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Learning from Lightning

Tires creating steam.

If you know a toddler, then you know they LOVE repetition. If you know a toddler, then you know they LOVE…Sorry! I just couldn’t help myself. My toddler loves the 2006 Pixar movie Cars, and so we watch it every Friday…every Friday…every Friday. We have gotten a lot of mileage out of this flick. 

Ironically, it hasn’t gotten old yet. That’s the test of a good film, right? Kids love it and it is nuanced enough to continue to captivate parents. It seems like every time I watch, I hear a new one-liner or a new hilarious detail the creators have woven into the overall automotive theme. 

My family has even taken to incorporating the most hilarious one-liners into our everyday conversations. 

“Fly away Stanley! Be free!”  Fillmore

“Not in my town you don’t.” Sheriff

“That’s funny right there!” Mater

“You gotta lotta stuff kid.” Doc

Sometimes when my son isn’t really in trouble I even pull out the “Boy…you are in a heap of trouble” courtesy of the Sheriff. 

I guess we speak Cars-ease now. 

But, what has really struck me through watching the movie over and over are the major and minor life lessons that are embedded into the entire film. So, fasten your seatbelt and consider these take aways from Cars:

  1. Listen to your team—During the race, in the beginning of the film, Lightning refuses to have his tires changed and only gets gas during pit stops. His team tells him “You need tires you fool” and he screams “!” In the last few feet of the race, his back two tires blow out, and instead of winning by a lap, he ends up tying with two other competitors. He thought he knew best and didn’t listen to those around him.
  2. Listen to people with more experience—At the end of the above race, the racing legend “The King” tells Lighting, “You have more talent in your left two lug-nuts then a lot of cars have in their whole body. But you’re stupid!” Unfortunately, again, Lighting doesn’t listen and starts daydreaming above future elaborate sponsorships and ends his spaced out part of the conversation with, “That is spectacular advice” without really hearing a word The King said.
  3. Sometimes you end up somewhere you don’t want to be, but that’s exactly where you should be. On the way to California, the sleeping Lighting falls out of the back of his transport semi-truck and ends up in the hillbilly town of Radiator Springs. He despises the town and the other cars, but is stuck there fixing the road as a consequence of accidentally destroying the road earlier in the film. In the end, the town and the relationships he sparks completely change who he is and how he sees others.
  4. Focusing on the competition can lead to poor results. While re-paving the road he ruined, Lighting overhears an interview of his nemesis on the radio. The rival has beat him to the racetrack and is interacting with the “big sponsor’ Lightning wants for himself. So, Lighting decides to power through and pave the road in an hour instead of the five days it is supposed to take to create the beautifully smooth road the town wants. His fear of missing out, and focusing on the success of others, distracts him and drives him to create a disastrous road that no car, bike or even tricycle would want to ride on. 
  5. Kindness changes people—Sally, the town attorney, and resident Porsche, watches as Lighting begins to change for the good and she wants to thank him. Lightning’s response is, “Hey wait! You are being nice to me!” Her gesture is unexpected. Kindness can unlock change in people and open the door for more positive change. 
  6. Offering a genuine thank you can build connection—Later on in the story, the sheepish Lightning offers a mumbled “Hey thanks” in response to Sally’s kindness. She brakes, reverses, and asks “What did you say?” Sally was surprised by his thank you and Lightning’s humble gratitude was the key to their growing friendship. 

So I encourage you to park on these ideas for a while and spend some windshield time asking: 

  • Am I listening to my team? 
  • Am I listening to people with more experience? 
  • Have I ended up somewhere I didn’t want to be, but remain able to learn a ton right here? 
  • Am I focusing too much on what the competition is doing instead of focusing on my own efforts? 
  • Does my kindness change people? 
  • Do I express heartfelt appreciation?

And now friends it is off to the races!