My son is currently obsessed with Star Wars. He won’t watch the original movies from the 1970’s because they’re “boring” (there is way too much dialog in the first two, but I do love Return of the Jedi), but he’s fascinated by the worlds and characters. Every night I have to read him several pages from a Star Wars encyclopedia and we both learn about the Empire, the Rebel Alliance and the Rule of Two.
What’s become apparent is that my son loves the bad guys. He could care less about Luke Skywalker, Obi Wan or Yoda. Once in awhile he thinks Han Solo is kinda cool, but he’s more drawn to Darth Vader, Boba Fett and Emperor Palpatine. After consistently skipping over all the pages about the Rebel Alliance to learn more about the building of the second Death Star, I started to wonder whether a fascination with bad guys should be troubling.
I thought about my own childhood and the characters I was fascinated with. On a trip to Disney, I was so excited to buy a t-shirt featuring all of the Disney villains, and shunned princess gear (note I am NOT a fan of Cruella de Vil). One of my all time favorite movies is the Wizard of Oz and not because I particularly liked Dorothy or her friends (though I still pine for a pair of ruby slippers), but because I was repelled but also fascinated by the Wicked Witch. And let’s not even talk about those terrifying winged monkeys, they’re amazing!
So what about these villains is so fascinating? Why are we drawn more to the villains and their stories than the good guys? Personally, I think the villains have more interesting back stories. In so many cases, the villains started out as good guys, underwent some personal tragedy, failed to keep their emotions in check, and let the dark side take over. Good guys, on the other hand, while they may have also been through some seriously tough times, are able, usually through a mentor, to channel their overwhelming emotions into a more productive outlet, or neutralize them for the sake of maintaining order. They're able to apply a laser-like focus to the mission at hand, while the villains ride an emotional roller coaster that usually ends in their demise.
I was reading a business book recently about how an important trait of successful entrepreneurs is the ability to keep one’s emotions in check, something I would never have thought about. As a business owner, you have to remain even-keeled, even if it’s not your natural state. Reacting to unfavorable situations with outbursts of anger, fear, or jealousy quickly leads to negative ramifications in your business and bad decision making. I know I’ve worked for business owners who were not good at keeping their emotional outbursts in check and my employment in those instances never lasted long and the business suffered from constant turn over.
It got me thinking about villains. They clearly have problems keeping their emotions in check. Instead of maintaining focus on their evil empires, they get distracted by petty slights and family problems. Would these villains make good business owners or bad business owners? Next time you start to feel anger, jealousy or fear in your business and need to make a decision, take a step back, neutralize your emotions, and consider, what would Darth Vader do?
Sarah E. Holmes is a Philadelphia business attorney and strategist that helps start ups and established businesses looking to expand, protect their assets and increase their profits in an approachable, down-to-earth way.