pirate who consistently questions (or swindles) authority figures, such as Obi Wan Kenobi and Jabba the Hutt. Solo plays an essential role in the films because his provocative behaviour – “what is this jedi mumbo-jumbo, anyway?!” – enables wisdom to be spoken by folks in authority and this helps the audiences understand what the heck is going on. The most important quality of respected rebels, however, is that they are committed to an organization’s collective success. For all of his going-it-alone and flippant remarks to senior leaders, Solo has a track record of being a team player who puts his life on the line when his community needed him to help blow up two Death Stars and maybe something else in the latest movie, too.
Mentorship unlocks potential
Obi Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Darth Sidious (Emperor Palpatine or “The Emperor”) are incredible mentors – one could even argue that Luke Skywalker is a reverse-mentor for his father (he’s basically a recent graduate of Jedi school who convinces a senior leader, Darth Vader, that the organization is heading in the wrong direction, which results in The Emperor meeting a grim demise). With very different styles they cultivate abilities and values within their pupils. Mentorship offers many opportunities for learning. I have a few mentors and some of them coach me through tough experiences, while others share stories from their life and this helps me prepare for when I’m faced with similar challenges or opportunities. Everyone should have at least one mentor, so start thinking about what powers that you hope develop from such a relationship.
In my humble opinion, the only really good thing that I took away from the mostly horrible Star Wars prequels was a tip-of-my-hat to Emperor Palpatine for having absolutely awesome patience. It took years – possibly decades – for the Dark Side (or the Sith) to craft and execute a plan that crippled the Jedi and established the Galactic Empire. Patience is essential for creating a meaningful career. We need to deeply understand our values and goals, surround ourselves with people who also understand such things, and take the time to test experiences that might bring such things to life. HBR’s Amy Gallo suggests that legacy, mastery, freedom, and alignment are concepts to patiently explore in order to understand what meaningful career feels like for you.
There is strength in diversity
What I like about the Rebel Alliance is that it celebrates diversity. The Empire celebrates sameness and uniformity with stormtroopers and silly matching hats and helmets for button-pushing henchmen. Vancity Credit Union – and many organizations like it – understands that embracing diversity within your workforce means that companies are more likely to mirror the communities in which their customers live and work. This is a tremendous competitive advantage. A recent Contactpoint article by Denise Felham argues that creating a safe space for employees to disclose disabilities empowers individuals and organizations, as doing so helps people overcome barriers to their job search and helps employers to retain talent.
Practice doesn’t make perfect
Perfect practice makes perfect. If you prepare for a presentation by flipping through your slides while you scan Instagram and listen to the latest episode of “Serial” it is unlikely that you will inspire your audience. You’d never present to colleagues while doing such things, so why would you practice this way? In Empire Strikes Back Luke Skywalker walks right into a trap, loses his hand and learns things about his family for which he was grossly unprepared because he failed to practice perfectly. The Rebel Alliance would’ve been crushed numerous times over if Stormtroopers strived for perfection during target practice. Whenever you are preparing for meetings, pitches or difficult conversations always practice in a way that reflects the ultimate potential of your work.
There is no ‘try’, only ‘do’
Yoda. So wise, he is. Many people have inspiring dreams and big ideas when it comes to their career. Fewer people do the things that are necessary to make shit happen. Words are far less important than the deeds that bring them to life. As whiny as Luke Skywalker was for a lot of the movies, he is remembered for the incredible deeds that he achieved. Executing your ideas – or better yet, those of your colleagues – is a powerful professional differentiator because talk is cheap and getting things done is what gets peoples’ attention. So, don’t try to get more sleep and wake up early in order to be more productive. Do it.