By Ray Vazquez on May 4, 2021

Episode 1, the Grand Master of the Jedi High Council, Yoda, points out that Anakin Skywalker is too “old” to train as a Jedi. Anakin is quite young, yet a teenager, but he does not qualify for training. Anakin’s understanding of anger and fear would be difficult to overcome in training, and these traits would lead to the dark side of the force. In Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back, we see Luke Skywalker convinced he couldn’t pull an x-wing fighter out of a swamp. His mental block on the “size” of the fighter is difficult for him to overcome and he fails. Luke fits the stereotype of “old” talent for Yoda who believes that Luke is too old to train. Yoda likely believes that because Anakin turned to the dark side, that his intuition was correct, and therefore training yet another “old” padawan is too dangerous.

Yet, Yoda does not give up on Luke Skywalker. Yoda reinforces that “size matters not” and demonstrates the use of the force with a teachable moment. As a leader, it is important to demonstrate the ability to do the “impossible” as a way of training talent and demonstrating the possibilities.

Many risk managers share Luke Skywalker’s feelings when tackling “big” challenges. Despite the potential to do great things, they are overcome by what they face:

  1. Culture – The organization will never change
  2. Money – The organization will never spend money to solve the problem
  3. Timing – The organization expects too much in a short amount of time

As a leader, it is important to demonstrate that the barriers of Culture, Money, and Timing are not real. They only represent the potential issues and opportunities for teachable moments. With the right use of the force, all of these variables are easily conquered.

Yoda demonstrates the ability to create teachable moments, in Episode 2 we see another example when he helps Obi-Wan Kenobi find the lost planet of Kamino that seemingly did not exist in the Jedi archives. “Lost a planet Master Obi-Wan has.” All the facts indicated the existence of a planet, but yet Obi-Wan was stumped. A young padawan points out that the planet must have been deleted from the archives. Obi-Wan’s reaction was “It is impossible to delete information from the archives.” Yet we learn that it was not impossible for this to happen. Obi-Wan’s assumption did not serve him well.

There are two great lessons to learn from Master Yoda’s perspective on “young” Jedis and the power of teachable moments:

Lesson 1: People enter the workforce or new careers as “young” Jedis. A key-value they bring to the table is a fresh perspective and a new way of overcoming challenges. Bringing “young” Jedis onto a team requires a special form of leadership to mold them into the Grand Masters of tomorrow. The worst thing you could do is brush aside their questions or ideas and dismiss them as irrelevant.

Lesson 2: You can become a grandmaster even if you are not a “young” Jedi. In my career, I have seen many times where those new to this industry can have success quickly and see things those more experienced cannot. They do not let the “limitations” stop them from raising issues, bringing ideas, and challenging the status quo. Much can we learn from the “young” Jedis. Do not underestimate their ability to contribute and point out challenges others do not see.

In summary, Anakin, as a padawan, saved Obi-Wan Kenobi from many dangers. Ashoka Tano demonstrated great wisdom beyond her years and defeated Darth Maul. Luke Skywalker became the Greatest Jedi (feel free to comment on whether you agree or not but be prepared to provide support) despite him being trained so late in life. The real lesson learned is that you are neither too old nor too young to add value to an organization. If you clear your mind, as Yoda directs the padawans, you too can overcome the challenges of Culture, Money, and Timing.

On this May 4th – Spend time with your Padawans and your Jedis, ask them what they see that you don’t see. Encourage them to use the force and challenge the status quo. Do not let your experience “blind you” from risks you cannot see as Yoda was blinded by the dark side.

May the force be with you!

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