Speaking Thoughtfully: A Wise Old Turtle’s Lessons In Leadership and Learning

Do you ever find yourself collapsed on the couch after bathing, reading to, singing with, and then getting three rambunctious kids to sleep?  If you do, have you ever found yourself in that position while “Kung Fu Panda” is playing on the television that you’re staring at?  Hey…me too!  In fact, that was the case with me last night.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Have you seen this gem of a movie?  If you haven’t, I recommend that you do.  It’s a good one.

While I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite character, I have to admit that Master Oogway is one chill turtle.  In the clip below he offers Master Shifu some sage advice that really hits home with me, and he does so in just about the calmest and most confident way imaginable.  He doesn’t offer explanations, he just makes statements, and he leaves the processing to his student.  It’s almost as if he believes that no matter what he says, Master Shifu will have to process it in his own way, and in his own time; a fascinating idea for an educational leader, a parent, and a reflective learner to consider.

If you can work past the idea that I’m referring to suggestions made by an anthropomorphic amphibian, you might see that both Master Oogway’s words and the way in which they’re delivered have much to offer us all in the way of leadership and learning lessons.  His calm, intentional, and suggestive tone is just enough to implant the seeds of growth in Master Shifu’s mind.  Even though Master Shifu doesn’t seem terribly receptive at the moment, Mater Oogway says stuff like: Nothing Is Impossible, One Often Meets His Destiny On The Path He Takes To Avoid It, When Your Mind Is Agitated It Is Difficult To See, But When You Allow It To Settle…The Answer Becomes Clear.

His objective doesn’t seem to be complete or instant understanding for immediate application, but to make a contribution to the body of knowledge and experience that will guide his student’s growth along whatever path it develops.

To that end, I won’t take this reflection any further, but instead I’ll suggest that you would be well served by taking a few minutes to listen to and carefully watch the master at work.  I’d love to hear your take on it.  Enjoy.

Live. Learn. Lead.

Dream Big.  Work Hard.  Be Well.


  1. Mary Howard

    I’ve watched this wonderful video clip at least a dozen times since it was posted but I couldn’t really put into words how it relates to leadership. Then I realized this morning that I see it from a different lens each time I watch and that might be the point. The wise old turtle crafts his words so carefully and openly that how we interpret them depends on our situation and point of view at that time. Isn’t that what a great leader does? He/she crafts language not to TELL others the answer but to illuminate the possibilities. Truly powerful language makes us think more deeply from different sides.This certainly made me think (and get excited about seeing see the movie). Great sample, Seth!

    • bergseye

      Thanks Mary…great point! I truly appreciate the time you took to process and comment on the sample. I love the way you put it – a great leader “crafts language not to TELL others the answer but to illuminate the possibilities.” Awesome! The hard part for me is getting it done…especially when my mind is agitated:). Ironically, when I do get impatience and “TELL,” my messages aren’t always clear anyway. I’ll be working ever-more intently on crafting my language well, maintaining a settled mind in the high energy world of public school life, and to be patience with my partners in learning through our individual and collective learning and growth. Thanks again! Have a great week!

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