Quotes And Leadership Lessons From The Adam Project

My latest book, Reel Leadership, is now available on Amazon. If you love movies and leadership, you will love this book.

The Adam Project is a Netflix original movie. The film stars Ryan Reynolds as Big Adam Reed, Walker Scobell as Young Adam Reed (I will refer to each as Big or Young as both appear throughout the movie at the same time), Mark Ruffalo as Louis Reed, Jennifer Garner as Ellie Reed, and Zoe Saldana as Laura.

This movie has consistently been rated as a top movie in the Netflix ratings. For good reason, too.

Mark Ruffalo and Ryan Reynolds in The Adam Project

The movie is intelligent, funny, and brings in a lot of pop culture references. Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel, and more are referenced within the film. All of this is without seeming cheesy or overly promotional.

If you’re looking for a fun time travel movie, this is for you. If you’re looking for a film that can teach you valuable leadership lessons, The Adam Project is also for you.

Today, we are looking at the leadership lessons in The Adam Project.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From The Adam Project

1. We can struggle to comprehend what exists:

The Adam Project opens with a line of text. On the screen, we see the words:

Time travel exists… You just don’t know it yet.

In the world of The Adam Project, time travel exists. People didn’t know about it. Yet it did.

As people began to find out, things became a little confusing. Trying to wrap their mind around the possibility of time travel really messed with them.

The same goes for us. There are so many things that exist in the world that we can struggle to comprehend.

We have to learn how to process what we have taken in. The more we do this, the better the world becomes.

2. Ellie Reed:

I know that mouth of yours. I know exactly what got you punched.

Ellie is Adam’s mother. Early in the movie, young Adam gets beat up by a bully, Ray (Braxton Bjerken). Both Ray and Adam get suspended.

Ellie shot straight with her son. She told him precisely why he got punched.

Adam had a mouth on him. He would torment people to the point of annoyance and anger. His words would lead to Adam getting in trouble.

What can we take away from Adam’s experience? We can learn that we have to watch what we say.

The Bible tells us that life and death come from the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). Our words are powerful.

What we say impacts not only those around us. Our words impact us.

Watch what you say.

3. Young Adam Reed:

Make good choices.

Ellie had a date with a man named Derek (Ben Wilkinson). Young Adam found this out.

He talked with his mom. He told her to make good choices on the date.

Leaders, we have to make good choices, too.

Take the time to consider what results your actions will bring. Consider how your words will make people feel. Think about what you’re doing.

Let’s make better choices. Let’s make good choices.

4. Repeat the truth:

Young Adam found Big Adam in his dad’s garage. Upon meeting, Big Adam told Young Adam that he wouldn’t hurt him.

Do you know what Big Adam did later on? He repeated the saying that he wasn’t going to hurt his younger self.

Young Adam picked up on this. He became slightly annoyed and reminded Big Adam he had already said this.

We need to repeat what’s important. We need to repeat the truth.

Your team may become weary of hearing you speak the truth, especially when it is repetitive. However, the truth will keep your people focused and on track.

Keep repeating the truth.

5. Big Adam:

You have her to take care of you. She has no one.

Young Adam was a jerk to his mother. He would constantly give her lip. There was nothing off the table when it came to his biting tongue.

Big Adam called his younger self out on this. He knew the strain he put on his mother. He wanted his younger self to stop because he saw his mother had no one.

We can find ourselves in a similar situation to Ellie. What is that situation? We feel all alone. We have no one to care for us as we care for our team.

Look for people who can come alongside you. These are people that can care for you while you’re caring for others.

You need these people or you will burn out!

6. Big Adam:

The problem with acting like you have it all together is that he believes it.

Big Adam finds his mother in a bar. She’s drowning her sorrow in a glass of wine.

Big Adam knows he needs to say something to his mother. His words could change the course of his upbringing. He has to say it anyway.

He lets his mother know that she can’t keep putting up a front of “all good.” By pretending things are together, Ellie hurts Adam. He believes they are and they should be.

You cannot continuously put up the front that everything is okay or that you have it all together. You’re showing your team a false narrative.

This narrative is damaging to the ones you lead. When they believe you have it all together, they believe they will never be able to live up to your standards.

Make sure you’re not putting up a fake front.

7. Louis Reed:

It’s not meant to be easy. Listen guys, instead of moaning about it, give yourself permission to be inadequate, and then get to work. You can’t be good at something unless you’re willing to be *raspberry* at it first.

Louis was lecturing at one of his classes. He let the class know that they cannot expect perfection if they want to be good at something.

His talk told them it is okay to be inadequate or bad or to suck at something. That’s the way you get better.

What are you scared to be bad at? Is it something you can begin to practice today?

We’re never good when we first begin something. The older we get, the more we seem to forget this fact.

Be willing to suck at something so you can get better at the thing you want to.

8. Your personal life is not your work:

Old Maya Sorian (Catherine Keener) was the villain of the movie. She time traveled back to her younger self (Lucie Guest).

There, she gave her younger self some horrible advice. Older Maya told younger Maya that her personal life is her business/work.


I know of business owners and leaders who think as Maya does. They believe their life revolves around their work.

Sadly, for them, it does.

But what do you find when you look at these men and women? You see unfulfilled people. You find people who are mean, angry, and bitter.

DO NOT let your personal life revolve around your work. When you do, you lose yourself.

9. Young Adam:

I think it is easier to be angry than sad.

Big Adam acted as if he hated his dad. He remembered all of the bad things about his dad. This was just a coverup.

Young Adam tells Big Adam all of the amazing things their dad did. Louis would come home and play catch with him in the backyard. Louis loved his boy.

Young Adam saw Big Adam’s bitterness as a way to hide the sadness.

When we try to hide our sadness, we express the sadness in damaging ways. We lash out at people. We misremember events. And we hurt people.

Let’s stop hiding our sadness. Let’s embrace the sadness, heal from it, and grow.

10. Truth is painful:

Ellie told Louis she could say something that made him feel better or the truth. The truth she needed to tell Louis was that when Louis was there, he was there 100% for his family. However, when he wasn’t there, *poof* Louis was completely checked out.

This was a truth Louis needed to hear. This impacted his family.

Without hearing the truth, Louis couldn’t change.

Without hearing the truth from our teams, we cannot change.

Let your people tell you the truth. They’re not trying to hurt you. They’re trying to help you.

When I think of this, I think of Toastmasters. We have people who evaluate our speeches. They tell us what they see.

Their words are not meant to hurt us. Their words are to help us improve.

Sometimes, those words are painful. Yet, we cannot grow without them.

11. Our negative actions come back to hurt us:

Old Maya tries to shoot Louis and both Adams as the reactor is melting down. She forgets one thing. The reactor has a magnetic core.

Maya shoots. The bullet travels towards Louis and his family. Suddenly, the bullet begins to shake, turns toward the reactor, and hits young Maya.

Shooting young Maya sends her into the reactor, where she dies. This also should mean that older Maya will never exist.

Our actions have an impact. Our positive actions typically have significant consequences. The negative actions we take, not so much.

Know that the more negative actions you take, the more likely you will hurt yourself or those you care about.

Your negative actions will come back to hurt you.

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