Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer is one of the great Christmas classics. You know the story. As a young reindeer, Rudolph’s nose receives unwanted attention for being so different. Glowing bright red, at just the wrong time, Rudolph becomes the brunt of jokes. Friends dismiss him from games. He is publicly humiliated and sad.
It doesn’t end there, of course. A wicked storm on Christmas Eve changes the fate of this reindeer. Santa himself sees Rudolph as the way to save the night and asks him to lead his sleigh. Not only does he save Christmas, but he is also then cheered and loved by everyone for his accomplishment. What was a weakness was really a strength. What was made fun-of becomes the pride of the town.
And that little story gives us five important lessons of success.
(Short version of this post on Instagram here.)
1. Don’t let someone else define your value.
This is the second mistake in my book, The Book of Mistakes: 9 Secrets to Creating a Successful Future. It is a mistake that is so easy to let happen. We fall prey to it because we listen to the wrong voices.
Rudolph’s value, like yours, is because of who you are, not because of what others say you are.
Remember: critics are always in excess supply. There are always people who want to pull you down. They don’t like different, and they certainly don’t want you to succeed when they are failing.
2. Be a light to others, even those who hurt you.
I am often drawn to stories of forgiveness. Stories like Immaculee Ilibagiza who forgave those who killed her family in the Rwanda holocaust. How she is able to forgive amazes and inspires me. Because she had been through some of the darkest times imaginable, her light is brighter than ever.
What I love is that Rudolph freely gave his light to all, not just to those who didn’t make fun of him. The light was for all.
3. Your uniqueness is your gift to the world.
Discovering your unique gifts is part of the success journey. You are born with amazing potential. Finding and uncovering this is not as easy as you might think. We often see it in others long before we see it in ourselves. Over time, when we are still and listen, we will begin to uncover what our ‘special sauce’ is. Don’t give up looking for it.
4. Find someone who believes in you.
Santa changed Rudolph’s future when he was bathed in the red light from Rudolph’s nose. He immediately recognized it for what it was: the answer to a Christmas Eve disaster. He knew that this was a gift and that it would make the difference in the mission.
Though it’s easy to find critics, it can be hard to find a single person who believes. Don’t stop searching for this person. When you find someone who truly believes in your promise, it will fuel your success faster than any other factor.
5. Difficulties are always opportunities in disguise.
What seemed like a nightmare evening, a storm that would stop Christmas deliveries, was actually the opportunity for everything to change. It’s often difficult to recognize opportunity in difficulty. We may look at the problem in front of us and be stopped in our tracks. We may have trouble thinking how things can work out when we feel helpless and trapped. And yet it is during constraints that most creativity happens. Learn to look for the positive in the midst of the negative. It’s a skill that will serve you well on your success journey.
Rudolph may be a little story that makes you smile, but it has powerful lessons to help you on your success journey. As a leader, look to help individuals identify strengths, support them, help them shine. You’ll find that the entire team will be as successful as the team of reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh. When each one of us brings our unique talents to the mission, everything falls into place.