10 Life Lessons I Learned From Yoda
⌛ By Kaylin R. Staten ⌛
“Star Wars” has been an integral part of my being since I can remember. My childhood was peppered with “Star Wars Pretend We’re The People” play dates with my sister and cousin, action figure purchases and feeling the excitement over the revival of the saga with the prequel trilogy.
My absolute favorite character was Leia Organa, and no, not just because she was the only major female character in the “Star Wars” universe at the time. I was drawn to her sense of independence, resilience, intelligence and overall commanding persona. I wanted to BE Leia. My sister and I dressed as Leia for Halloween one year, and I always sported the best Leia photos on the binders I carried from class to class in high school. I was a geek with ZERO shame before it was en vogue to be geek chic.
As a kid, I would fast forward the Yoda scenes in “The Empire Strikes Back” (my personal everlasting favorite) on my VCR to get to the Han and Leia scenes. My closet-romantic self at 9 years old wanted the handsome man and the illustrious career, after all.
Looking back, I missed out on the beautifully discombobulated wisdom from Master Yoda. It wasn’t until my 20s that I began to fully appreciate the knowledge bestowed by our favorite little green friend.
To celebrate the international holiday that is May the Fourth, here are 10 life lessons I learned from Yoda:
“Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.”
Fear is ever present in my life, and it is one of the aspects of anxiety I work the most on. Fear has kept me from things my entire life. While I am able to push through it to still accomplish goals, there are times I have allowed it to hold me back. I’ve gained and lost, just as we all have. Resilience is one of the answers to thwarting fear. The key is to be OK with any outcome, both positive and negative. While the negative will sting for potentially a long time, try to find a silver lining. Fear holds us back and causes the irrational decision-making wheel to turn in the wrong direction. Instead of progress, you obsess over what could be or could have been.
“Patience you must have, my young Padawan.”
I am still not where I want to be with regards to patience. I would love to say that I am patient all of the time, but alas, as an overachiever, I cannot sit still for too long. I become restless, anxious and impatient if I am forced into a waiting game. Life doesn’t happen on your own planned timeline, though. You have to be patient when working toward a goal. You can’t find the love of your life, grow a business, save for your dream vacation or write a novel in a day. Appreciating all of the small steps will allow you to cultivate your patience while seeing your exact progress. (Again, STILL working on this at 30.) This is also one of my favorite quotes to say to my niece Aubree. At almost 2, you better bet she is not always patient. Auntie has to use some Yoda wisdom for the next generation!
“This one a long time have I watched. All his life as he looked away, to the future, the horizon. Never his mind on where he was, hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless.”
Adventure and excitement are alluring, and you cannot always resist the temptations and charms of daydreams, goals and what others promise you. I’ve always looked to the past and future for inspiration. It’s weird because as a pre-teen and teenager, you look forward to the future. You want to establish your own life, get out of your parents’ house, spread your wings. As you get older, you long for your childhood days at times. I am nostalgic to a fault, and my obsession with goals and objectives sometimes prevents me from enjoying the here and now. You’re in the driver’s seat of your life, however. One of the keys to happiness is to also include the present in your thoughts and actions. You’ll never be happy if you can’t be happy during the journey.
“Always in motion is the future.”
You can’t predict what will happen, although I most certainly would like to be able to have that superpower. You can have the best-laid plans, and something could still derail them. As a master planner and perfectionist to the max, learning to go with the flow is something that does not come naturally to me. As a PR person, you never know when something will go awry and you have to step in with a crisis communications plan. I’ve learned to be prepared but also be fluid in decision-making throughout the process. I’m able to do this more efficiently in my work life, but I’m still developing my skill set in my personal life.
“You must unlearn what you have learned.”
Our childhoods and other sociological factors play into who we become as adults. Learned behaviors can be helpful or harmful, depending on the prevalence in your life. For example, hubris often clouded my judgment at the genesis of Hourglass Media. I thought I knew all about the profession and owning a business because I had done research and had “experts” telling me what to do. What I was lacking, however, were the highs and lows of real-life experience. I had to go back to the drawing board and accept legitimate help, advice and more. As a lifelong learner, there have been times I have had to take a step back and reassess what I learned in the past. Times and people change, after all, you have to sometimes unlearn what you have learned in order to encourage growth.
“Do or do not. There is not try.”
In most cases, you either do something or you don’t. It’s that simple. While it sounds black and white, the “doing” part will have gray areas. Your journey won’t be the same as someone else’s. You also can’t sit around wishing for something to happen or allow yourself to blame others for your misfortune, lack of ambition or anything else. You have the power to achieve your daydream. You just have to work for it. The word “try” is not empowering. Instead say, “I will do my best.” When you do attempt something, you may achieve greatness or you may fail. Regardless, you have to put in the time, effort and energy into picking yourself back up and preparing for the next round. As a perfectionist, I have an all-or-nothing attitude. If I do not feel motivated, for example, it makes it really difficult to be productive. If certain conditions are not met, then it makes me want to do nothing. The important thing is to still do things!
“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”
All of us have an inner and outer brightness to us. Our confidence allows it to shine into the world. This quotes reminds me to treat others how I would want to be treated. We aren’t just “crude matter.” Each of us has a purpose, a gift, a reason to be on this earth. It’s up to us to showcase our luminosity or to hide it. This quote also reminds me that there is an afterlife. I am a Christian, so I believe that Heaven is my destiny. No matter your religion or views, all of us can agree that we want to be the best versions of ourselves.
“Decide you must, how to serve them best. If you leave now, help them you could. But, you will destroy all for which they have fought and suffered.”
As a control freak, I have always want to know the outcomes of what will happen within my life. Sometimes, that has even translated to the lives of those around me. This is incredibly frustrating on personal and professional levels. I have learned to give advice when necessary, but people have to follow their own paths. No one can chose it for them, to paraphrase Leia in “Return of the Jedi.” As a PR practitioner, I often advise my clients in myriad ways. That carries over into my personal life as well. While everyone makes emotional decisions from time to time, my role has been to give pros and cons and support when needed. One of the worst feelings is when you are pushed to make a decision based on someone else’s needs and not your own; thus, your people pleasing reaches its zenith.
“Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.”
This quote hit me as I watched and re-watched “The Last Jedi.” I have been so used to being the “young” generation that I blinked and the next generation appeared right before my eyes. The youngest generation in my family and one of the youngest employees and PR practitioners. With the birth of my niece and mentoring the next generation of PR practitioners, I’ve begun to realize that your mentees -- or Padawans in this case -- will outgrow your teachings and apply their own spin on things. That is exciting and scary, but it’s surreal to see aspects of your own childhood come back in style, like 1990s fashion, “Rugrats,” Lisa Frank and everything else that rocked my world when I was a child.
“Pass on what you have learned. Strength, mastery. But, weakness, folly, failure. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is.”
During my 10-year PR career, I’ve had my fair share of successes and failures. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them. In fact, my failures have often shaped who I am in more ways than successes. If I wouldn’t have lost a client, I wouldn’t know the best ways to keep one happy. If I wouldn’t have struggled to do my taxes my first year in business, I wouldn’t know the best ways to keep track of deductible expenses throughout the year. So, I share both the failures and successes to people. As a leader, I cannot stay silent and upkeep a fake mirage of perfection. I do fall, yes, but I do get back up. I want to serve as an inspiration to others to keep going -- no matter the odds.
What is your favorite Yoda quote?
Kaylin R. Staten, APR, is an award-winning public relations practitioner and writer based in Huntington, WV with nearly 16 years of professional communications experience. As CEO and founder of Hourglass Media, she uses her compassionate spirit and expertise to delve into the heart of clients’ stories. She is a recovering perfectionist, mental health advocate, wife, cat mom and Leia Organa aficionado. Connect with Kaylin on LinkedIn.