What the Wizard of Oz taught me about business

The-Wizard-of-OzYou’ve read or watched the Wizard of Oz, right? It’s a story about a young girl named Dorothy that after a terrible storm back in Kansas lands in a mysterious, unknown, yet beautiful place called the Land of Oz.

Immediately upon her arrival she is greeted by the Munchkins, and they joyfully celebrate the demise of the Wicked Witch. The glee is quickly cut short as the Wicked Witch of the West enters and promises that she will get Dorothy back for killing her sister, the Wicked Witch of the East – the former evil tyrant of the Munchkins.

But joy is once again restored when Glinda, the beautiful Good Witch of the South, explains to her that all she needs to do to get back home is to “follow the yellow brick road” and go seek out the Wizard of Oz – for he will help her to get home. She also explains to her to never take off the red slippers – as this is what the Witch wants most, but can’t have as long as they are on her.yellow-brick-road

So off Dorothy and her dog Toto go on their quest to search for the Wizard of Oz. Along her journey Dorothy meets her tribe, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow. Together they all venture off in search of the Wizard in hopes that he can help them with their issues.

Their journey is not without it’s series of challenges and obstacles. They are met with the Wicked Witch and her winged monkeys numerous times as they continue to threaten Dorothy and her friends; and after a long journey to Emerald City, she is told by the Wizard of Oz that the only way he would help them was if they brought the witches broom stick to him.

wizard-of-ozEventually Dorothy and her friends kill the evil witch, acquire the broom, reveal the Wizard of Oz for what he really is (just a man behind a curtain) and learns her big lesson – that all along all she needed to do to go home was to click her red shoes three times and say “there’s no place like home.” (sniff, sniff)

So as a young girl watching this movie, I couldn’t help but be filled with delight and anticipation. What a great journey. I recall feeling proud of Dorothy and her friends for the great courage it took them to move forward in their quest in seeking the thing they wanted most – a home, a heart, a brain, and courage.

Toto probably just wanted a damn bone … but that’s another story.

Looking back, I was too young to dig deeper into the meaning. I took the story at face value – entertaining and exciting. But in hindsight I can’t help but wonder what true lessons I’ve learned by watching this movie over and over.

My Lessons

It’s amazing the correlation between the story of the Wizard of Oz and starting and running your own business. Here are some of the similarities:

  • Both involve courage. As with Dorothy and her friends and the courage they portrayed on their quest – even amidst the scary, unknown challenges about to face them – so is too the journey of the entrepreneur and small business owner. Courage is probably one of the most important assets to the entrepreneur.
  • Both involve challenges and obstacles. Dorothy had to go through peaks and valleys along her journey to get to where she wanted to go; and just when she thought she had reached her destination (Emerald City), another challenge presented itself (the request to get the witches broom). As business owners we are constantly going through peaks and valleys – having our good days and our bad ones.  And with every new level there’s a new devil. There’s an never-ending stream of challenges and obstacles that come up for us.
  • Both have naysayers and haters. Dorothy very early on learned that there will be people who will want to bring her down. As business owners we are unfortunately, occasionally, subjected to naysayers and haters – people who don’t get us, try to bring our Spirit down, and bring us back to “reality”.  Ironically some of these people may not even realize they are doing so – they just don’t know any better.
  • Both involve including other people. Dorothy realized that she needed the help of her friends (and they her) on her quest to go home.  We also do not live in a bubble. Even for those that classify ourselves as “solopreneurs”, we need others to run our business.  It’s through collaboration, teamwork, joint-ventures, referrals, and so forth, that we can continue on our journey.
  • Both involve life lessons. At the end of the day, all Dorothy had to do was look within herself to find a way home. She was contstantly searching “out there” for the answers when all along they were within her. Business owners and entrepreneurs also go through a multitude of life lessons; ultimately the biggest lesson being that the success (or failure) of your business is always determined by YOU!

The story of the Wizard of Oz will always hold a special place in my heart. The quest. The courage. The love. The life lesson. These are all things we need and desire in our own lives and in our business.  No story is without it’s adventure. No story is without is antagonist.

But here’s is my biggest lesson of all and I can’t express it any better than Will Smith in the movie The Pursuit of Happyness:

Which childhood stories have taught you something about running a business?

6 Comments

  1. Hi Michele,
    I love the analogy because I really vibe with it!
    Dorothy and crew worked together to get past some serious resistance. We learn similar lessons as online entrepreneurs.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Ryan

    Reply
    1. Hi Ryan,

      Sorry for the late response. Two of your comments somehow ended up in my spam box. ;-(

      Anyway, thanks for your input and really glad you liked it. Amazing what how some of our childhood stories can teach us. 😉

      Reply
  2. Good post, Michele.

    It is a very thoughtful post.
    One thing I would add is that you don’t need a team consisting of “A” players to win. Dorothy leads through vulnerability. She is lost, but does not pretend not to be. This helps others also deal with their vulnerability and work well together.

    We have a culture where showing vulnerability is a sign of weakness. WOZ shows that showing vulnerability engenders trusts since we all have it, but are reluctant to show it.

    Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Love that Jay …. great point. And I totally agree. Vulnerability ultimately is what connects people at a fundamental level; it’s what makes you appear “human”. Some of my greatest mentors are ones that don’t shy away from showing their vulnerability.

      Thanks for the addition. 😉

      Reply
    1. Thanks Dale! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Yeah, the Will Smith video ironically came at the last minute. As I’m writing what my big lesson was, it just popped in my head. Funny how that happens. 😉

      Reply

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