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7 Things “Star Wars” Taught Me About Productivity

When life gets tough, James Altucher asks himself "What would a Jedi do?"

A few weeks ago Cheryl Richardson, author of the book “The Art of Extreme Self-Care,” asked what movie had impacted me the most. I jumped right up and said “Star Wars,” because I believe in The Force. And I’m not the only one. In 2001, “Jedi” became the fourth most popular religion in the United Kingdom

I saw the original Star Wars when I was seven years old and it changed my life. We all have faith in something; usually a mixture of some personal beliefs with modern science. I am like that also. Mostly, I just believe in what works. Which, for me, is The Force. I admit it.

Here’s some of the life lessons that I’ve learned from the Star Wars movies:

1) Rest when you have nothing to do. 

When Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn is fighting Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace, a transparent door closes, dividing them (see in video above). Darth Maul paces back and forth ready to continue their battle while Qui-Gon simply sits and rests, seemingly doing nothing.

In modern society we all feel like we have to be like Darth Maul. Pacing, finding a “purpose,” being anxious, stressed, waiting for doors to open. But it is great to just rest and be happy and not move when you don’t have to. I will tell you those doors will open, and it’s great. 

2) Rid yourself of everything you don’t need.

Obi-Wan lives a simple life in exile for 40 years when he’s on Tatooine. Yoda, Jedi Master, lives in a simple swamp hut after he loses his battle with the Emperor. They were still capable of laughing, of living, of staying healthy, and were able to train the next generation. They didn’t need anything to keep them entertained. It’s a story. But this is the way I would like to live: with my friend and my health intact, and not a material care in the world.

3) Practice being “good.”

Being a good, compassionate person is a quality we develop over years and thousands of hours of practice. Most people are not good people. In business, in art, in almost every “world” I’ve been in, most people I meet are pretty gray to black. It takes practice to be the person who is a source of compassion and honesty. 

Supposedly it takes 10,000 hours to master something. Unfortunately, most people spend 10,000 hours trying to be a jerk to others. If all you do is put in your 10,000 with small kindnesses, then the universe will return that many times over.

4) Prioritize your health. 

In all of the movies I never saw an out of shape Jedi. Although there seems to be a deep spiritual component to being a Jedi, but clearly there is a physical aspect as well. They are jumping out of spaceships, fighting with light sabers, and they can probably run a four-minute mile. Heck, even Yoda at the age of 800 is jumping all over the place. 

Health is not important. But sickness is. If you are sick, then your thoughts will be stapled to that sickness. You can’t get rid of it. You’re in pain and pain takes up the mind and precludes you from doing the things you’d like to do. This is why yoga is not about looking good in a yoga studio. It’s about staying physically and emotionally healthy so you can focus on your spiritual life.

5) Be around other Jedis.

Once Anakin Skywalker starts hanging out with Darth Sidious he becomes a bad guy (see above). Here are some things that are hard in life: being honest, being kind, and trying to add value to others. These things take time and energy. When you are around people who steal your energy then those things become even harder. As a wise man once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

6) Be open-minded. 

This is a difference between Luke Skywalker and Han Solo in the original Star Wars. Luke is willing to believe. There’s a lot of issues people get “stapled to” almost as if they were sicknesses. When you find yourself thinking, “This side is DEFINITELY right,” be willing to open your mind and look at why the other side thinks the way they do. It’s never for the reasons you think. Issues are just ways for the mind to practice being open-minded. 

7) Trust that life is cyclical. 

Luke has to watch Obi-Wan die. Han has to be captured by bounty hunters. Anakin has to be recruited as a little kid. Qui-Gon has to die. Yoda has to go into exile. Bad things happen. But if you follow steps one through six, bad things happen in cycles. Good things also. Trusting that the kindness you are putting out there is compounding in a secret bank account for you means waiting for that bank account to deliver its returns. It will.

How about you?

What movie has helped you be more productive?

Comments (91)
  • LYF Solutions

    I never thought Star Wars was so informative, but looking back after reading this article, I’d have to agree some life lessons are hidden in with the famous movie. Great post!

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  • Blayne White

    Enjoyed your post. The quote I keep going back to when I’m frustrated at work is from The Most Exotic Marigold Hotel: “Everything will be alright in the end. If it is not yet alright, then it is not yet the end.”🙂

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Illustration by Oscar Ramos Orozco.