14 Leadership Lessons And Quotes From Adam Sandler’s Pixels

A Reel Leadership Article

Pam and I like to take in a good comedy every once in awhile. We also like to be reminded of the great things of our childhood.

That’s why we were excited to see the newest Adam Sandler movie Pixels.

Pixels movie teaches us leadership lessons

Having watched the previews, Pixels looked hilarious.

Going into Pixels, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would it be classic, humorous Adam Sandler a la Happy Gilmore, The Waterboy, or Anger Management? Or would it be stupid humor such as Little Nicky or Grown Ups?

What it turned out to be was something in-between.

It also proved to provide insights into leadership, if you looked deep enough.

Caution: Pixels Spoilers Ahead

Leadership Lessons From Pixels

1. Noticing patterns will help you succeed – Adam Sandler’s character in Pixels, Sam Brenner, was on his way to superstardom, at least in the competitive world of video games.

Why? Because he noticed classic arcade games required you to take note of the patterns of enemy characters.

Games such as Galaga, Centipede, and Pac-Man, could be won by memorizing patterns in the game and exploiting them.

You can do the same thing with leadership. Keep an eye out for patterns.

You might notice a team member gets cranky at the same time every month. This pattern might reveal he has stress because money is tight at the same time every month and he has to make his house payment.

You might notice a competitor releases a new product at the same time year in and year out. You know this is coming so you brace yourself for the media frenzy this competitor will receive.

Whatever you’re doing, look for patterns. They’ll help you to know what to do next.

2. Sam Brenner

Focus on your wife

Who would have thought a movie about aliens attacking us with video games could give us a leadership lesson regarding our marriages.

Well, Pixels did it.

Sam mentioned to one of his friends that he needed to focus more on his wife. He’d been neglecting her and she needed him.

Are you focusing on your wife enough? If not, there’s no better time to start than now.

3. President Will Cooper

You’re meant for something more than this.

Sam Brenner had a lot of potential. He was smart. He could see patterns. He could play a mean game of Space Invaders.

Yet, he never amounted to much after his crushing defeat at the world championship of gaming.

Cooper, his friend, knew Same still had potential. He could do great things in his life.

Are you like Brenner? Do you like the confidence to go and do big things for God or in your organization?

It’s time to reevaluate your life. You have potential.

4. Inexperience doesn’t mean you lack knowledge – President Cooper noticed something odd about the attack on the US military base. After reviewing the tapes of the attack, he realized the attack was based on a video game.

Seeing this, he called in his friend to assess the tapes. Sam confirmed this to the President.

However, the military generals did not appreciate Sam’s insight into the conflict. They felt his inexperience with war made him unfit to contribute to the conversation.

Man, oh man, were they ever wrong.

You’ll never have total mastery over a subject. There will be many times when you will lack any knowledge in an important subject matter.

You may still be able to contribute. If your area of expertise overlaps with the topic being discussed, use your knowledge there to make connections.

5. Admiral Porter

Try not to cause a total panic.

Situations can quickly get out of control when we communicate fear. This is why you need to be able to keep calm and collected when dishing out details.

You don’t want to spout fear and dread. Rather, try to inspire and give hope to a situation.

6. President Will Cooper

Let the nerds take over.

Cooper saw the military fighting a losing battle. They didn’t understand the enemy. They had no clue how to fight.

The President knew there were a few people on his team that could fight, and possibly win.

He told Admiral Porter to let the nerds take over.

You’ll run into situations where you may have the knowledge but lack the expertise to get a job done. You’ll know who to call, but you’ll fight against the urge.

Stop being difficult. Call in the experts when you need them.

7. Those we believe in can turn against us – In what could have been a touching moment in Pixels, we get a laugh out loud moment.

Toru Iwatani, the creator of Pac-Man, approaches his creation. Iwatani talks lovingly to Pac-Man.

He calls Pac-Man his son. Recalls how he made Pac-Man to bring joy to people. And then it happens.

Iwatani reaches his hand out to Pac-Man and Pac-Man takes a bite out of his arm.

There was belief in Iwatani that the real-life Pac-Man was good. He was going to listen to his creator.

Instead, Pac-Man turned and attacked him.

We will raise up a younger generation. Many of these young people will continue to be loyal to you.

Then there will be the few who turn and disregard all that you’ve done for them.

There’s nothing you can do. Well, you can realize this will happen, forgive them, and move on.

8. Ludlow Lamonsoff

So, I guess they’re just leaving me here.

Ludlow had been a whiz-kid in the 80’s only to become a conspiracy theorist. Even though he was awkward, the Arcaders brought him onto the team to fight the alien invasion. He did, after all, have made gaming skills.

During the great Pac-Man battle, his ghost vehicle was destroyed and he was left lying on the ground. His teammates were near him, but they didn’t have the chance to pick him up. They had to leave him behind.

This leadership lesson from Pixels pained me. I didn’t like the lesson, but I knew it was true.

Sometimes you will have to leave team members behind. They may not be progressing or putting in the effort to grow.

The sad reality is: Some team members have to be let go.

9. Timing is everything – Earlier in this article, I discussed how classic gaming had a pattern to the enemy attacks. With these patterns, there’s also the issue of timing.

As Sam Brenner faces off against Pac-Man, he remembers that Pac-Man has a power-up that expires after 10 seconds.

He waits for Pac-Man to eat the power-up, begins to back up his car, and slowly counts to 10. When he reaches 10, Pac-Man tries to bite his ghost vehicle only to be defeated.

Timing was everything.

Many businesses face issues because they fail to time things right. Either the leaders of the business rush in too quickly or they take too long to execute on their vision.

Timing in business is very important.

10. President Will Cooper

It’s not me. It’s Sam Brenner and his team who has saved us.

The President was being credited with having saved the United States of America. And the world.

He was being called a hero. He knew this wasn’t the case. Another team had saved the world.

He was man, and leader, enough to speak up and let the world knew who really saved the day.

Real leaders aren’t in a position of leadership to gain recognition. Real leaders give credit where credit is due.

11. Recognizing your own self-worth can be difficult – Sam couldn’t recognize the value he had. He squandered his life feeling like he was a loser.

After his fight to save the world, he slowly came to recognize he still had skills that were useful.

I’ve been in Sam’s position before. Looking at myself, I couldn’t see what I was good at. I felt like I didn’t contribute.

But when I asked others, they saw all sorts of skills.

We are our own worst critics. We can’t see past ourselves to our skills.

If you can’t see what you’re good at, ask around. You’ll get eye-opening answers.

12. Matty

Pretend you’re the guy and you don’t want to die.

Matty, who is Violet’s son, told Sam this line. It opened my eyes to another leadership truth.

While we have skin in the game, we rarely play all-out. We don’t lead like there’s something to lose.

There is something to lose. Whether that’s market share, souls, or some other metric. Play all out.

13. Sam Brenner

I’ve been waiting to do this since 1982.

Sam excelled in certain video games. However, there was one game he struggled with.

That game was Donkey Kong.

This game was also the last battle he had to face to save the world. As Sam defeated this challenge, he threw one of the hammers at Donkey Kong and said he had been waiting for this moment for a long time.

Our moments of glory and success don’t come instantly. We have to work hard and long and smart to obtain success.

Don’t give up when you face the trials. Don’t give up when it seems like success is not within your grasp.

14. Clear communication is important – The whole premise of Pixels revolved around the fact that the U.S. had sent a video montage of video games and other important clips into space. Hoping that intelligent life would receive our message and want to communicate with us.

When the extraterrestrials received our message, the message wasn’t clear. The aliens believed we were challenging them to war.

The plot of Pixels shows us just how important clear communication can be. When we don’t present an easily understood message, things get messy.

Was Pixels A Good Movie?

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned I was unsure how the new Adam Sandler movie would be. Would it be clean? Would it be funny? Would it be appropriate?

You can check YES to funny. Clean, not so much. Appropriate, that depends on what you’re willing to watch.

I really enjoyed most of the humor and the story of Pixels. However, there was some unclean content in the movie and this may turn away church leaders from the movie.

Be careful going into Pixels. You’ll get a good laugh, but you’ll also hear/see things you may not want to see.

Question: Have you seen Pixels? Were you able to find any leadership nuggets? Let’s talk about them in the comment section below.

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