Can you tell I’m excited about this weekend’s “The Dark Knight Rises” premiere? Even after Monday’s post on how some of my favorite Batman quotes have led me to success with Single Grain, I’ve still got a few reflections on how the life of the series’ main character, Bruce Wayne, can teach us even more about business…
Lesson #1 – Don’t let past circumstances dictate your future
It’s hard to think of a worse start in life than to experience the horrifying death of your parents in the way that Bruce Wayne did. But while he would have been entirely justified in sitting on his laurels the rest of his life – complaining what a bad deck of cards he’d been dealt – Bruce Wayne transformed his sorrow into a commitment to making Gotham City a better place for future generations.
Too many of us hold on to past injustices and allow these experiences to keep us trapped in the past. Unfortunately, this serves no one – not you (though it can feel cathartic to complain) and not the people that could benefit from your un-taken actions. Instead, it’s much better to use negative experiences in the past to be the change you wish to see in the future.
Lesson #2 – Learn how to endure
Early on, Bruce Wayne learns that being Batman doesn’t always make him the most popular person in the world. He endures ridicule, ostracism and outright hatred in order to pursue his goals of making Gotham City a safer place.
And while being a business owner won’t likely leave you subject to such negative actions, there are still things you’ll have to endure. You’ll endure hours upon hours of hard work, days when it doesn’t seem like you’ll ever make progress – even disappointment from friends and loved ones who can’t understand why you won’t just drop everything and get a regular job.
Really, if you’re passionate about anything, you’re going to have to endure something – so quit your whining and learn how to take it!
Lesson #3 – Hone in on your skills
Unlike Superman (an alien from another planet) and Spiderman (a science experiment gone wrong), Bruce Wayne wasn’t born with the powers needed to make him Batman. Instead, he honed his skill set by training his strength, agility, combat and weapons skills to the levels needed for superhero work.
As a business owner or professional, you’ve got to do the same. You don’t need to be a born writer, a natural salesperson or possess any other inborn success-oriented trait. All of these things can be learned, but it’s up to you to put the time and resources necessary into doing so.
Lesson #4 – Assemble a winning team
While Bruce Wayne himself is something of a loner, his superhero alter-ego Batman couldn’t function without the support of Alfred and Commissioner Gordon.
In the same way, it’s incredibly difficult to become successful in business on your own. All of us rely on others to offer checks to our balances and to provide insight when we’re in over our heads. For these reasons, it’s important to make the assembly of your winning team – which might consist of employees, partners, mentors and more – a major priority for your business endeavors.
Lesson #5 – Identify the tools you need
Since Bruce Wayne himself doesn’t hold any otherworldly superpowers, he relies on tools to achieve the same effects. Sure, it helps that he’s got boatloads of cash on hand to support his purchases – but the bottom line is that Batman, without his suits, cars, bat sprays and other tools, wouldn’t be nearly as effective!
The same goes for you as a business person. There are tons of tools out there that can help you to get more done in less time (including plenty of options that won’t break the bank). Taking the time to find the right ones for your organization and needs will go a long way towards giving your business its own superpowers.
Lesson #6 – Look for the root cause of problems
When Batman encounters a problem, he doesn’t just slay the bad guy and run off to his next encounter. Instead, he operates as a detective as much as a superhero, using his brains to poke around and get to the root causes of the crimes he investigates.
In business, treating surface level problems without addressing root causes is a recipe for disaster. After all, if you can’t truly say that you know why an issue occurred and took steps to resolve it, how can you be sure the problem won’t rear its ugly head again?
Take a page out of Batman’s book on this one. When you experience problems within your organization, take the time necessary to discover the correct root causes that contributed to the problem so that these issues can be fixed for the long run.
Lesson #7 – Resolve disputes ethically
Despite his tremendous power, Bruce Wayne doesn’t seek to kill or harm unnecessarily. Though it must be incredibly tempting for him to serve up some vigilante justice while dealing with ruthless “bad guys,” Batman’s approach is always to resolve disputes ethically, whenever possible.
When you experience challenging situations in your business – whether in the form of a competitor dissing you or a customer refusing to pay for services rendered – do your best to take the high road. It won’t always be easy, but ultimately, the professionalism you display in these situations will go a long way towards protecting your brand image down the road.
Lesson #8 – Always answer the call
What do you think would have happened to Batman’s reputation if he failed to respond to the Bat Signal? For example, what if Bruce Wayne decided that he wanted a night off and – instead of fighting crime and protecting the citizenry – stayed home to watch Breaking Bad instead of answering the call?
As a business person, you need to offer the same level of reliability and responsibility to your clients. If you slack off – even temporarily – your brand image may suffer, as your customers begin to feel that they can’t count on you. As this can result in a serious decrease in customers and referrals, it’s important to make solid, consistent effort a part of your marketing and branding strategy.
Lesson #9 – Do what you believe in
At the end of the day, Bruce Wayne’s only goal is to rid the planet of criminals and evil-doers – and he’ll let nothing get in the way of Batman’s commitment to protecting the public. In this way, he’s an ideal example of what it means to live up to the ideals you believe in.
The business world is littered with examples of people and companies that fail to live up to the standards they’ve set for themselves. In one case, Google’s recent meandering from its “Don’t be evil” motto with the prioritization of its Google+ results over better SERPs listings demonstrates just how easy it is to stray from your stated cause.
Obviously, all of us will likely fall short of our beliefs at one point or another. It’s whether you pick yourself back up and try to get back on track that tells the world whether or not you stand by your values.
Lesson #10 – Your image matters
In “real life,” Bruce Wayne often portrays himself as rich and arrogant, which prevents others from believing he could ever be the kind-hearted, community-oriented Batman.
Though we often talk about image in terms of clothes and personal grooming, it’s about much more than that. The image you convey is a collection of your actions, appearance choices and interactions with others – even if you aren’t actively working to tailor your image to some self-selected ideal. Be aware that all of the above factors constitute your image, so it’s up to you to determine what that image should be and align yourself with the vision you’ve selected.
Lesson #11 – Use your superpowers to make the world a better place
For all of Batman’s advanced technology – including his night vision, fast cars and extreme weaponry – it’s a wonder (considering how today’s business and political leaders might handle this temptation) that Bruce Wayne doesn’t simply go rogue and seek to profit from his unique position. Certainly, if he wanted to, he could use his powers to steal from the public, consort with criminals and otherwise abuse his authority for personal gain.
Anyone who experiences any level of success in the business world knows how tempting it can be to compromise morals in favor of a quick profit. There’s a reason we hear so many stories of corruption and abuse – because it’s a very human emotion to want to maximize profit for the least possible effort. There are plenty of ways to make the world a better place and make money, simply look at Apple. They are not a non-profit and they don’t focus on feeding starving children in third world countries, but, Apple has created revolutionary products like the iPhone & iPad that have changed our lives forever.
Although it’s human nature, unscrupulous behavior will catch up to you. It may not be right away, but in the long run, it makes much more sense from a business standpoint to focus on growing your company in an ethical, sustainable way than to try to cut corners and make a quick buck off of others. As a business person, you have a unique opportunity to make the world a better place – don’t waste it!