May 20, 2015

House of Karma: 10 Solid Life Lessons from 3 Bad Dudes.

don draper

Most Yogis have shrines set up for meditation, ruminating, thinking, and envisioning.

The shrines are often adorned with flowers and statues of Hindu Gods, Mala beads, incense or candles. My shrine sits on top of an old mahogany TV stand. It’s adorned with my cable box, my remote control and my flat screen television. My television holds the pictures of my many Gurus. Most recently mine have not been those who inspire Peace in a traditional sense.

I have no pictures of hugging Saints or Swamis.

My current Gurus are Frank Underwood (House of Cards), Don Draper (Mad Men) and Vito Corleone (The Godfather).

“But Sara,” you may be thinking “…these are bad dudes!”

These are men that kill and cheat and steal and lie and sacrifice personal relationships to achieve higher social standing, or career goals, or money. These are morally corrupt people. Yes. And yet, there is something in me that gravitates toward these characters. What is it about them that make us feel more clear about who we want to be? Why are we constantly rooting for them to succeed?

What can we learn from them about what we want and how we can get it?

When I did my first Yoga teacher training, I became obsessed with the idea of being a good person, a peaceful person, a person who sits atop a mountain with love in my heart and calm in my head.

I was on a mission to spread this feeling to others.

In my own practice, and when I am teaching, I still find this feeling. When I started pursuing Yoga as a business, however, that was a different animal entirely. I used to think operating as a Yoga teacher and a Business woman were different things. I thought I’d have to be nice and peaceful and calm when pursuing things, and when handling rejection. I thought that acting from my Ego self was non-Yogic.

These characters taught me that is a fallacy. When it comes to being the warrior in your own life, floating like a butterfly is only half of the equation. Yoga is balance. Yoga is two sides of a coin. Yoga is yin and yang, dark and light, night and day, soft and hard, stop and go, sun and moon, life and death.

It’s balance. That’s why I’m channeling these Gurus, who are currently helping me illuminate the strengths of my shadow.

Here are 10 good business and life lessons from three Bad Dudes:

Lesson 1: Loyalty is everything.

The number one reason all mob movies are so awesome, (in my opinion) are that favors are always appreciated, and always returned. When building a business of any kind, this is extremely important. Everyone deserves a chance. Those who help you on the way up deserve some love in return.

Those are the rules.

Remember when young Vito Corleone got fired from that butcher shop thing in Godfather Part 2, and told the guy “you have been very kind to me, and I’ll never forget it.”? That’s loyalty. Making a mental note to remember people’s kindness is integrity. Those who don’t help you on the way up—fuggedaboutem.

Like, as in, don’t give it another thought. No negativity. No bad feelings. Just remember to prioritize those who taught, gave, mentored, or helped you. These are the people that make the top of your list.

In the business of kindness, don’t cry over your Fredos, or tell them they “broke your heart,” or shoot them on fishing boats, just let them go.

Lesson 2: Life is a game.

Frank Underwood gets this. Both of the Underwoods get this, actually. They see life and politics and business all as some grand experiment where strategy is King and audacity is Queen. They see everyone as chess pieces who serve their purpose dominating the board. This actually takes great insight and vision.

This is what makes good leaders. If instead of seeing others as pawns to serve you (as the Underwoods do), you see everyone (yourself included), as pieces to serve the greater good, you can identify strengths, weakness, and motivational factors to construct a functional company. Understanding what makes people tick is also the key to compassion, and seeing the weaknesses in others, if viewed in a positive light leads to greater understanding.

Lesson 3: Live in the moment.

I spend a lot of time trying to anticipate what might go wrong.

These men don’t. They strategize, but don’t obsess. They think quickly, on their feet. Sometimes they make grave mistakes (it’s gotta be good television, after all) but they are quick to overcome them by thinking and saying (some) truths. Which leads me to the next-

Lesson 4: State what you feel.

The only time these dudes don’t say what they mean, is when they think lying will serve them better. I’m saying forget the lying part and just say what you feel. There is a way to be considerate of the feelings of others and still get your point across. This is where compassion comes in. In order to show compassion to yourself, speak your truth. To show compassion to others, remember theirs. Keeping things bottled up will never make you the hero of your own story.

Lesson 5: Get what you want.

The other upside to saying what you feel is that sometimes it might lead to you getting what you want, like when Frank Underwood told the President’s Chief of Staff that he wanted to be Vice President and she vouched for him. Sometimes being up front can get you where you want to go, sometimes it won’t. If it doesn’t work, persistence, preparation, passion, talent, or luck will.

Lesson 6: Seek to change.

It’s easy to get frustrated when you see things being done in a way you don’t agree with. It’s also very easy to become disillusioned to the point of being apathetic. Instead of letting this happen, choose the Don Draper way.

He said “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”

Believe that in fitting out, you will stand out. Someone recently told me “wave your flag high enough and the people you’re looking for will find you.” Stick to your principles, be clear on what you feel needs to change, and get to work.

Lesson 7: Teach.

*Spoiler alert ahead…*

Vito and Michael, Don and Peggy, Frank and Peter Russo (before he killed him, of course).

It’s important to believe in what you do enough to want to share it with others. It’s also great karma to teach what you know and to learn from new students.

Lesson 8: Own your mistakes.

Frank and Claire Underwood are so good at this. It’s even kind of creepy. She apologizes because she realizes it may get her what she wants down the line. I believe in apologizing for the immediate gratification of a clear conscience and a new perspective. Plus, being able to own your mistakes is the ultimate confidence move. It shows that you are humble enough to grow.

Lesson 9: Forgive yourself.

“It’s just business.”

Now, I hate that line, usually. But the reason it’s so great is because it establishes a clear boundary. There is a difference between business and personal. You should have integrity when doing both, but being able to separate the two is paramount for sanity and long term success. Mistakes can be made. It’s just business.

Sometimes you’re going to slip up but remember the balls of these men who are able to just let it go and say “it’s just business.”

Lesson 10: Move on.

“Get out of here and move forward. This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened.”

Don Draper said this to Peggy at the end of Season 1 of Mad Men. It was an extreme scenario but the sentiment is correct. You won’t remember half of the terrible stuff that goes on in your life. Most of it will be used as training to make you stronger, wiser, and calmer. Having the ability to move on is true confidence. With time, every rejection will end up being a great blessing.

Faith and vision are the express train to your next blessing.

I’m still going to follow the Yogi path. From now on, I’m just going to remember that I’m partially a bad dude, too. Anyone can be a bad dude. We just make the choice to be nice, and I’m done with that choice. Nice is just another word for “adequate”. Don’t be nice. Be kind. Be moral. Be strong. And practice non-harming of yourself.

May all your days be filled with the prosperity, courage, and power of dudes with less moral conscience than your own.





Relephant read:

Why Mad Men is the Most Spiritual Show on Television.


Author: Sara Kleinsmith

Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: screenshot

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