4 Leadership Reminders from La La Land

I recently watched the movie La La land. While fictional, I thought it presented similarities to the lives of many successful people.

If you haven’t seen the movie, beware of spoilers below.

Here are four (4) reminders I noticed.

1 – Dreams are costly

It took Sebastian and Mia, the main characters of the story, more than 6 years to find success; and the way there was costly. They…

  • …worked crappy jobs for many years.
  • …put up with many naysayers, including family.
  • …broke each others’ hearts.
  • …experienced hundreds of disappointments.

But, the biggest price they paid was achieving success without each other’s company.

They chose to go separate ways even though they told each other “I’ll love you forever.”

Ultimately, the pursuit of our full potential requires us to make difficult choices. I frequently wonder if I’m going to be able to pay the price.

2 – Persistence is a necessary ingredient

In the words of Napoleon Hill,

The majority of people are ready to throw their aims and purposes overboard and give up at the first sign of opposition or misfortune. A few carry on despite all opposition until they attain their goal.

The many rejection scenes experienced by Sebastian and Mia got me thinking:

  • What does it feel like to be rejected dozens of times trying to do something I love?
  • How many times would I had been able to take it?
  • How long would it take for me to succumb to life’s refusals?

To this day, I still expect life to be easy; and the path to success, short and sweet. Interestingly, the best life lessons I have come from the greatest struggles of my life.

It seems success carries a huge price of admission followed by ever increasing monthly payments.

3 – There’s a time and place for everything

This concept is best exemplified by Mia’s story.

She spent several years trying to mold her acting to whatever she thought the casting director wanted. She flunked every audition. She then tried putting together a play of her own. It ended in humiliation. She quit. After several months, Sebastian convinces her to audition one more time. This time, the casting director says “we don’t really have a role written; we are going to build it around the actor…we would like for you to just tell us a story.” She ends up getting the role by making up a story about her aunt.

A few things were different this time:

  1. She auditioned in a way that was congruent with the type of actress she wanted to be.
  2. The audience was totally different.
  3. She was more confident due to surviving all the years of rejection.

All the years of rejection weren’t a reflection of how bad she was. She was simply sharing her talents with the wrong crowd, at the wrong time, and in the wrong place.

This certainly has happened to me. I spent 8 years trying to get the people in my department to listen to my ideas. I failed miserably. In the last 2 years, I have found a tribe of people that voluntarily seek and consider my ideas without me having to due much work.

Sometimes we spend too much energy trying to fit where society says we should. The reality is that our voice isn’t necessarily meant to fit where others say it should.

4 – Passion is the compass

At some point during his journey, Sebastian takes the opportunity to join a jazz band in order to make “good” money. It was meant to be a mechanism to save enough money to start his own jazz club. It wasn’t long before he let the money distract him from his dream. To the point that he even changed his style of play. He became what the world wanted him to become.

Yes, he had a comfortable life. But it wasn’t fulfilling. The latter didn’t come until he returned to playing jazz the way he wanted and opened his club.

When I’m comfortable enough to let passion guide me, opportunities start knocking on my door.


What comes to mind when you think about these reminders?

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