Life Lessons from The Wizard of Oz

July 18, 2019

A long time ago, regular television programming on one of the three then available channels was annually pre-empted, typically on a February Sunday evening.  Schoolchildren rejoiced over delayed bedtimes.  Moreover families settled down in front of mostly black and white sets to view the cinematic masterpiece that was The Wizard of Oz. 


A plethora of elements defined the movie as a classic:  vivid color, a production component still very much in its infancy, well orchestrated music and choreography, the introduction of new film idol Judy Garland, talking animals and inanimate objects such as flying monkeys, scarecrows, and trees, tension between good and evil, and lastly a heartwarming ending and uplifting message. 


This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Mervyn LeRoy classic.  According to the Library of Congress it still holds place as the most seen film in movie history.  It received six Academy Award nominations, winning two for Best Original Song, “Over the Rainbow,” and Best Original Score by Herbert Stothart.  Best picture in 1939 went to “Gone with the Wind”…some year for cinematography!  


Recently a talk radio segment provided an engaging dialogue in recognition of this year’s momentous occasion.  The show’s guest offered several expert observations about not only the film’s dynamics, but probed deeper into the history of cast selection and other lesser known facts.  What really harnessed my attention, though, was the conversation about the nature and symbolism of each of the primary characters and the strengths, flaws, and search for something that was already theirs.


Already theirs.


Coaching.  A good Career or Life Coach believes their client already has the answer to whatever he or she wants within themselves.  Take Dorothy for instance.  Although she encountered rich experiences in Oz, she perpetually agonized over returning to Kansas.  As the hot air balloon that was to jettison her back home prematurely launches with all hope squandered, remedy comes in the form of good witch Glinda.  The solution, as it turned out, was always in Dorothy’s possession.  Three clicks of her ruby slippers, an intentional mental focus on what it is she wanted, and a chant of the mantra, “there’s no place like home” was the ticket.


As many of us would have done in Dorothy’s place, she remarks to Glinda that, “if it was so easy why didn’t you tell me earlier?”  To which Glinda replies, “you wouldn’t have believed me.” 


How often our “limiting beliefs” blind the answers that are right in front of us.  Experience becomes the teacher when there might always have been an easier way.  Glinda recognized Dorothy’s dilemma, but was wise to allow her space and time to figure it out.  Us coaches can learn from Glinda’s example. 


Dorothy’s companions through her Oz journey, besides Toto, included the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion.  Although he had no brain, the Scarecrow grows into his role as the group’s chief tactician, devising plots to claim the Wicked Witch’s broom for delivery to the Wizard.  Emotional support in difficult times comes from the Tin Woodman, full of spiritual heart, though like the Scarecrow lacking in what he sees as most critical, the physical element.  The other member of the Oz triumvirate, the Lion believes himself lacking in courage, although when called to task exerts his DNA as King of the Forest leading the rebellion in overtaking the Wicked Witch’s guard.


Finally, near the end of the story the Wizard is revealed as flawed and deceptive.  Many of us in leadership roles have been similarly exposed.  When it happens we are embarrassed and it hurts…a lot.  Acknowledging his shortcomings Oz humbly confesses to his inept wizardry, yet encouragingly preserves his dignity as a man.  Overcoming limiting beliefs, he shares his observations, especially with the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion through symbolic award of their best qualities and affirmation of what they already possess.


Each of us faces times when we are held captive to circumstances.  We have a loving God who bestows us with answers within ourselves.  Like the Oz characters perhaps it just takes a little bit of life experience, challenge, and wise advocacy and encouragement to get us where we want to be.     


The Seed Sower