Darth Vader: Management Guru?

I have long toyed with the idea of writing a business book that focused on the management strategies of Darth Vader.  I mean seriously, though “more machine than man now, twisted and evil,” Vader was the quintessential executive.  Consider this:

  • He had a well-documented low tolerance for failure—this pursuit of success gained in galactic infamy in the Clone Wars, put him in the suit we all know and love, and made him the most feared being in the galaxy.  Not bad for a little kid from the desert
  • He honored the chain of command—there was never a question of who ultimately was in charge and whose vision was being implemented.  No one in the Empire questioned Vader’s true motivations
  • He would not ask more of his staff than he was willing to do himself—they’re attacking my Death Star?  Ready my ship…
  • Vader recognized the limitations of his organization and was willing to outsource—when conventional methods failed to produce results (i.e. the Millennium Falcon), Vader resorted to bounty hunters
  • He encouraged and rewarded creativity in pursuit of a goal—Find the Millennium Falcon.  “Use any means at your disposal.  No disintegrations.”
  • He was a fierce negotiator—“I have altered the deal.  Pray I don’t alter it any further.”

But one quote seems to typify his approach more than any other: in The Empire Strikes Back, when the Millennium Falcon disappears into an asteroid field and his admiral cautions against pursuit, Vader responds with “Asteroids do not concern me, Admiral.  I want that ship, not excuses.”  In short, get it done.

Last November, I participated in and won National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org).  NaNoWriMo is a month-long pursuit of a singular that eludes many in their lifetime—write a novel.  The goal is to get 50,000 words on the page in 30 days.  No one says it will be good (it won’t) or that it will be marketable (it shouldn’t be), but it is one of those things you can look back on, see and touch and know that you achieved.  It is a global phenomenon and thousands of people reach that one goal every November.  For those that reach the 50,000 word goal, they are called winners.

Everything comes at you in those 30 days and you must juggle your day to day responsibilities with the needs and wants of your family and friends and sleep and TV and Thanksgiving—all while maintaining the singular pursuit of 1667 words on the page every day.   In short, for those 30 days, you are in an asteroid field.

As impractical as his approach may be, Vader has a point:  in pursuit of a singular goal, the goal itself must trump the obstacles that attempt to thwart you.  Throughout our lives as writers, asteroids will always appear.  There is always something that captures our attention or commands our focus.  Something that must be done or attended to or demands a response. In my last post, I spoke about battling the Day Job Dragon and how the beast itself is a necessary evil.  But that monster, the Day Job, is merely a means to an end and we can never take our eye off the true goal.

I think it’s the goal itself and the commitment to it that is really the focus here.  Whether your goal is to finish that novel in 30 days or get 1000 Twitter followers or sell 1M copies of your new book, stay committed to the goal.  You’ve already won.  Think about it.  Most people do not have the wherewithal to write the book at all.  They cannot fathom undertaking something so vast and large, much less having the guts to put it out in front of people to be judged.  You’re ahead of the game already.  Capitalize on that.  The same drive that put you in that chair, at that desk, pounding on that keyboard or scribbling on notepads until your hands bled day in and day out to produce a story worth telling is the same drive that will accept nothing less than your definition of success.

Don’t let something or someone get in the way or deter you or derail you.   You got a bad review?  Suck it up and move on.  Poor sales?  Research and pursue alternate marketing methods or different channels.   Can’t find an agent?  Publish it yourself.  In the end, these are just asteroids.  And you know how we feel about those, right?

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