Updated: Jun 1
I recently watched Avatar: The Last Airbender followed by The Legend of Korra for the first time. Late to the party, I know!
No surprise, I ended up loving the shows for a number of reasons - the stories, the characters, the humor, the imagination, the fantastical world rich with lore and traditions. One of the things that I appreciated the most was the amount of wisdom you could learn from the characters. While each character had their own pearls of wisdom to share, the one who shared the most (and my favorite one on the shows) was Uncle Iroh, retired General from the Fire Nation.
Here are some of my favorite lessons from Uncle Iroh on Avatar: The Last Airbender.
“It is important to draw wisdom from different places. If you take it from only one place it becomes rigid and stale.”
Wisdom can come from anywhere, not just from the masters and thought leaders of your field. If we seek wisdom and guidance only from people who we believe share our values and ambitions, it can take us to great heights, but it may lead us to become inflexible in the way that we think and build ideas on incomplete information. We must resist the temptation of the comforts of echo chambers and step out to allow for our ideas to be challenged and learn from others too as only then can progress be made. Listening and understanding those who think differently from ourselves no matter the age, rank, gender, race, political or religious ideologies is a skill every leader should learn.
“Pride is not the opposite of shame, but its source. True humility is the only antidote to shame.”
Being proud of yourself and your accomplishments is a good thing, but there is a reason it’s still considered one of the “7 deadly sins”. Pride can can be your friend or your enemy. A healthy amount can help you feel good about yourself. But the dark side of pride is hubris. An inflated sense of pride means it’s just a lot of hot air inside. It can lead people to be overly sensitive to perceived threats and it makes them more vulnerable to shame. That is why practicing humility is a powerful tool against feelings of shame.
“Good times make good memories, but bad times make good lessons.”
The rollercoaster of life always has its ups and downs. We cherish the good times and we learn from the bad ones. It can be far too easy to give into destructive thoughts but we show strength and resilience when we choose to walk away with lessons learned instead of letting sadness, frustration, anger or guilt keep us down.
“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again. Only this time more wisely.”
We all make mistakes and everyone experiences failure at some point in life. Sometimes over and over. But with each failure we learn something new about what to do and what not to do. Extracting and applying wisdom from our failures brings us closer and closer to success. Sometimes we also learn new and better avenues to success that we would not have known had we not tried and failed.
“While it’s always best to believe in oneself, a little help from others can be a great blessing.”
This is a lesson I have to remind myself from time to time. We can get so caught up in doing things ourselves and maintaining autonomy that we adopt a sense of hyper-independence. On the surface, it may seem like a good thing to be in control of everything, but eventually this can lead to burnout (pun-intended). One reason I know I’ve been guilty of this is because I don’t want to burden or even inconvenience others. But if the situations were flipped, I would be more than willing to help others myself and I recognize that some other people might feel the same. If you are fortunate enough to have people around you who care and extend a helping hand, be open to accepting that blessing and expressing your gratitude.
“If you look for the light, you can often find it. But if you look for the dark, that is all you will ever see”
This expresses the importance of our mindset. As I mentioned earlier, it can be far too easy to give into destructive thoughts and wallow in negative emotions. It is harder to see and hold onto hope and find a silver lining. The most important thing to acknowledge is that you choose what to look for and what to hold onto. Do you choose the light or dark?
“In the darkest times, hope is something you give yourself. That is the meaning of inner strength”
In our lowest moments, we can give ourselves the space to cry and grieve and let ourselves feel the emotions we feel. We are allowed to feel bad about bad things. However, it can then be tempting to give up and give in. We lose our way and let ourselves believe that we are incapable or unworthy. It’s in moments that we need hope the most that it can feel most impossible. But it is again a choice whether or not we stay in that place. We show a great deal of inner strength by keeping hope alive. You are not incapable, you are powerful and with practice you get more powerful by the day. You are not unworthy, you are worth the effort, worth the investment, worth the climb. Have hope in yourself and that things will get better and you will go on to see it to be true.
Uncle Iroh has shared so much wisdom on the show but these were my favorites. I would recommend this show to anyone who hasn’t seen it yet so you can extract your own lessons from it as well.