Three lessons The Muppets taught me about Leadership, Community Building & Taking Action

27 Feb

This year The Muppets made a triumphant return to the big screen! I was more than happy to welcome them back as childhood memories of Sesame Street and The Muppet Show came rushing back to me full force. I love everything about The Muppets, and I’m not ashamed to admit it! I love their googly eyes, furry faces, big mouths, and colorful plumage! But my love for The Muppets isn’t just felt deep.

There’s something more that makes them so endearing and gives them a home so close to my heart, but what is it?! Then it struck me, many of the values I have today can be traced back to the lessons I learned from the beloved Muppets of my youth!

In honor of The Oscars, I thought it would be appropriate to write about the important lessons I’ve learned from The Muppets—it may not win them a coveted Oscar, but they’ll be remembered longer than who won best screenplay.

Leadership

“You can be what you want to be, see what you want to see—believe in yourself. Some folks try to tell you there are things you shouldn’t do—you’re not strong enough or smart enough at all. But what seems right to them quite often might be wrong for you.”

What does this teach us about leadership? I believe that knowing yourself is one of the first steps towards being a better leader. You have to know what you stand for before you can stand for something or someone else. What Ray Charles and Elmo teach us here is that there may be people in your life and in your career that try to tell you what to think, how to act, and what to believe. By believing in yourself and understanding what you stand for, you will be able to hear what others are saying, and stay true to yourself and your values.

Community Building

“Cooperation makes it happen. Cooperation: working together.”

In this video (which I remember vividly from my childhood) The Muppets on Sesame Street sing about cooperation in a neighborhood and working together to build a community garden. It doesn’t get more grassroots than that! As more people become involved in the garden other community members begin to ask questions about how they can get involved and work together to build and maintain their community garden. What does this video teach us? That through collaboration and working together we can strengthen our communities. It also leads directly into my final lesson…

Taking Action

“If just one person believes in you, deep enough and strong enough believes in you, hard enough and long enough, before you know it someone else would think, if he can do it, I can do it.” The song goes on to add more and more people believing in “you” until “maybe even you can believe in you, too!”

This is one of my favorite videos from Jim Henson’s memorial service because, in rare form, you can see The Muppets and their “Muppeteers,” the “invisible” people who support them. While this video highlights the others before it: the importance of believing in yourself and using the assets of your community to make a change, it also adds something incredibly important: believing in others and taking action on your beliefs. If you support someone and believe in them you should tell them and show your support by taking action. After all, leadership is about an action many can take, not a position few can hold.

What lessons did you learn from The Muppets, Sesame Street, or other cartoons, movies, or books when you were a child? Share them with me in the comments!

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9 Responses to “Three lessons The Muppets taught me about Leadership, Community Building & Taking Action”

  1. clownonfire February 27, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    I have learned very recently that The Muppets are funny. I know, it’s quite the statement, but they are not very popular in the French speaking community. I have to thank my wife on insisting that i watch the movie with her. Now, Man or Muppet has become my anthem.

    • Dara Goldberg (@Dara_Laine) February 27, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

      I’m glad you had someone to show you the Muppet way! Was there anything similar in the French speaking community?

      • clownonfire February 28, 2012 at 10:26 am #

        We had very psychedelic t.v. shows when I was a kid. The most popular one was Passe-Partout. It was closer to The Electric Company than the Muppets.

  2. Gary Williams February 27, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    Great job Dara! I just watched a documentary about Elmo.

    • Dara Goldberg (@Dara_Laine) February 27, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

      Thanks Gary! That sounds like a really interesting documentary. Did you like the Elmo and Ray Charles video?

  3. Victoriatoria March 2, 2012 at 10:14 am #

    First of all, there’s a documentary about Elmo?! What’s it called? I want to watch it immediately. Secondly, I love the Muppets, and this post did an excellent job of summing up why they’re not teaching communism (thanks Fox), but just good community values. My personal favorite show has always been Fraggle Rock. It’s a fun and funny show that doesn’t shy away from teaching kids about the complexity of the world–Freedom is only worth having if it’s valued, you should always be willing to ask for help but don’t take your friends for granted, and others.

    Jim Henson was a genius, and so is Jason Segel for that matter. I can’t believe he has an Oscar…

    Thanks, Dara. Wonderful post, as always!

    • Dara Goldberg (@Dara_Laine) March 9, 2012 at 10:30 am #

      Thanks for your comment! I thought about including Fraggle Rock after I posted, but really I remember watching reruns of The Muppet Show the most… after Sesame Street of course. Fraggle Rock is a great show and I think your summary clearly shows what makes it so great. Thank you so much for your input/addition!

      Jim Henson was an amazing person (University of Maryland graduate!!!) and I agree, a genius.

      Thank you so much for reading and for the compliment. PS – I just saw the Elmo documentary of Netflix watch instantly, it seems to be about his Muppeteer! Enjoy!

  4. pemadb March 12, 2012 at 10:58 am #

    Wow I can’t believe nobody has mentioned Kermit’s Bein’ Green. Here’s an excerpt:

    It’s not easy being green
    It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things
    And people tend to pass you over
    ‘Cause you’re not standing out
    Like flashy sparkles in the water
    Or stars in the sky

    But green’s the color of spring
    And green can be cool and friendly-like
    And green can be big like a mountain
    Or important like a river
    Or tall like a tree

    When green is all there is to be
    It could make you wonder why
    But why wonder why wonder
    I am green, and it’ll do fine
    It’s beautiful, and I think it’s what I want to be

    Other than a “be yourself” song to see the magic in you and your own uniqueness (the biggest theme in lots of children’s songs, literature, art etc.), I always thought it had to do with being environmentally conscious, even as a kid. Also, I saw Jim Henson’s exhibit at the Museum of the Moving image before it came down in March, and that guy was a super-genius!

    • Dara May 8, 2012 at 6:07 pm #

      Another wonderful addition! I remember being so moved by this song when I was younger and it still stirs up my emotions when I hear it now (or even read the words). To me this song goes beyond believing in yourself to truly celebrating what makes you different from everyone else rather than seeing differences as a disadvantage.

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