Hello there! A ways back I made an off-hand joke that turned into an equally off-hand blog post about life lessons we can take from fictional monsters and horror movies. It turned out to be a huge hit with a completely fictional group of people that I’m currently making up. Look, I’m doing it right now. There are dozens and dozens of them.
Well it’s been a while since I’ve toed the line between pop-culture references and tongue-in-cheek-but-still legit life lessons, and that line is begging to be toed. So here I come to toe it once again. With my toes.
To celebrate one of my favorite geeky holidays, May the 4th (aka Star Wars Day), let’s see if we can’t unpack a little sci-fi wisdom with some Star Wars life lessons and quotes!
And before you go looking for it, I’ll tell you right now, “Do or do not, there is no try,” is not in here. It’s not. Okay, it might be one of the last ones, toward the end. But it isn’t.
1. “How do we blow it up? There’s always a way to do that.”
Said by: Han Solo
In: Episode VII: The Force Awakens
The Lesson: Learn from Your Mistakes and Move On
One thing that Star Wars fans (though unfortunately not Star Wars villains) quickly learn is that sometimes plans won’t work out. But when that happens, you’re usually better off taking the lesson and adapting your approach for next time. Don’t keep sinking resources into a plan that doesn’t work.
If your first giant expensive planet-destroying space laser gets blown up, it’s okay. Brush it off, notify the families of the roughly 1.5 million casualties, and cut your losses. But take the opportunity to learn and do better next time. Whatever you do, don’t just build a second, third, and I can’t believe I have to say fourth, but fourth giant expensive planet-destroying space laser.
2. “I have a bad feeling about this.”
Said by: Pretty much every character at some point
In: Every main movie, and most of the other stuff too
The Lesson: Take Risks, But Trust Your Gut
It’s a well known tidbit among Star Wars fans that this line appears at least once in every movie, and elsewhere throughout Star Wars media. And at a lingering glance, this line really says something about the many heroes who say it. Look what happens every time the line is used:
The character acknowledges a warning sign or risk ahead (the bad feeling), but proceeds anyway because they know they are on the right path. They refuse to let fear win. And each time, they overcome the obstacle, earning some of their most important accomplishments along the way. They trust and acknowledge their instincts, and they know when it’s time to take the risk anyway. Listen to yourself, and don’t give fear all the power.
3. “Always remember, your focus determines your reality.”
Said by: Qui Gon Jinn
In: Episode I: The Phantom Menace
The Lesson: What You Set Your Attention on Matters
For awesome wisdom and Star Wars life lessons, look no further than the ultimate warrior monk himself, Qui Gon Jinn. In this line, addressing a young Annakin’s concerns about the great big world out there, Qui Gon taps into a truly fundamental piece of personal growth advice.
How you choose to view the world around you matters, and what you set your attention to can make all the difference. The attitude that you choose has a very real impact on your experience. Those who choose a positive, open-minded outlook on life reap significant benefits, while those who choose to think small and cynically are equally rewarded with exactly the world that they see.
4. “We’re clones, sir. We’re meant to be expendable.” “Not to me.”
Said by: Clone sergeant ‘Sinker’ and Jedi Master Plo Koon, respectively
In: The Clone Wars
The Lesson: Every Person Deserves Love and Respect
If you’re a fan of the Clone Wars animated series, you know that one of its glowing strengths is its ability to tell the unique human stories of its titular clones. Despite being genetically identical soldiers bred solely for war, dozens of these characters shine in the series with their individual personalities, quirks, wants, desires and fears.
This line is one of many heartfelt moments the show delivers to remind you that no matter what you look like, what your background is, or what sort of life you have lived, you deserve just as much love and respect as everyone else.
Whatever reasons you hold in your head as to why you are less special than someone else, less precious, or less deserving of all that is good, those reasons are wrong. You are a unique soul with your own gifts to offer the world, and you deserve just as much self-love and self-respect as anyone else.
5. “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.”
Said by: Obi-Wan Kenobi
In: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
The Lesson: Life Isn’t Binary
At a glance, the plot of a Star Wars story isn’t all that complex: good guys beat bad guys (usually by destroying their giant evil space laser, see #1 above), and we all go home for some blue milk.
But one of the central underlying themes of the series is that this type of good guys/bad guys binary thinking is what causes most of the problems in the first place. Most of the great archvillains of the Star Wars universe begin as well-meaning people. But a dogmatic adherence to this idea of good and evil, and a lifetime of moral high-grounding can be deeply problematic. It can push someone down the wrong path.
The prequels carry this theme heavily, showing us Annakin’s growth from eager boy to gallant hero to nigh-irredeemable monster. This path is paved for him by a lifetime of being put in a box and having his emotions invalidated.
Mace Windu’s purple lightsaber (breaking from the blue = good, red = bad tradition to which fans were accustomed) is also believed to be a sign of this fallibility in the good/bad binary. It definitely has nothing to do with the fact that Samuel L. Jackson just insisted on getting a purple one.
6. “[Insert literally any piece of Star Wars content here] RUINED the series!”
Said by: Star Wars fans the world over
In: their living room after seeing any new movie in the series
The Lesson: You Can’t Please Everybody
When people ask me if I’m a Star Wars fan, I like to joke, “No, I actually like the movies.” The Star Wars fandom as a unit has a reputation for being a tad extremely hyper-critical of their beloved franchise.
Individually, fans can be great. Most of the Star Wars people I know are cool, fun nerds that love the movies as much as I do. But the community as a whole can be harsh, critiquing every line, plot point, and goofy little space-critter.
Yet with each new installment, and subsequent wave of backlash, Lucasfilm-Disney forges dauntlessly on. They continue to do their best, put their love and energy into their next work, put it out there, and make buckets of money.
If the work you do is affecting someone in such a way as to evoke this much emotion, good or bad, you must be doing something right. Because that means that you are reaching them and they care about it enough to get worked up into a frothing rage over it. If they choose to express that in a harmful or toxic way, that’s on them, not you.
7. “He’s no good to me dead.”
Said by: Boba Fett
In: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
The Lesson: Presentation Is Everything
Alright, I had to shoehorn one Boba Fett quote in here. Despite the fact that he only has four lines in the whole original trilogy, and none of them are all that consequential, Boba is my (and many others’) favorite character in the whole Star Wars Universe. Why, though? Is it because he:
- Always knows just what to say? I think we’ve established that no.
- Contributes meaningfully to the story? Nope, he’s basically just a single-use plot device.
- Has super cool action scenes? Haha no, the opposite. The first time we see him fight, he dies embarrassingly.
- Survived his embarrassing death through sheer will and badassery? Again no, that only happened recently.
The reason that we all love the Fett so much is that the man simply has S_W_A_G_G_E_R. He doesn’t need to speak, because his presence in the room announces itself. He wears awesome armor, which tells stories of its own through all of its wear and scarring. He’s covered in cool sci-fi gadgets for any scenario, and he carries it all with that stern, mysterious grace. Not just anybody can talk back to Darth Vader and live to tell the tale.
The image you put forth to the world carries weight, and his image is made of solid beskar.
8. “Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.”
Said by: Kylo Ren
In: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
The Lesson: Don’t Get too Hung up on the Past
Likely a nod to director Rian Johnson’s bold and controversial (see #6 above) effort to take the series in new directions and bury old tropes in the eighth installment, the lesson in this line is pretty clear. And Adam Driver’s spot-on, buttery delivery as Kylo Ren doesn’t hurt it one bit.
We all have our share of heavy, ugly shit behind us. It may still affect us sometimes, but we don’t have to carry the ugliness around with us everywhere. Don’t define yourself by the struggles you’ve lived and the mistakes you’ve made, but by the person they have made you into.
9. “It’s a trap!”
Said by: Admiral Ackbar
In: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
The Lesson: It Is, in Fact, a Trap.
This one is pretty self explanatory. Their battlestation is fully operational. They knew we were coming. Take evasive action. IT’S A TRAP.
That about wraps it up. Thanks for hanging out, I hope you had some fun, and maybe picked up a bit of sci-fi wisdom for the road. And, I really don’t want to say this… but I’m pretty sure it’s required… *deep breath* may the – seriously, I’m doing this, it’s your last chance to get out now – may the force be with you.