What I Learned at Monsters University

I like that Mike and Sully didn’t get bailed out when they failed at the end of their University careers.

Wrote this back in 2013, and as I was dusting off my blog, I thought it might be worth reposting on LinkedIN: Talk about #TBT (ThrowbackThursday) 

I watched Monsters University this past weekend with kids aged 3-13 and enjoyed their enjoyment of the movie.  It was quite charming and obviously quite beautiful per Pixar’s standard high level of quality.  I, of course (as usual), found some lessons to be learned from this movie – I am notorious for trying to draw lessons from everything.

Subject Matter Expertise and Raw Talent can be two entirely different things.

Some people are lucky enough to be born with both, but often you get one or the other (or neither).  Sully is a natural-born “scarer”, from a family of scary monsters and he’s got raw talent.  So much talent that he thinks he knows everything and won’t have to apply himself.  Mike is the exact opposite with book smarts and loads of ambition and determination, but without a scary bone in his body.  The combination of their abilities when they become friends is the stuff dreams are made of.

Sometimes the most important friendships in your life might start on the wrong foot.

I especially like how the origin of the 2 main characters starts out rocky.  Having seen Monsters Inc you would expect these two had been fast friends from the very beginning.  My own personal life experiences have shown me that this is also true.  Some of my longest friendships are with people I originally didn’t like.  Be wary of first impressions, they can lead you astray sometimes.  Sometimes the strongest and most fruitful relationships can be with people that you wouldn’t immediately think are 100% compatible with your way of operating.

Some of your greatest successes can come when you are lifting other people up.

Mike and Sully could have easily given up on their frat house team.  They had every reason to bail on them: lack of talent, lack of coolness etc.  But when Mike and Sully both realized that their team members were worth helping, and worth their best effort that’s when the successes started happening.  I think the same can happen with teams, you can get caught up in your own ego and your own concerns and if you don’t commit to raising up the others around you that’s when I think teams can fail.  When all team members are concerned with the other members and less focused on their own/personal goals/concerns I think this when highly effective teams can deliver results surpassing all expectations (delivering something bigger than the sum of the team member’s talents)

Failure isn’t the end.

I like that Mike and Sully didn’t get bailed out when they failed at the end of their University careers.  They screwed up, they weren’t shown leniency.  They got booted.  I think the classic kid’s story template would have some Deus Ex Machina intervene and magically allow them to succeed, but it didn’t show up.  I’m pleased with this – my kids were a little surprised by this I think (but I like the lesson).  They didn’t give up either, they started where they could and ended up rising to become stars in their own right (into Monsters Inc) because of their teamwork and determination.

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