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"It's a Wonderful Life" Lessons with Doug Wilder

I just re-watched the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, probably for the 150th time. There are many good business lessons to be learned from this movie, and here are three I noted this time.

1. Hiring relatives.

It’s okay to keep Uncle Billy on the payroll; you can hire anyone you like, but don’t give him the responsibility of depositing $8000 cash if he is forgetful. As George yelled at Billy, “One of us in going to jail, well it ain’t gonna be me!” This is probably not the best thing to say to your uncle or any employee. Working with relatives can work but, unless you want to have an awkward holiday dinner, you better have a clear understanding of duties, metrics, and how the relative will be held accountable without hard feelings. It is better to do that before you hire your relative.

2. Pursuit of dreams.

Pursue your dreams but keep your dreams in perspective and change them if necessary. It was a wonderful dream for George to want to “see the world, … go to college and see what they know, … build skyscrapers a hundred stories high, … build bridges a mile long,” but when he lassoed Mary and his children, his family became his highest priority. Clarence Odbody, Angel 2nd Class, let George see that even though his priorities had shifted, he still had a wonderful life. Maybe it’s important to discard your old dream because of circumstances or obligations. Instead of jumping off a bridge, reassess what is important in your life, let go of the old dreams, and create new dreams to pursue.

3. Being mission driven.

As George said, “This town needs this measly one-horse institution if only to have some place where people can come without crawling to Potter.” That is a mission worth the sacrifice of boyhood dreams of “anchor chains, plane motors, and train whistles,” worth a whole town coming out to support George, and worthy of his brother Harry’s toast, “A toast to my big brother George: The richest man in town.”

These are just three of the many business lessons that unfold from the movie it’s a wonderful life. If you haven’t seen it recently, snuggle up with a pillow and blanket with your favorite people and let movie night inspire you to have a wonderful life.

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