Like many, I’ve always loved The Lord of the Rings. The books, the movies, the video games, the Funko pops and *fingers crossed* the Amazon TV series that’s being made.
Although the magic of Tolkien’s work is possibly the most influential piece of storytelling I’ve ever encountered, it’s relevance has started to fade as I have progressed into my professional life. As a professional who frequents Middle Earth, I challenged myself to see this fantasy world not as something entirely separate from my ordinary job but rather a source of applicable advice.
Despite the fact I’m sporting dress shirts and not Dwarven mithril forged deep in the mines of Khazad-dûm, here are 5 quotes from LOTR you can take to work with you.
1. “To bear a ring of power is to be alone. This task was appointed to you. And if you do not find a way, no one will.”
Your career path is a journey, and the road to your dream job will sometimes be a lonely one. But no one will ever care about your career more than you will. It’s important to remember that people are by default paying attention to themselves more than they are paying attention to you. So, giving them insight, and maybe even a role within your journey is a great way to win an ally.
2. “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” — Gandalf
The skill of time management is one of those that’s almost never worth putting on a resume, yet almost always an essential skill of a quality employee. Ask yourself every day what the most important task you have that day is, and attack it first. Gandalf would be proud.
3. “Deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.”
Aragorn reminds us that working for the approval of a boss or coworker is a losing game. But doing the small things, especially when there is no praise involved for you is exactly the kind of thing that in 3 years will elevate you above your peers now. The most noticeable work over long periods of time is always the small things, not the big things.
4. “It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish.”
— Sam Gamgee
Failing fast is one of many buzzy terms that gets thrown around in professional settings these days. It’s because it’s best to be a person who makes mistakes quickly and then improves quickly. The biggest mistake of all? failing to start. There is a popular quote by Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, which can be associated with what Sam has said here: “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late.”
5. “Shortcuts make long delays.”
— Pippin Took
The longest stage of our lives is by far our adult career. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. The people who put in the work day in and day out and don’t cut corners are the ones who will last. There are no shortcuts to retirement that deliver on their promise. Although the shortcuts are tempting, especially when the long road is dark, keep what Gimli said in mind, “Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.”