Quotes And Leadership Lessons From The Peanut Butter Falcon

A Reel Leadership Article

I missed one of the best movies of 2019. My guess is you probably did as well.

This movie flew under the radar. There wasn’t a lot of hype or advertising for it. However, the movie was stunning in its beauty and portrayals.

That movie is The Peanut Butter Falcon.

The Peanut Butter Falcon follows 22-year old Zak (Zack Gottsagen). Zak has Down Syndrome and has been placed in the Bethanyven Nursing Home. He’s frustrated and knows he doesn’t belong there. He plans and executes a breakout so he can attend Salt Water Redneck’s (Thomas Haden Church) wrestling school.

Along the way, he meets low-life Tyler (Shia LeBeouf). Zak’s nurse, Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), soon finds them and joins their cause.

Shia LeBeouf, Dakota Johnson, and Zack Gottsagen walking along a beach in The Peanut Butter Falcon

They eventually discover Salt Water Redneck’s school. It wasn’t what they expected. Yet Zak got to have his day in the ring.

It was great seeing former WWF/WWE superstars make an appearance in the movie. Mick Foley was the referee of Zak’s match. Jake ‘the snake’ Roberts was Sam, Zak’s opponent.

This movie is full of leadership lessons. Nay… I should say life lessons. Be ready to shed some tears and enjoy a great movie.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From The Peanut Butter Falcon

1. Leaders have to deliver bad news:

Zak tried to escape early in the movie. He had a friend pretend to choke on her pudding as he ran out of the building.

His escape plan failed. He was captured and brought back to the nursing home.

His nurse, Eleanor, had to sit down with Zak. She had to deliver the bad news to him. His privileges were revoked.

Leaders have to deliver bad news at times. This can be pending layoffs, the news of no raises this year, or a firing.

Leaders cannot shirk their duties. They get to partake in the good times. They have to be there for the bad times.

Be willing to deliver the bad news along with the good news. It’s part of leadership.

2. It’s okay to have help:

Zak didn’t let his first failed escape stop him from trying again. Shortly after the failed attempt, he tried again. This time he enlisted the help of another nursing home resident, Carl (Bruce Dern).

Carl took a cloth to the newly installed metal bars. He used his strength to twist the cloth and bend the bars. He was able to get the bars bent enough for Zak to slip through.

Zak needed help. He wasn’t ashamed to ask for it.

Leaders, can we be more like Zak? Can we be willing to ask those around us for help?

Look around your organization. There are amazing people all around you. There are people who can help you.

Suck up your pride. Lift your voice. Ask for help.

3. Don’t forget your clothes:

The bars were bent enough for Zak to slip through… However, he needed to remove his clothes, slather himself in soap, and slip through the bars.

He did this! He was excited… And he forgot to grab his clothes.

He runs away from the nursing home clothed only in his tighty whities. He was completely exposed.

Had he thought about it, he could have tossed his clothes out the window. Or he could have asked Carl to throw them to him. He was in such a hurry, he left all of that behind.

What are you in a rush for? Is there a major project barreling down the pipeline? Do you need to hire a new employee?

When we’re rushed, we can forget our clothes. We can leave important things behind because we’re so focused on the goal.

Don’t forget your clothes. Your clothes may be:

  • Referencing references
  • Reviewing all facets of the project launch
  • Forgetting to sign a legal document

Leaders need clothes. Make sure you’re remembering your clothes.

4. Share your dreams:

Zak had a dream. He wanted to go to Salt Water Redneck’s wrestling school. This was the reason behind his escape.

When he met Tyler, he wasn’t afraid of sharing his dream. He told Tyler he wanted to become a wrestler and learn to wrestle from Salt Water Redneck.

Do you know what this did? This lets Tyler know what he could do to help Zak. And he did.

What dream do you have? Do you have something big, hairy, and audacious? Most of us do.

Most of us are also afraid to share those dreams with people around us.

Let’s stop being afraid. Let’s choose to share our dreams with those around us. You may be surprised to find out your dream is only a day away from happening.

5. Small issues become big issues:

Tyler had stolen the crab traps of two crab trappers, Duncan (John Hawkes) and Ratboy (Yelawolf). They had discovered what he had done and were upset. To escape without them chasing him, Tyler set fire to a few items on the dock.

What Tyler thought would be a small fire was not. The fire spread and damaged $12,000.

This upset Ratboy and Duncan even more.

We have to be aware of the issues around us. They may look small and inconsequential at the time. However, the small issues can become large issues.

Don’t sweep the issues under the rug. Rather, lead. Take the reigns and deal with the small issues. This way they won’t increase in size.

You can watch The Peanut Butter Falcon on Amazon.

6. Zak:

I want you to know about me.

Zak and Tyler were an unlikely pair. Zak was unique. He had down syndrome and needed Tyler to know about him.

He opens up to Tyler. He tells him about his life and his condition.

I felt Zak when he told Tyler he wanted Tyler to know more about him. Why? Because I want others to know more about me. It’s one of the reasons I write.

However, I’m not alone in this desire to be known. Everyone longs to be known.

As a leader, you have the opportunity to know your team members. Get to know them. Let them have the honor of sharing who they are with you and your team.

7. Find a tie that binds your team:

In sharing his story, Zak tells Tyler he had escaped from the nursing home. He was now on the run and an outlaw.

This was something Tyler could relate to. Tyler was an outlaw of sorts. He was on the run from Ratboy and Duncan. He had broken laws.

Now Tyler could see himself in Zak. He found a tie to bind them.

What can you find to bind your team together? There are so many things you and your team will have in common, you can easily find something.

It might be your love of WWE wrestling (or WWF as I am fond to call it). Could it be that a majority of your team is of minority descent? Bond over that. Or maybe everyone on your team loves to ride road bikes.

Find a tie that binds you guys. You will be stronger for it.

8. You will need to repeat yourself:

Tyler laid out some rules for Zak. He told them to him once and expected Zak to understand. He didn’t.

Tyler asked Zak what the first rule was. Zak gave the wrong answer. He told Tyler the first rule was “Partying.” The first rule was actually “Don’t slow me down.”

Tyler had to repeat the rules multiple times before Zak got it.

You will do the same thing. You will lay out the rules of the organization only to have to repeat yourself time and again.

Repetition isn’t your enemy. Repetition is your friend.

Repeat, repeat, repeat… then repeat some more.

9. Tyler:

I know you can’t swim. You can float.

Zak had told Tyler he couldn’t swim. Tyler remembered this even though they had to cross a river.

Zak thought Tyler had forgotten. Tyler let Zak know he hadn’t. He also gave Zak another option. Zak didn’t have to swim. He could FLOAT.

Your team is comprised of talented team members. Each person has their own unique skills. Each person also has things they cannot do.

What do you do when it comes to that? You think like Tyler. You find something they can do.

Help your team members to float when they can’t swim.

10. Tyler:

What’s that got to do with your heart?

Tyler and Zak were having a discussion about the type of wrestler Zak would be. Zak believed he would have to be a heel, a bad guy.

Tyler wondered why this was. Tyler told Zak:

You got a good-guy heart. You can’t do **** about it, that’s just who you are. You’re a hero.

Zak replied:

I can’t be a hero because I am a Down’s syndrome.

This is when Tyler asked what’s that got to do with his heart. Tyler knew Zak’s disability had nothing to do with Zak’s ability to be a hero, a good guy.

What’s stopping you from being a good leader? Do you believe you have some kind of disability that makes it impossible to be good? Have you been raised in a negative household? Were your friends mean to you?

None of that matters to your heart. You can lead from a good heart even if the situations around you are not good.

11. Help your team train their skills:

Zak wanted Tyler to help him train. So, Tyler helped train Zak.

He put him through a bunch of training. The training included:

  • Shooting a shotgun
  • Pushups
  • Balancing on railroad tracks
  • Pushing a hay bale

The training Tyler gave Zak was from the things around them. He saw what they had and how those items could be used to train.

I loved this. This was ingenuity at its best. It is also something leaders need to look for.

You may not always have the money or tools to train your team in the way they think they need to be trained. You do have tools around you that can be used for training.

Find the things that will benefit your team and train them.

12. The way you treat people tells them what you think about them:

Eleanor thought she was doing the right thing for Zak. She thought he needed to be coddled and taken care of. Tyler was different in his treatment of Zak. He saw the potential in him and how he could do great things.

Tyler told Eleanor:

You might not be saying the word ‘retard’, alright, I’ll give you that, but you’re **** sure as making him feel retarded.

Tyler was right. Eleanor wasn’t saying the word. She was making him feel that way though.

Our actions can say a lot more than our words. We have to be careful of the way we treat the people we lead.

Do we want them to be leaders too? Then treat them as leaders. Want them to be pencil pushers, time clock watchers, or poor performers? Treat them like that.

You will get what you expect from your team. You get to decide…

13. You can make things happen for others:

Zack Gottsagen has down syndrome. He plays Zak in The Peanut Butter Falcon. He also had this movie created specifically for him.

Zack had become friends with Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz. The pair were screenwriters. Zack knew this.

During dinner one night, Zack mentioned his desire to become a movie star. After the pair downplayed Zack’s desire, Zack said:

Well … you guys make movies, why don’t you write one and I can be in it?! We can do it together!

This raised the question: Why couldn’t the pair create a movie for Zack?

The pair promised Zack they would write a movie for him. They did. That’s The Peanut Butter Falcon.

Leaders make things happen for others. They see the potential in those they lead and help them get to that next level.

We can be the Tyler and Michael in the lives of the people we lead. We can help people take the leaps they cannot take alone.

Let’s find ways to make things happen for those we lead.

Haven’t seen The Peanut Butter Falcon yet? You can pick up a copy on Amazon for $10 at the time of this article release.
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