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Author's profile photo Dallas Marks

What I learned from Lightning McQueen about being an SAP Mentor

Sometimes inspiration comes from an unlikely source. Last week, it came when I took my 7-year-old son to see Cars 3, the latest Disney/Pixar movie. As its title indicates, Cars 3 is the third installment in a series that began in 2006 with the original Cars. The Cars series is maligned by many computer animation fans as the worst movies created by the usually innovative Pixar. But I could tell from its movie trailer that Cars 3 was going to deal with some adult themes.

Don’t Fear Failure

As the movie begins, we find our hero Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) on the race track. But he’s losing to a younger, faster and sleeker rookie named Jackson Storm (voiced by Armie Hammer).

As experienced IT professionals, it’s easy to harbor feelings of anger, fear, or jealousy. These feelings can arise when a new co-worker becomes the boss’ favorite or when a new technology appears to threaten our skills profile. Lightning McQueen’s childish reaction isn’t much better than ours often is. But his girlfriend Sally Carrera (voiced by Bonnie Hunt) provides sound advice.

“Don’t fear failure. Be afraid of not having the chance; you have the chance!” Sally Carrera in Disney/Pixar Cars 3

We have to look past the fear and recognize that we still have strengths. And for those of us who qualify as “older” IT professionals, we must remind ourselves experience and judgment qualify as strengths. That said, what worked for us yesterday may not work for us tomorrow. It may take longer to learn new skills than it did in our twenties. But if we can let go of the fear of learning something new, we can master new skills and remain competitive.

Everybody Needs a Mentor

In the original Cars film, the egotistical “one-man-show” Lightning McQueen realized that he wasn’t a very good one-man-show and found a mentor in Doc Hudson, the former race car voiced by the late Paul Newman. In Cars 3, Lightning seeks out Doc Hudson’s old mentor, a car named Smokey Yunick (voiced by Chris Cooper).
“You’ll never be the racer you once were. You can’t turn back the clock, kid, but you can wind it up, again.” Smokey Yunick in Disney/Pixar Cars 3
Sometimes it’s hard to take an objective look at our strengths and weaknesses and determine what the next step in a hazy career future should be. We need an outside perspective. And sometimes the one we’re relied on for so long is no longer available to help us take the next step. That’s why its important to keep our professional network fresh and full of diverse voices.

Look for the Next Rookie

The third lesson that I took away from Lightning McQueen was that as an SAP Mentor, it’s my responsibility to identify and guide the next generation of leaders. Sometimes its as easy as being responsive to somebody that asks for advice. In Cars 3, it was recognizing talent in somebody who couldn’t see their own strengths. Without spoiling the plot, Lighting McQueen helps his young trainer, Cruz Ramirez (voiced by Cristela Alonzo) realize that she, a female Hispanic race car, belonged in a male-dominated sport. I definitely left the movie theater with more determination to seek out that next generation of SAP professionals.

Grab Some Popcorn

Even if you don’t have a 7-year-old child as I do, I recommend taking in Cars 3 while it’s still in theaters. Appreciate how Pixar has taken realistic scenery beyond what we’ve seen in previous Pixar films. And see if you can find even more leadership lessons (author Joseph LaLonde found twenty-nine), celebrity voices, and the infamous Pizza Planet truck.
What leadership lessons did you take away from Disney/Pixar’s Cars 3?

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      Author's profile photo Steffi Warnecke
      Steffi Warnecke

      Hello Dallas,

      What leadership lessons did you take away from Disney/Pixar’s Cars 3?

      none (I saw the first one though ^^), but I loved your blog and how you connected the two! A great read, really. Aaaand it made me want to watch “Cars 3”. ?




      Author's profile photo Veselina Peykova
      Veselina Peykova

      What got me through the original "Cars" movie, was, that it was dubbed in Bulgarian by some of our greatest actors (yes, I had to watch it multiple times, this is what happens, when you grant access to the remote control to a 6-year old boy). Dubbing brought a whole different meaning to the movie and added some entertainment and replay value.
      To my surprise, the kid was not fascinated by Lightning McQueen. I suppose, that the movie was too American and the child failed to relate to the main protagonist, but he knew all Mater's quotes by heart. Mater just felt a bit more real and alive.

      Moral of the story: if a leader does not sound genuine to the audience, no matter how great his ideas are, he will fail to convey the message.

      Don't get me wrong - I love animation. Pixar made some good movies (For the Birds, The Chubb-Chubbs, Wall-E - to name a few), but watching Cars sequels feels like getting fast food - it is OK once in a while, but nothing worth remembering if you are more than 7 (in my country this means you already go to school and parents give you lunch money).

      Author's profile photo Marssel Vilaça
      Marssel Vilaça

      I appreciated your comparison and your pro-sharing-knowledge message.

      Not to mention I love movie tips 🙂


      Author's profile photo Jason Cao
      Jason Cao

      I really appreciated your blog as well Dallas! So glad to see you're able to find inspiration in such a common activity, like watching a movie with your son. But I guess that is the true definition of inspirations and where the best ones come from. Not every one can interpret leadership lessons in such a way, and not everyone is willing to share their knowledge publicly either.

      Thank you for being such a great model for our community!