Prior to the launch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, comic book fans were treated to hit or miss comic book movie adaptations. Ghost Rider, starring Nicholas Cage as Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider, was one of those misses.
Ghost Rider is a favorite comic book character of mine. He made a deal with the devil (unbeknownst to him) to save his dying father. The deal made Johnny Blaze into the Ghost Rider and a tool of the devil. He rebels and begins to use his newfound power for good.
The Ghost Rider movie follows a similar storyline but almost makes Ghost Rider a joke.
The acting was atrocious. The story plodded. Character development was almost null. Yet, there’s a story to be told. And leadership lessons to be learned.
If you’re brave enough to face Ghost Rider, you can walk away with a few Reel Leadership lessons.
Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Ghost Rider
1. Caretaker (Sam Elliot):
It’s said that the West was built on legends. And that legends are a way of understanding things greater than ourselves. Forces that shape our lives, events that defy explanation. Individuals whose lives soar to the heavens or fall to the earth. This is how legends are born.
Ghost Rider opens with these words from Caretaker. He narrates the beginning and gives a great opening to a poor movie.
The opening lines give us a great idea of why we build up the leaders who have shaped our lives and the lives of others. We look up to these men and women. We build legends around them.
Why? Because legends give us a way to understand things that are greater than us.
Don’t be put off by the legends of great leaders. These legends may be exaggerated but they help us to understand what has come before us and, even, understand ourselves.
2. Barton Blaze (Brett Cullen):
When you do things without thinking you ain’t making the choice, the choice is making you.
Barton is Johnny’s father. In this scene, Barton is talking to a young Johnny Blaze (Matt Long).
Johnny has been impulsive. He has been doing things without thinking.
Barton sees this. He knows he has to call it out of his son. The choices he sees Johnny making are not leading to a good place.
I’m guilty of being headstrong, like Johnny. I do things without thinking, a lot. I realize this is a problem.
Are you guilty of the same things? Are you making choices without thinking?
If so, you’re not making a choice. The choices you’re making are making you.
Make sure you’re making the choice. Make sure you’re thinking through things before you do them.
3. The HOW is important:
Johnny learned his father was dying of cancer. This scared a boy who didn’t want to live without his father. When a man (Peter Fonda) approaches him with a deal to save his father, he didn’t think about the how. The how wasn’t important to Johnny. What the how would get was.
So… Johnny sold his soul to Mephistopheles. He chose to give up his soul in exchange for his father’s cancer to be removed.
Ouch… as much as I love my father, I couldn’t give up my soul to save him. Especially to the devil. That’s the choice Johnny made. The how of saving his father cost him dearly as it made him into the Ghost Rider.
You have to think through the how of your decisions. How you get things done matters.
If you treat your team poorly, that’s a bad how. If you neglect your family so you get more business, that’s a bad how. If you deceive your customers, that’s a bad how.
The how matters. Make sure your how is right.
4. Johnny Blaze:
You can’t live in fear.
Johnny repeated this mantra over and over. We hear him say this during his insane motorcycle stunt shows.
He tells himself this so he can do bigger and bigger stunts. It doesn’t hurt that he’s discovered he can’t die. Still, he knows he needs to remind himself that fear cannot win.
Leaders, we cannot live in fear. We cannot hide and cower when things get tough. We cannot let fear control our decisions.
Work through the fear you’re facing. Make sure you’re pushing through the fear. Don’t let it hold you back.
5. Mack (Donal Logue):
What are you trying to prove?
Mack was one of the guys on Johnny’s stunt crew. He saw the increasingly dangerous stunts Johnny was trying to attempt. He knew one of these stunts would lead to his death.
On Johnny’s latest and most dangerous stunts, Mack calls out his boss. He asks Johnny what is he trying to prove.
This Ghost Rider quote has two ways we can take it. I want to explore them both. First, let’s go literal.
Leaders, we have nothing to prove. Regardless of what others in your organization think or tell you, there’s not thing you need to prove to others.
You’ve risen the ranks. You’ve done what was right. You are a leader, you don’t need to keep on trying to prove you’re something more.
What are you trying to prove?
Mack called out Johnny because of the big, dangerous stunt he was about to attempt. Johnny had scheduled a crazy motorcycle jump. He was going to jump a full-length football field with cars below him.
Not only was he going to attempt this stunt, but he was also going to do it on the anniversary of his dad’s death. He went big on a big anniversary.
The anniversary or milestones in our leadership journey can cause us to think we need to go big, do something spectacular, prove something. This is when leaders become dangerous.
Leaders who think they have to do something because it’s a big day, year, or something else can cause their organization to do something dangerous.
Temper yourself. Know you don’t have to keep going bigger.
7. Know what you’re getting into:
Roxanne Simpson (Eva Mendes) was a reporter for a news station. She went to Johnny’s big stunt to try to get an interview. She was also Johnny’s ex-girlfriend.
Roxanne was able to coax Johnny into giving an interview. She was excited because Johnny did not give interviews.
Sadly, the interview was a major disaster.
Johnny’s answers were short and inappropriate. The interview did not go well. Roxanne did not know what she was getting into by interviewing her ex-love.
Are there opportunities that are presenting themselves to you that you don’t know the full details? We can hop into these opportunities because they look good. Dig a little deeper and they’re not so good.
I remember seeing this with one company. The owner believed he was walking into a goldmine. He signed the deal and began working with the new company.
The new company had him move a portion of the business to a southern state. A lot of investment went into the project.
A couple of years later, the company shut its doors and left the owner hanging with a building, employees, and more.
It wasn’t a good deal. He didn’t know what he was getting into.
This is why you have to do due diligence. If you don’t, you could end up holding a shuttered business.
8. Bad people can do good things:
After becoming the Ghost Rider, he comes across a girl in an alley (Rebel Wilson) being attacked. The Spirit Of Vengeance (another name for Ghost Rider) takes over. He saves the girl and takes out the robber.
Ghost Rider wasn’t a good guy. He was under the control of the devil. Still, he did good things.
I look at this and think about how bad people can still do good things. They can still make good decisions even in the midst of bad ones.
Don’t be the bad person doing good. Be a good person doing good things.
It’s better that way.
9. Ghost Rider:
He may have my soul but he doesn’t have my spirit.
While Johnny Blaze sold his soul, he realized he still had a part of himself. His spirit was still strong. He had a will to fight against the evil that was trying to consume him.
When we see bad leaders, we often think they’ve sold their souls. They may have. There are things they have given up to get to where they are. These things may have been soul-sucking.
There’s a way to break free, though. The bad leaders don’t have to stay stuck in what they’ve done.
If they’re willing to, if their spirit is strong, they can break free from the evil they’ve done. They can take control and make something of their lives.
10. Look for odd ways of doing things:
The citizens of San Venganza sold their souls to Mephistopheles. Every single one of them. This created a whole new breed of evil. When the townspeople died away, the Contract of San Venganza was created and Mephistopheles wanted the contract.
Crater Slade (also the Caretaker) had been reborn as a Ghost Rider. He was sent to collect the contract and return it to Mephistopheles. He knew the power of the contract was too great to return. He refused to give it back and hid it.
Johnny was able to get the contract from the Caretaker and thought of an interesting way to save Roxanne from Blackheart (Wes Bentley). He would give the contract to him, Blackheart would have all of the souls of the lost, and then Ghost Rider could use the Penance Stare and destroy Blackheart.
This wasn’t a straight-forward way of doing things. It was rather odd. Yet, the method worked.
What unique or odd ways of doing things could you do? Look for ways to do things differently. You might just find a way to get things done that works.