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Productivity

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)
  • http://bizexec.me Liam

    Not sure it plays to the essential productivity habits exposed in our organisation, but I want some meetings with light sabres.

  • Simon_GB

    Love the post as I have long used Star Wars as a teaching tool while raising my kids. So many lessons. I have a little different take on you great points. 1) Rest when you have nothing to do. This would be more meditate when the moment arrises, calm yourself and recenter. 2) Rid yourself of everything you don’t need. Becomes you always have everything you need within. 3) Practice being “good.” Becomes lead from within (this from @lollydaskal ). 4) Prioritize your health. Becomes find balance within and your health will also find balance.5) Be around other Jedis. Becomes, Surround yourself with compassionate people and this is what you will live. 6) Be open-minded. Becomes. OPen your mind and heart to see the unseeable & be the true you..7) Trust that life is cyclical. Becomes. Have faith in what you do and you will see what faith can do.
    Great post, love the Jedi way. May your force truly be with you.

  • rhuitr65dpog

    I concur with you on the importance of prioritizing our health. Taking extra effort to include exercise and nutritional diets will go a long way in enhancing a healthy lifestyle.

    • tomas__86

      I concur too.

  • Pushhyarag2000

    These are very crisp ideas covering advice on healthy lifestyle and personal growth and they have been put in good perspective with something that folks can relate to very well. Thanks.

  • Delora Dennis

    This post references the later Star Wars episodes, which I never saw. Nevertheless, the advice is valid, useful and inspiring. May the Force be with us all.

  • Emma Marzal

    Nice post! To think about it. On the day we forget that it is a priority to analyze which lifestyle and quality of life we ​​want, and then look for a job (or create it) that fits it. We do it backwards, normally. We live “on the go”.

  • Danyel Perales

    Inspiring… Thanks !

  • AnanthramGK

    If Anybody has learnt wars are not acceptable and untenable The whole world shall be Happy !, No Wars; All Peace; Always !

  • http://www.jc-ruiz.com/ JC Ruiz

    Now if only if everyone could relate life to Star Wars, the world would be a better place. Just like the force needed balance we to in our work and daily lives need to strike the right balance for happiness and prosperity.

    • tomas__86

      So let’s start building the death star!

  • Jeff

    Reminds me of the book “The dharma of Star Wars” and how much Star Wars teaches Buddhism. 🙂

    • tomas__86

      Mmmerica

  • MichaelaJayne

    I have shared this so many times. It’s just everything I want to be. #yoda #wordstoliveby

  • ikonografer

    wow. the stupidest thing i’ve ever read.

    • StromTom

      So much for being open-minded.

      • ikonografer

        open minded doesn’t mean believing every crock of shit article you find on the internet. “so much for being open minded” is the cry of every idiot who believes snake oil cures cancer, or that The Force is real.

      • StromTom

        And belligerence is the retreat of the dull and dim witted. Since when did “open mindedness” equate to acceptance? Obviously you have nothing useful to contribute other than cheap expletives. I do, however, find your belligerent and bellicose rants entertaining although lacking in substance.

      • ikonografer

        belligerence is occasionally what happens when the intelligent see or read stupid things, just as it occasionally happens when someone is correctly pegged as a credulous idiot. that you equate ‘dull and dimwitted’ with belligerence is just your pathetic attempt at deflection–you have no defense because if you had, you’d have brought it forth, instead of issuing insults of your own (especially since you seem rather intent on specifically insulting me). and while my initial comment was directed at no one in particular, and merely expressed my opinion of the article, your comment was directed at a specific person–who you, in your bigotry, dismiss out of hand because i’ve disagreed with your belief. no matter how awesome you think your retort is, it’s just a pathetic attempt at calling someone ‘dull and dimwitted’ because you don’t like their position–which is actually, and ironically, what it means to have nothing “useful” to contribute.

      • tomas__86

        Who pissed in your coffee?

  • Golan Trevize

    Star Wars is merely a cheap knockoff of the archetypal themes that were written about so brilliantly by Joseph Campbell (who was a consultant on the original Star Wars). Check out “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” for a taste of the real thing.

    • Will

      Joseph Campbell himself said that Lucas did the whole cycle “perfectly”. Also I wouldn’t call it a “cheap knockoff” as all archetypal themes are knockoffs. What would you call Homer’s “Odyssey”?

    • tomas__86

      Star wars certainly wasn’t cheap, and all great art is influenced by something or someone..

    • Ocramot

      Everything in this world is inspired by something else. Reading your comment, it almost seems like that, if something is “inspired”, then it must be “cheap”. This is not always the case: good things can inspire GREAT things 🙂

  • StromTom

    These insights sound almost Biblical.

  • Miguel Ángel

    “El Club de los poetas muertos” me enseño el famoso “Carpe Diem” para hacer las cosas que realmente me importaban y significaban algo para mi. Tener consciencia del paso del tiempo sirve para aprovecharlo más

  • http://www.nichenerd.com/ Tony Tovar

    Oddly enough, if we rest when we’re not doing anything, we might end up like the guy who rested… 😉 hehe jk

    • http://www.thetruthisyou.com/ Travis Eneix

      Oh, you mean inspiring the sequence of events that brings balance to the Force, and topples the largest evil empire ever? Okay! 😉

  • arman23

    This is exciting. I hope the story and cast follows thru with the expectation https://vidd.me/4Uc

  • Wilm

    The Goonies, because when I watched it realised to stay curious about things will always be a driving force in discovering the weird and wonderful.

  • http://www.thetruthisyou.com/ Travis Eneix

    Great fraking article! Thanks!

  • http://classicallytrained.net/ Classically Trained

    Great post! I recently wrote a post on “8 Life & Leadership Lessons from Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist” http://classicallytrained.net/8-lessons-street-fighter-assassins-fist/

    It’s based on the video game Street Fighter, but I mostly write about lessons we can learn from video games, one of my favorite being the life change time management technique that we can learn from Tetris.

  • Geoff

    I have to disagree with you on point #3, “Most people are not good.” I’m sorry for your negative outlook on people. In my experience, most people are good and honest. Sure, there are real jerks out there who seem to ruin it for everyone else. I’ve met my fair share of them. But I believe to good outweigh the bad. Just my opinion. Otherwise, I love your article.

  • http://robertolebron.brandyourself.com/ Roberto Lebron

    James Altucher, you crazy weirdo! You will never stoop to read these comments, because you know comments are where trolls live (see below: I have to laugh at how some people bite right into troll bait). But I enjoyed your article, so I say so here.

  • simonecas

    This is great and I am adding it to my own LinkedIn article, which is about Star Wars and marketing: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20141110140956-23403925-the-one-about-star-wars-roi-opportunities

  • nel

    Great article! Although I feel the title about it being about “productivity” is not accurate of what’s in the article at all. Perhaps further explanation tying each point to its relation to productivity would have made it an accurate representation of the title. For example, by the description of life being cyclical in #6, I don’t see how that relates to productivity.

    • Ocramot

      It DOES aim at productivity! Once you are in peace with the world and with yourself, then productivity will come as a consequence. 🙂 don’t be like Darth Maul and don’t keep looking for some immediate goal or outcome 🙂

  • 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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