Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Lessons From Kylo Ren

The following post contains basic information from the movie "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" with regard to the labeled villain Kylo Ren. The following should not be considered "spoilers" but I want to be sure you know I will be referencing the movie in my examples.

If we are honest and open with ourselves, we can learn anything from any source. Many times our best inspiration comes from things and entities one might consider "negative". That is the case here with a few points I would like to make about the newest villain in the Star Wars saga, Kylo Ren. Kylo has some great traits we can all consider and add to our "light or dark side". Use this information carefully.

1 - Focused purpose. Most of the characters we see in movies that are villains have an uncanny knack of being single-minded and focused on their grand plan, no matter what it is. Kylo Ren is no different. When we first meet him in the movie he is looking for something to help him find someone (I still want you to see the movie...LOL). He comes off his ship with the single purpose. He is so intent on finding what he needs that he even resorts to some extreme violence to get his hands on it.
Now, I don't want anyone feeling like their focus should be so intent that they would harm anyone to get what they want. We have enough trouble in the world without someone else causing pain. But, the concept of having a goal and doing our best to make every act we take to move us one step closer to that goal a reality is a great way to live. Kylo Ren has a single mission...for now. Once he gets to that point he will most likely have another single focused mission that leads to bigger and better things.

We can become so distracted with so many things around us. Social media. Games. Basic issues of life. They are everywhere. We can all take a lesson from Kylo Ren and stay as focused on our goals and missions so that every morning we rise and search the galaxy of our lives until we find it and move forward. What are you searching for? What do you want so badly you'd go to any length to achieve/acquire it? Find it and get focused like Kylo Ren.

2 - Passion. Anyone who has seen this Star Wars episode sees Kylo have, what many would call, a couple of "hissy fits". He gets a step in the right direction and due to circumstances things don't go as planned and he loses it. That lightsaber comes on and he trashes everything in the area where he is. Now, we can look at this intense villain and see that and think he is just showing an extreme amount of immaturity. I will argue, for the sake of this blog post, that what he is showing is a byproduct of his commitment and passion.

We've all seen things in life that lead us to believe we are one step closer to something amazing. All the pieces are in place. We've done the best job we could do. We're looking ahead to the next phase of the plan and BOOM! Something happens that upends us and our grand plan. Maybe we break down and cry. Maybe we punch a wall. Maybe we press the situation even harder to force the issue to happen our way. No matter what the action, it all points to a reaction and the passion we have for the outcome and the goals we have. Right? We don't see it right away, but when we calm ourselves we realize that our "rocket fuel explosion" is a byproduct of us seeing the end in our sights and outside forces we did not count on upend it and leave us grasping at air.

We all need that kind of fire and passion in what we want and we need to show that. It needs to consume us. Maybe not to the point of slashing a lightsaber into a star destroyer console, but a passion the world can see and know that we are headed in a direction.

3 - Prayer/meditation. Whether Sith or Jedi, a theme resonates through the movies of Star Wars that there is a higher power to help guide direction and purpose. We often see that these characters have quiet moments of reflection. They move away from others and find a place of seclusion where they can commune with something bigger than they are. Kylo Ren may feel like he is the ultimate power, but he purposefully takes time out to commune with his own thoughts and feelings as he gives himself time to reconnect with his true calling and purpose.

We have all felt the pull of things outside of our goals and ideals. Some of us can throw it off and deal with it. However, the strength in those moments of doubt can come from time in quiet reflection. Whether our method is focused breathing, or prayer, or a solitary walk, we can get the relief from the chaos this life can throw at us with those moments where we reconnect with ourselves, our mission, and the things that truly matter to us.

4 - Unrelenting. I know we have already mentioned Kylo's passion and focus, but his relentlessness is insane. In every instance in the movie, he shows up with a stride and attitude of power. He does his thing and then hits a roadblock. He has his "come apart" and then the next thing you know he's found another way to get what he wants and here he comes again. Think Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner.

What moments in our life do we drive and drive and keep hammering away and then we have a roadblock and we have that moment of wanting to throw our hands up and say, "Well, I guess it's over"? It's the easy way. Just walk away and work on something else or hide and wait until the loss doesn't sting as much any more. I find that people who do that don't really have the conviction in their cause and goals and giving up under an explosion of excuses is the ripcord they use when hit with adversity. Maybe the right answer is to keep going. Many times it's the fact that we keep "showing up" that makes the difference. Be unrelenting and keep after it like Kylo Ren.

5 - Battling when injured. When you see Kylo for the first few times he looks very imposing in his long and flowing robes and mask. He speaks and his mask makes him sound very ominous. He takes that mask off and suddenly he looks normal. Nothing fabulous. No scars. He's rather ordinary. That mixed with the occasional tantrum he has and you feel like this guy will go down at the first fight he actually gets in with anyone of any consequence. At a point in the movie he is shot by a blaster. It stings. It hurts. He bleeds. Our heroes try and escape through the woods and guess who is waiting for them. That's right, Kylo Ren. No mask. Hurt. Angry. Determined. He could have easily sent a trooper team to go after them, but he went and faced them himself. Before and during the lightsaber battle, we see him grit his teeth and punch the injured spot over and over until blood comes out of it. He goes from ordinary to extraordinary and you are suddenly worried for the heroes that they may not make it out of this alive.

We hear about athletes all the time "playing hurt". Some football players have even claimed to play with broken bones that happened during the game because they refused to be sidelined. We may not face physical injury and have to pull ourselves up and fight, but life has a way of hurting us. Have you ever had a client leave you? That stings. Have you ever had a family member pass away unexpectedly? That's a game changer. Every job and life out there has moments that feel about as good as a blaster fire to the body. You go down. You look inside and you're reeling. You're thinking, "I'll just lay here until help arrives." Most people would understand if you did. You got shot for goodness sake. You're hurting. They comfort you with all the cliches they can throw at you. They mean to be comforting and tell you it's ok to sit and wait until the pain subsides. Unfortunately, that's not what is always needed. Sometimes we have to play hurt. Sometimes we have to dig down deep to do what we know we should do after countless shots that are meant to take us down. Kylo Ren basically said, "I will not let a blaster hole in my body stop me from my end game." There are times where we have to be more like Kylo Ren and be willing to keep battling when injured.

6 - Practiced power. Kylo Ren didn't merely wake up one day with his abilities in the Force or his lightsaber skills. This power he possesses comes at a price. The price of dedication and correction and learning that, if he wants to be a powerful leader, he must endure and even look forward to.

I am not going to lie. I want to wake up some mornings and have it all right there. Full bank account. Every thing in my home perfect and fixed. My car washed and shiny and working like I just drove it for the first time. I want my relationships to all be happy and conflict free and I want to do it all because I deserve it (so I think in those moments). Reality checks come often in real life and if that day did come where everything was handed to me perfect and in order, I'm pretty sure I'd be in a state that doesn't care much about the things of life because I would (most likely) be dead.

We all have a power within us to do what we do and be who we are to be in this world. We did not just fall into that person. If we are honest with ourselves, we don't really believe that we will have everything we need handed to us. We also know how much work it took to get us to where we are now. Just like Kylo, we have to work on our power.  We have to practice...daily. No matter the things in our lives, hitting the pause button is not an option and we better be taking our moments to practice to master the power within ourselves so we can constantly be growing and getting better at who we are.

7 - Conflict. Kylo Ren may be labeled as the "bad guy", but we find out throughout the movie that he struggles with who he is. He struggles with his plan and his goals and all the inner "stuff" we all have. He comes to a point where he flat out admits that his torn up inside. He knows what he has to do and he can't find the strength to make the next move.

We've all been there. Pick your situation where you made a checklist of pros and cons and that's the moment in life much like what we are addressing here. We may not be working to conquer a galaxy, but it can seem that big when it's in our face and we are the one having to choose what we do next. Conflict is a part of life as well. We have choices. We can do one thing or another. We can examine consequences or not. The moment of truth is coming and it's up to us and we have to make the move. We have to "pull the trigger" and we want someone else to swoop in and make this moment disappear or to just do it for us. The key is we can't run from conflict. We have to be set in our mind and allow the conflict to either change our thinking or we can stay on course and continue. We all have our moments of conflict, just like Kylo Ren. Work through it and it may not change a universe, but it can rock your own world pretty well.

8 - Listening to people. Kylo Ren has a lot of moments in the movie where he interacts with others. He has very few that he genuinely listens to and that is both part of his strength and his weakness. He listens to his leader. He doesn't listen to the commander of the battleship. He listens to Rey (the female "hero"). He doesn't listen to Han. It's all part of what makes him who he is. It's part of what we are as well.

The first thing we have to realize is that we need others. Opinions. Thoughts. Advice. It comes at us when we ask and many times when we don't ask. The point to take is that we have an opportunity to listen to everyone or no one. The lesson from Kylo is for us to be careful who we listen to and the conclusions we make from that. Not everyone on our lives have our best interests at heart and some have only the best we may not even be able to see yet. The choice to listen or not is ours. The choice who we choose to listen to or not is also ours. Be mindful. While I may not personally agree with who Kylo chose to listen to, he listened to those who were on point with his goals and drive. Find those people in your life and keep listening. I'll take it one step further. Listen to everyone. You never know when that nugget of verbiage makes an impact on your life you...and no one else...saw coming.

I hope there is something you can take from this article. I did quite a bit of inner inventory as I worked on it and I am certain I will keep doing that as the years go by. Kylo Ren may be considered a villain or a monster (as Rey calls him), but as with many things in life we can learn from him and take some valuable things with us that will make us better versions of ourselves. So, be well. Have a super day and week and May the Force Be With You.

The YouTube video below is an edited clip of the final battle where we see Kylo Ren showing his ability to "play hurt" and keep coming.

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