3 Leadership Lessons Taught by Mr Miyagi

Why it is crucial to find the right coach

Mr Miyagi

When I was six, Columbia Pictures released the original Karate Kid movie. I loved it, and used my newly learned karate skills to punish the neighbors fence. (oops!)

I now have a six- year-old. The Karate Kid has been on my mind this week. (yikes)

I started playing hockey my freshman year high school. I was terrible. I could barely stand. I spent more time crashing over the boards than celebrating goals. I can’t even remember my first goal, probably an accidental redirection off my stick, between my legs.

But I do remember my first coach. Bill Miller. He was a great guy. Loved hockey, loved the thrill of victory, but mostly loved seeing the development of hockey players.

After my first season, he invited me to attend hockey camp in Penticton. (Canada- where the gods created hockey). The experience changed my life. I fell in love with the sport, got better, and committed to work. I went on to play juniors and a little on college. My coach made all the difference.

Mr Miyagi

The Karate Kid had a coach

In the movie, Daniel Larusso, an East Coast transplant to California, struggles with loneliness, bullies, and finding his groove. Miyagi, the closet karate sensei maintenance man agrees to teach him. The result: a little love, a karate triumph, and bunch of memorable 80s quotes. It is such an entertaining story that one might miss the leadership lessons sprinkled throughout.

Miyagi teaches 3 crucial lessons for us to understand

  • External validation isn’t important.At one point, Daniel asks Miyagi what belt he has (karate level attained). Miyagi answers, “Canvas. JC Penney, $3.98. You like?” Then continues, “Daniel-san, karate here [points at head], karate here [points at heart], karate never here [points at belt]
    • The lesson: We need to focus on our internal accomplishments, the things we are learning, and the goals we are striving for. It is what is in your head and your heart that matters.
  • Build mutual respect and trust.During the movie two teaching styles are used. Miyagi uses simplicity and repetition, control and balance. The relationship between Daniel and Miyagi moves from teacher/student to friend. Fear and command is the other style taught, the Cobra Kai.
    • The lesson: In the end, when the stakes are highest, the leader who built mutual trust inspires his follower to give more, reach higher. Work together.
  • Stand back up.From the opening scene, to the closing credits, Daniel faces obstacles. He gets knocked down repeatedly. But, he keeps getting back up. He refuses to quit.
    • The Lesson: The crowning moment of the movie is when Daniel hobbles to the center ring and crane kicks Johnny in the face to win the tournament (sorry for the spoiler). It is only when we overcome obstacles that epic scenes are created.

Mr Miyagi

In business and life, we often get beat down and wonder if we have what it takes to go on. To reach the next level you must find the right coach who will challenge you to drive harder, focus more intently and overcome challenges.

Remember, real success is internal. Building mutual trusting relationships and rise every time you fall. Go create your own epic scene.

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Podcaster | Speaker | Leadership Mentor

Jake Carlson is a popular speaker, accountability partner, and host of the Modern Leadership podcast. Jake built his business while traveling with his family around the world. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn. Read more about him here.