Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Disney and Pixar’s Soul

A Reel Leadership Article

Disney and Pixar’s latest animated film skipped the movie theaters and headed straight to the Disney Plus. That movie is the slow-starting but strong-finishing Soul.

Starring Jamie Foxx as Joe, Tina Fey as the stubborn young soul 22, and Graham Norton as Moonwind, Soul tells Joe’s story.

Screenshot of Joe Gardner from Soul movie playing the piano

Joe is a jazz musician by night and a part-time music teacher by day. When allowed to go full-time at the school, Joe hesitated. He’s not sure he wants to give up the freelance life and join the working stiffs.

This all changes when Joe gets a call from one of his former students, Curley (Questlove). Curley has the opportunity to get Joe a gig with the mega soul star Dorothea (Angela Bassett). He believes he has it made until he’s blabbing on his cell phone, oblivious to what is going on around him.

Near miss after near miss, Joe avoids certain death. A couple of cars swerve around him. Then he walks into an open manhole. He drops and dies. Now he’s a soul.

Soul isn’t Biblically based. However, it is a great story. You can watch Soul and take away great leadership lessons.

Today, Reel Leadership will look at the leadership lessons in Soul.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Soul

1. Joe:

Alright class, let’s try something else.

Joe was teaching a middle school band class. Most of the students didn’t know how to play. The sounds from their instruments could wake the dead!

Joe asked them to try something else. He wanted the band members to try a different tune or style. Something…

What do you do when things aren’t working? Do you put your head down and plow through the problem? Do you look at the problem and walk away?

These solutions aren’t right or wrong. They can help you get through the problem.

However, I want to encourage you just to try something else. Try something you haven’t done before.

Doing this can open your eyes to the real problem. It can help you solve the problem right in front of you.

2. There’s nothing wrong with getting lost in the flow:

Connie (Cora Champommier) was one of Joe’s students. She was a trombone player and loved music.

Connie started to play a trombone solo. She got lost in the flow. She played and played and played some more.

Her classmates laughed. They thought it was funny that she was so caught up in the music.

Joe had a different reaction. He told her it was okay. She was in the flow.

People may look at you weird when you get in your flow when you find that spot in leadership that just makes you come alive.

Don’t let anyone discredit your love for leadership. They don’t understand it. That’s why they’re mocking you or trying to talk you down.

Find your flow. Embrace your flow.

3. You’re more than your title:

Curley called Joe to ask him to fill in for Leon for a gig with Dorothea. Leon had skipped town and they needed a jazz musician. Since Joe had been Curley’s middle school band teacher, he reached out.

Dorothea found out Joe was a middle school band teacher. She tried to dismiss him based on his title.

After hearing Joe play, Dorothea’s tune changed. She was impressed by his musical talent.

Your title is only your current role. You’re not stuck with the title you currently have.

You can move from one position to another. You can move from one organization to another.

The thing is, you are more than your title.

4. Your reluctance can turn into exuberance:

After dying, Joe realized something. He was reluctant the first time he entered a jazz club.

His father had brought him to the club. He wanted to show Joe the amazing people and music. Joe didn’t want to go.

Once he entered the jazz club, his reluctance changed. He became extremely excited about the music. He fell in love with jazz.

You may have been forced into a leadership position. You may have had some reluctance. Maybe you thought you weren’t good enough.

Then, you took the position.

Your reluctance changed to exuberance as you realized you found a passion.

Just because someone is reluctant about a new position or situation doesn’t mean they’re not a good fit. They may need to discover their passion in that role.

5. Hedge Fund Manager (Calum Grant):

What am I doing with my life?

There are new souls, old souls, and lost souls in the Great Beyond and the Great Beginning. One of the lost souls was that of a hedge fund manager.

He was wondering what he was doing with his life. It seemed pointless and not worth living.

How many of us fall into the same thoughts as the hedge fund manager? We look at our lives and we wonder what we’re doing?

Like the hedge fund manager, we have a choice. We can change our choices. We can choose to take on a new role, move into a different industry, or stop working altogether.

The choice is ours. We decide what we do with our lives.

6. Don’t stay in the zone too long:

There was another set of lost souls in Soul. These lost souls had become lost because they stuck around their zone for too long.

What did that mean? It meant these souls stayed in their zones so long that they stopped living their lives.

We can do that too. We go to work, we find something that works, and we stay on that train that brings us joy until we forget everything around us.

There’s more to life than your zone and flow. You have to have a life outside of your career. If you don’t, you could wind up a lost soul.

7. Rekindle your passion:

Joe and 22 found a loophole and made their way to earth. In a comedic turn of events, 22 wound up in Joe’s body and Joe wound up in the body of a therapy cat, Mr. Mittens.

22 didn’t know how to control Joe’s body. She also didn’t know how to act like Joe.

When Connie came to his apartment, Joe told 22 to turn her away. Instead, 22 talked to Connie.

Connie had come to quit. She was done… Then she took out her trombone to play one last song.

This song rekindled Connie’s passion. She wouldn’t quit after all.

We’re all a lot like Connie. We’re at the end of our rope and want to quit. It’s time to throw in the towel.

Don’t be so quick to quick. Instead, give leading another try.

You may discover your passion isn’t gone. It is still there. You only had to rekindle it.

8. Dez (Donnell Rawlings):

Sometimes change is good.

Dez was Joe’s barber. He had taken care of Joe’s cuts for years. And it was always the same cut.

After Joe, as Mr. Mittens, accidentally shaves a path down the middle of his hair, he and 22 go to see Dez. He couldn’t get his normal haircut. He had to get something different.

When Dez was finished cutting Joe’s hair, Joe’s hair looked great. The change was good.

What needs to change in your life? What needs to change in your leadership?

Change isn’t something to fear. Change is something we need to embrace.

Embrace the change.

9. Be interested in other people’s interests:

22 had a great conversation with Dez. Their conversation brought out Dez’s passions. They discovered why Dez began to cut hair. They also discovered what Dez originally wanted to do.

As they left the barbershop, Dez was ecstatic. He shared who he was with Joe.

22 wondered why Joe and Dez had never talked about Dez’s life. They hadn’t because Joe never asked.

Great leaders are interested in their people. They’re willing to shut up about themselves and let those they lead and interact with share who they are.

Be willing to be interested in other people. It’s a fast ticket to influence.

10. People cover their fears by being negative:

Joe’s mother, Libba (Phylicia Rashad), was always pushing Joe to get a real job. She was so excited when he got offered the full-time middle school band teacher position.

She was negative whenever he talked about his jazz gigs. She continually told him they wouldn’t pay the bills or get him anywhere.

We discover later in the movie that there was a reason behind her negativity. Libba was fearful for Joe. She wanted him not to have to worry about finances or where his next meal was going to come from.

She became negative to try to help save him from her fears.

What negative people are in your life? Do you know why they’re negative?

Talk with them. Ask them what is driving the negativity. Except, don’t use the word negativity. Ask them what they’re concerned about and why they feel the way they do.

You will see them open up and become less negative.

11. Joe:

I thought I would feel different.

Joe’s gig with Dorothea went well. The crowd loved it. Dorothea wanted him back.

Yet, something was missing. He didn’t feel the excitement or fire he thought he would.

Dorothea shared a great fable with him. The fable was:

I heard this story about a fish. He swims up to this older fish and says, “I’m trying to find this thing they call the ocean.” “The ocean?” says the older fish. “That’s what you’re in right now.” “This?” says the young fish. “This is water. What I want is the ocean.”

We want more and more and more. The things we accomplish are never enough. There’s always another goal to accomplish or a hill to climb.

Yet, what we truly want is right there in front of us.

Make sure you’re not chasing after what you already have. Too many of us are doing just that…

12. Counselor Jerry (Alice Braga):

We’re in the business of inspiration.

In the end, Joe goes back to the Great Beginning. He finds 22 who had become a lost soul. He chooses to give his earth token to 22 to get her back to Earth.

Talking to one of the Counselor Jerrys, Joe discovered what the purpose was of the counselors and the mentors. Their purpose was to inspire others.

That’s what I want to do for readers of my blog, to coaching clients, and to the world around me. As leaders, our job isn’t to inspire ourselves. Our job, our business, is to inspire others.

Who are you inspiring today? Look for someone to inspire and encourage. That’s your business.

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