Four Ways “Stranger Things” Teaches Us How to Crush It at Work

Lessons from Stranger Things to thrive at work

I’m obsessed with the Netflix show “Stranger Things.” A cross between Stand by Me, Aliens and Firestarter topped with a huge dollop of early 80’s nostalgia, this compelling ode to the power of friendship is more than just great entertainment. It also contains life lessons for thriving in your career. Here are four ways Stranger Things teaches us how to crush it at work (without revealing detailed spoilers):

  • Teamwork rules. Individually, the kids at the heart of Stranger Things are smart and resourceful. Eleven is a bonafide telekinetic ninja. But they are dealing with some inconceivable challenges that can’t be tackled alone. Chances are good you aren’t facing a crazy otherworldly monster at work (well, I guess that depends on your definition). However, whether you are trying to launch a new product, or turnaround a difficult situation or just kill it in your day-to-day role, a lot more can be accomplished working together in teams than going solo.
  • Focus on the greater good. Okay, true confessions…sometimes Stranger Things scares me to the point that I watch scenes with a hand covering my eyes. What lurks near the Hawkinsville lab is the stuff of nightmares. No matter how terrified they get, the show’s protagonists find the courage to confront the big bads by focusing on the greater good – saving people they love and the community overall. When situations can be intimidating, overwhelming or downright fearful at work, focusing on how your actions will help co-workers and the business in some way can be the impetus to igniting powerful change and achievement.
  • Be open-minded. You might not think a quartet of pre-teen Dungeon & Dragon loving geeks can be heroes, or that adults who seem like train wrecks can rise like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes. In this show, most major characters have an evolution of some kind. The same can be true of the people you work with or have known at different points in your life. Instead of pigeonholing individuals, be open to allowing them to exceed expectations, change and grow beyond what was thought possible. For example, our Senior Vice President of Operations at National DCP started as a truck driver 25 years ago. When his leadership talent became apparent, John was promoted to numerous supervisory roles at the company’s Massachusetts Distribution Center before taking on his current national role. Today, he is our point person for handling major operational initiatives like helping the Dunkin’ stores we serve recover from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
  • Confront the bullies. As anyone who’s been on social media recently knows, bullies aren’t limited to the schoolyard. They come in all ages, roles and sizes in the workplace too. You know, the guy who always ridicules your new ideas in front of the boss or the area manager that publicly berated an employee during the last regional meeting. The first step should be talking to that individual on a one-on-one basis to educate them about the negative impact of their behaviors or turning to Human Resources for counsel and intervention if needed. And if that doesn’t work, anticipate the bully’s onslaught and diffuse the situation without delving into unprofessional behaviors yourself. Eleven used her powers to stop middle school bullies from attacking her friends, but season two’s new addition Max didn’t need a dose of magic to stand up to her jerky step-brother. For more tips on self-advocacy, check out this post or video.

How have you crushed it at work lately? Has a pop culture phenomenon like Stranger Things ever inspired different areas of your life?

Five Ways to Get What You Want (Sorry Mick Jagger)

There is no doubt Mick Jagger rocks it out; his poster graced my bedroom wall growing up while peers were drawn to the comelier visages of Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez or John Stamos. But unlike his refrain from the enduring Rolling Stones hit “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” believing that you can achieve your heart’s desire is important in personal momentum.  Here are five ways to get what you want in your professional and personal life:

  1. Have a clear vision. There’s a big difference between stating “I want to be successful in a big corporation” and “I want to be a Vice President leading Business Intelligence in a Fortune 500 company.” Being specific about the essence of what you desire, i.e. leadership of a function in a certain size business, without being tied to how it takes shape or form (B2C versus B2B, narrowing it down to a particular industry) is the first step in making this vision a reality. Then bring it to life by creating a vision board, writing about it, designing a screen saver to reinforce this goal, posting the intention where you can see it, etc.
  2. Move forward with intention. Using the corporate job example above, research the credentials of others who hold the kinds of positions you ultimately desire. Identify key factors that helped them stand out; perhaps it was actively speaking at industry conferences, going after complex certifications or being proactive about starting new initiatives. There is power in understanding the lay of the land. Someone I respect just moved from a warm, fuzzy culture to a place where directness combined with political one-upmanship is critical to rise to the top. Take the time to understand those behaviors and cultural landscape as cues for how you can succeed in your career path.
  3. Honor your life goals. My friend Steve loves to travel. Formerly a Senior Vice President at a major bank, he took a career sabbatical last spring to see the world. Naysayers claimed it would be hard for him to re-enter corporate America without a job in hand. Fast forward nearly a year later. In addition to enjoying spots like Auckland, Prague and Spain, Steve fell in love and is about to start a terrific new job working for the best boss he ever had. Yup, a total case of #winning.
  4. Practice resilience. Called stupid by his teachers as a child, Thomas Edison has 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb before getting it right. Stephen King’s manuscript for “Carrie” was rejected 30 times before it became an international bestseller. Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard and had his first business fail before starting Microsoft and becoming the youngest self-made billionaire. There are always going to be setbacks and challenges along the way. How you handle adversity and pick yourself back up directly impacts the likelihood of achieving goals.
  5. Go for “Yes, and…” Do you believe getting what you want will necessitate a difficult choice? You know, having a happy family life or a successful career, living near loved ones or moving across the country for an exciting opportunity…you get the picture. Rather than focusing on “either/or,” look to the concept of “Yes, and…” which involves accepting an idea and then adding to (rather than negating) it. This standard improvisational comedy practice has been adopted by a growing number of businesses who realize it fosters ideation, brainstorming and greater collaboration. Take a moment to consider how “Yes, and” can jumpstart the path to your heart’s desire – whether it is getting into better shape, going back to school to earn a degree or being selected for a popular reality TV cooking show.

Have a story to share about getting what you want? Know someone who has inspired you in this area that we should learn about?