Unexpected Leadership Lessons from ‘80s Pop Culture
Hi everyone, it’s Jenn DeWall, and on this week’s episode of The Leadership Habit Podcast, we’re talking about something a little different, and I am here for it. We are talking about unexpected life lessons from the music and movies of one of pop culture’s most excellent decades, the eighties. And to have that conversation, I sat down with The Pop Culture Dude, Chris Clews.
Let me tell you a little bit more about Chris. Chris is a keynote speaker, and he’s the author of the book series, The Ultimate Series on Essential Work & Life Lessons from 80s Pop Culture, which is currently made up of three books, including two editions of What 80’s Pop Culture Teaches Us About Today’s Workplace, and his newest release: Raised on The 80s, 30+ Unexpected Life Lessons from the Movies and the Music that Defined Pop Culture’s Most Excellent Decade.
And as a keynote speaker, Chris has spoken to a diverse set of organizations and companies, including Visa, the University of Florida, the University of Penn Medicine, DHL, DisruptHR, and so many more. And I hope you enjoy this fun take on leadership by looking back and reflecting on what we can learn from the most excellent decade, the eighties. Enjoy.
Meet the 80s Pop Culture Dude, Chris Clews
Jenn DeWall: Hi, everyone here with Chris Clews, the eighties pop culture guy, a keynote speaker, and you’re gonna have some fun today. I know that because Chris and I have no problem talking, but he has got so many great insights and heck, it’s nostalgia, baby. So Chris, thank you so much for joining The Leadership Habit. I am so happy to have you on the show today.
Chris Clews: Thanks Jenn, for having me. I really appreciate it. And I, I wanna say I appreciate the megaphone because I know the work that goes into creating your own podcast and all the behind-the-scenes stuff that people don’t see, So it’s really easy to be a guest. But it’s, it’s obviously a lot more work to actually own the podcast. And so I appreciate people like you giving me people like me a voice.
Jenn DeWall: Oh my gosh, Chris, I’m so excited. And it’s easy. You’re talking about a topic, and you’re the, you know, you’re talking about a topic. We’re gonna be talking about life lessons from the eighties today. And I know that since I was born in the eighties, I am here for it. And I guarantee a lot of our listeners are, But before you became the eighties pop culture guy, you started speaking based on getting some of these lessons that we learned from the eighties and really bringing them home today. How did you get here? How did you get to be in this place? How did you even get to find this pocket? Because we’ve had a lot of guests on the show and they’ve all been lovely, but you are the only one that has taken this kind of path towards understanding leadership, understanding our self-development. How did that come to be for you?
How Did You Discover the Unexpected Leadership Lessons from 80s Pop Culture?
Chris Clews: So, yeah, I was kind of like the guy on my shirt, I guess Cameron Fry. I was I was having a moment, I suppose I know like a, maybe a self-pity party of one. I was in corporate marketing for 20 plus years, and you know, I really, listen, I love marketing but I did feel like at some point there was something else out there for me. I just didn’t know what it was. And so I was in a job that wasn’t working out for me, as I’m sure a lot of us have been in. And I thought, What am I gonna do? Like, is when all said and done is my tombstone gonna say he’s a pretty good marketing guy. Like, I felt like I needed more.
Unexpected Leadership Lessons from The Breakfast Club
And so I’m on the couch and I’m watching the Breakfast Club for the hundredth time, maybe 200th time, I don’t know. And so I know all the lines in the movie. And then Bender says, Screws fall out all the time. The world’s an imperfect place. Now, I had heard that line, but I had never really listened to it. And in this moment I kind of popped up, I was listening to it like, Wow, my screws have fallen out. I’m in an imperfect place. What am I gonna do? You know, put those screws back in.
I mean, Henry David Thoreau said the massive manner, the massive people lead lives of quiet desperation. And I was feeling that quiet desperation, and I think it was, you know, not to keep hitting you with these English, the people. Oliver went to Holmes, you know, he said something to the effect of like, one of the, one of the saddest things is when somebody dies with their song still inside of them.
Yeah. And I knew I had something more. And so I said, You know what? I’m not just gonna put these screws back in and, and keep going down this, this same journey. I’m actually gonna get a whole new set of screws, a whole new door frame, and a whole new door, and I’m gonna walk out to an entirely new journey. Now the question is, what is that journey? And so I didn’t know at the moment, but I wrote this article on what The Breakfast Club can teach us about problem-solving and this idea of screws falling out and how you put them back in and the ways that you can put ’em back in.
Unexpected Leadership Lessons from The Outsiders
Chris Clews: And then I heard Johnny Cade From The Outsiders, another great eighties movie, which has a great history, by the way, with SE Hinton writing it as a 16-year-old in 1967, and just brilliant. But the movie came out in the eighties, and Johnny Cade says, You still have a lot of time to make yourself be what you want. I took that to heart because I was 46 years old, I wasn’t a 25 year old entrepreneur. And I’m like, Yeah, I still have a lot of time to make myself be what I want.
So I put those two things together and I actually wrote this first book, this little self-published book called What Eighties Pop Culture Teaches Us About Today’s Workplace. It’s like 60 pages. I did it for fun, I had a buddy design it for me. We figured out how to upload it to Amazon, and I built a website and positioned myself as a speaker. I’d never done that before. Like, I can do this. I position myself as a speaker. And now here I am sitting in front of you today with a third book that just released in my series and Keynote Speaking all over the country.
Why is 80s Pop Culture So Rad?
Jenn DeWall: I love that. What, well, what is it? I know that, we see this when we turn on Netflix and we turn on the tv even in terms of commercials. There is something that’s magnetic about the eighties pop culture. What is it about eighties pop culture? Why do you think it’s still so relevant today? I mean, Stranger Things that, you know, their, their last season that they did was, I feel like every season is obviously based in the eighties, but part of the, of the reason I even fell in love with it is the nostalgia of the eighties. What is it about eighties pop culture that makes it so the top of mind or so attractive today? Even though we’re in 2022, we have passed the
Chris Clews: Eighties? Yes. Yeah. And you know, nostalgia comes in 30 year cycles, they say, but I feel like we’re 42 years removed from 1980 and the eighties pop culture resurgence is only getting stronger. And I think there’s a lot of reasons for that. But the one that I really focus on is this idea. I say that eighties pop culture was kind of like somebody took a glitter bomb and threw it against the wall and it exploded, and all these wonderful colors came out.
And that was eighties pop culture, all these new genres of music and movies, or even if the genre was existing, it exploded in the eighties. There was a lot of experimentation going on with, with pop culture. And I think one of the biggest factors for me is, I believe it was the last decade where pop culture wasn’t manufactured. And what I mean by that is when we think about pop culture today, it’s really manufactured for the masses.
And it’s manufactured kind of in a lab, I feel like almost, where they’re like, Hey, we’ve spent all of this money building out this movie, this music, this musician, this pop star, and we’re gonna hammer you over the head until you like it. That’s kind of what I feel like a lot of pop culture is today. And in the eighties, they kind of threw stuff out there and said, Do you like this? And we would say, Yeah, we like it. They’re like, Okay, we’re gonna make more of that. Or we’d say, No, we’re not really into that. And that. And we’re like, Okay. And they’d move on to the next thing. And that’s where we got all those one hit wonders in music from the eighties. And if you talk about music for example, really quickly, a good example of why eighties pop culture, I think still resonates with the experimentation.
Chris Clews: Take Hip Hop, for example, Hip hop as a musical genre, it existed in a very small, very small quantities in the late seventies, in the eighties, it exploded and it was everywhere, and it was all these different splinter genres of hip hop, you know? So you had, for like every Public Enemy, you had an LL Cool J, and for every LL Cool J, you had a Young MC, right? There was something for everybody. And then we got into late eighties, and you had like De la Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, like really important music. And so there was something for everyone.
And the same goes for Metal. Metal was around, you had Black Sabbath, you had Kiss, but then suddenly you had, you know, Metallica and Mega Death. And for every Metallica and Megadeth, you had like Poison and Winger or Warrant. And then, for every one of those you had Bon Jovi. So there were like all these like splinter genres. And I think that’s what attracts people so much to eighties pop culture.
Jenn DeWall: My gosh, I feel like I, you just made me my had because of music, just go through so many different things, but then I’m sad because you didn’t bring up, you know, Roxette or those types of bands that could be also what I would consider great bands from the eighties.
Chris Clews: Absolutely.
The 80s, a Simpler Time
Jenn DeWall: Yeah. I mean, do you feel like we just want that connection? Like, do we think that we also approach the, this was easy, like easier times. Life just seemed less complicated. When was it really less complicated? I mean, things are probably easier now to do than what they ever were then. I don’t know.
Chris Clews: Yeah, I agree with you. I think in some ways pop culture maybe was a little simpler. The storylines were fairly simple. You know, at ET for example, you know, he ends up on a planet that’s not his, and all he wants to do is get home. Like it’s a pretty simple plot, right? <Laugh> and this whole thing is like, I just wanna go home.
And so the entire movie is about this little alien ET trying to find his way home. That’s a pretty simple plot. And so I think we look back on those and we see these simple plots. And I, I actually hear, you know, it’s really interesting when I talk to my friends’ kids who are in high school and how much they embrace the Breakfast Club, for example, and why they embrace the Breakfast Club and this idea that it was, you know, they, they can relate to the characters even more than the characters in the high school movies today.
And they tell me that they’re like, you know, they have the same issues that we had. They’re dealing with acceptance and bullying and, and parents not listening to them and, you know, growing into who they are, individuality. And these are the same themes that they’re, you know, that they’re fighting or struggling with today and albeit in a very different world. But still struggling with those same themes. And they talk about these high school movies, they’re like, Oh yeah, you know, the people look like they’re 30 and they’re driving a hundred thousand dollars cars and that’s not us. And so I think that also is another reason that eighties pop culture continues to grow.
So, What Other Unexpected Leadership Lessons Can We Learn From the 80s?
Jenn DeWall: Yes. I love that. Okay, we’re gonna talk about your book now, which is your third book, Raised on the 80s, 30+ Unexpected Life Lessons From the Movies and Music that Defined Pop Culture’s Most Excellent Decade. And I couldn’t agree more with you, I think it is the most excellent decade, even though I was still relatively young. I was born in 1982, but there’s so much for music and the movies that I love from the eighties. What are some of those lessons that we could take and apply to our lives? What are some of the lessons that you wrote about in this book that we could really take heed and learn from?
Chris Clews: Yeah. And you know, I appreciate that. You actually pointed out that you were born in 1982. So a really good example of eighties pop culture is that I was born in 1970. I have no desire to learn about fifties pop culture <laugh>.
Chris Clews: I just don’t, I mean, I, listen, I love Buddy Holly, there’s a great Buddy Holly and Wayland Jennings Jr. Picture out there of them in a photo booth when they were like 22 years old smoking cigarettes given the finger. And it’s like this, like they’re just punk rockers for the day, for their time, right? But I really don’t have any desire to go back to the fifties movies. And I hear all these people in the eighties, like you were born in the eighties, who are like, Yeah, I love eighties, you know, music and I love eighties movies. So I just wanna point that out that, you know, people who were born in the decade who weren’t old enough to really experience it like I did, absolutely love it too.
Jenn DeWall: Yes. Oh my gosh. Well, and I even think of the movies that I watched when I was younger, but it was probably right after the eighties. Like, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun with Sarah Jessica Parker. I loved that movie. Yeah. And there’s so many, or I mean, The Babysitter Adventures in Babysitting, was that an eighties movie? I don’t even know if it was,
Chris Clews: It was. Yeah,
Jenn DeWall: Yeah, absolutely. No, I mean, and yeah, I guess maybe back to the Future, it gives you your lens into the fifties right? Then, then you can feel like you studied that
Chris Clews: <Laugh> Back to the Future. Did. And then of course Stand By Me gave you a little bit of a lens into it as well. And then The Honey Drippers and the Stray Cats in Music, you know, they were touching on the fifties a little bit. But yeah. Anyway. Oh.
Jenn DeWall: My gosh, I hope everyone, or everyone that’s listening right now is embracing, you know, just the new, Oh my gosh, I forgot about that. Or holy cow, because now we’re actually gonna dive in to think about what we can actually take away from going through these historical artifacts of our time. So what are the lessons that we can learn from the 80s?
Chris Clews: Yes. So I think, you know, let’s start with some leadership lessons since we’re on a leadership podcast. I think that would be good. And so what I’d like to do is, I know that these movies were built to entertain us, and they do entertain us, but as I’ve gotten older, I started to look at them in a little bit of a different way. I’m like, What can I learn something from this movie? Can it teach me something and I’ll great, you give you a great example.
Unexpected Leadership Lessons from Coming to America
Chris Clews: We talked earlier before the podcast about the idea of the best lessons for life and work come from the most unexpected of places. And I totally believe that. And so, so much so that I’ve written books on it and Coming to America, which is one of my favorite movies of all time. Yeah.
Jenn DeWall: Love that movie. Did you like the second one as much?
Chris Clews: No, I didn’t.
Jenn DeWall: I didn’t either.
Chris Clews: I didn’t either. I did for the nostalgia. And anytime that Randy Watson is in a movie, I get to see Randy Watson. It’s a good day. But no, I didn’t really enjoy the second one as much. But the first one is a classic, and it’s probably, in my mind, it’s one of the top five romantic comedies of all time. People forget that it’s actually a romantic comedy at its heart. And so Prince Akeem played by Eddie Murphy.
Now he’s a really interesting character cause he is born into royalty, right? He is born into the heir to the throne in his country of Zamunda. He doesn’t have to do anything. He’s anointed. And so we see this at the beginning of the movie when they’re, you know, they’re kind of arranging a girlfriend or a marriage and, but he really wants to know about her.
And he’s like, What do you like? And she says, Whatever you like. What kind of food do you like? Whatever food you like. And he does not like this. He wants somebody to like him and love him for him. He wants somebody to be an individual. And he knows he’s not gonna be able to do that as the Prince of Zamunda. So what do they do? He and his buddy Semmi, played by Arsenio Hall.
They go to Queens, New York because they think that’s the best place to find his queen. And we can have that conversation of course about, you know, whether Queens in New York is the best place, but this is where he believes it’s the best place to find his queen. No offense to people from New York.
Chris Clews: So then he goes to Queens, New York, and he takes a job at a fast food restaurant entry-level job, sweeping the floors and taking out the garbage. Tells nobody that he’s a prince, right? He doesn’t want anybody to know. And he says, When you think of garbage, think of Akeem. Now this is really a throwaway line in the movie. It’s not a line that most people remember, but it stood out to me because I thought, Hey, here’s this guy who is the prince in his country of Zamunda.
He stripped all of that away to take this entry-level job at a fast-food restaurant that he’s proud of. When you think of garbage, think of Akeem. And the lesson here about leadership is about humble leadership, humility, and leadership. That unearned leadership creates pleasers and earned leadership creates believers. And what I mean by that is when, when we see him as the prince in the country, as the mooned, everybody just wants to please him. He hasn’t earned his leadership position. They just wanna please him.
Chris Clews: This is where we get yes people, yes men and yes women, right? Yes, yes sir. Yes ma’am. Right? Yes. People all around you typically happens when you haven’t earned that leadership position. When you earn a leadership position, you create credibility, you create believers, they will follow you. Why? Because they can see how you’ve earned that leadership position. You’re like, Well, I can do that too. And you’ve created credibility in their minds. Because they’re like, Look at what this person has done to get to this level. Yes, I’m going to follow them.
And from an employee retention perspective, this is really important because if you have employees in your organization, they’re looking at leadership and they’re thinking, Nobody here has earned it. How am I gonna get it? They’re probably going to leave. But if they can see a path to leadership because everybody’s earned their way, then they say, I can do that too. And from an employee retention perspective, you know, you may see that you retain your employees longer because they see a path to leadership.
Jenn DeWall: My gosh. But can we talk about even, cause I know I’m part of the millennial generation that gets labeled entitled. And I would absolutely say that I was probably more entitled in my twenties, not in the way that I felt like I no, I was entitled. That’s, I can’t even sugarcoat that. I definitely thought I should have been promoted yesterday. And now, you know, as I’m older, I recognize that, that why would I want to rush through my promotions? Because you have to learn how to do it. Because I see this now in action with younger generations of really kind of being perplexed at this, Well, I did this one thing really well, and they still can’t see the maybe some of the big picture that says, actually, you’re not ready yet. And so this entitlement, and what I worry about is what happens and what I’ve seen and heard about is then I had this feedback that I wasn’t gonna get promoted, and I have that entitlement, so then I’m gonna leave.
Unexpected Leadership Lessons from Can’t Buy Me Love
Jenn DeWall: But you’re not necessarily going into something better because you haven’t learned the lesson and you’ll continue to make the same mistakes. And so, I don’t know what your perspective is or if you’ve got a movie quote on that, but I wish there was something that could help us understand that the more that we rush through that, not only is it a detriment to the organization because they’re promoting people way too quickly, but you’re not necessarily going to get to the next spot and, you know, just your brilliance is gonna shine. There’s some valuable feedback that they’re giving you right now that you need to hear. I don’t know if you have any takes on that.
Chris Clews: Yeah, so it’s, it’s close to that. But in my newest book, I have lessons from Can’t Buy Me Love, which is another great one. One of them being that if you ever see the movie, you see the Patrick Dempsey was a, you know, this kind of nerdy kid who rides a lawn mower and, you know, know cuts lawns to make a living or to, to save money, to buy a telescope, actually is what he’s doing. And of course, we fast forward 20 years and Patrick Dempsey is who Dr. McDreamy on Grey’s Anatomy. So yeah. So anything is possible, right? You go from like the, the nerdy kid driving the lawn mower to Dr. McDreamy. No, but there’s a lesson in there about the idea of don’t fake it to make it, because the fall can be fast and unforgiving.
And that’s a little bit of what you’re talking about. Not exactly, but this idea that you think I’m ready for this and they’re not giving me this opportunity. And maybe you are. Right. But if you’re not and you, you’re like, I’m ready for this, then you move into that. You try to move into that role too soon and you’re gonna have to try to fake it. And when you do that, that fall can be fast and unforgiving, and then you’re gonna have to climb back up once again. And so that, that’s kind of a close lesson to not exactly what you were talking about, but yeah.
Jenn DeWall: But it’s a lesson that I think we need to just learn how to reframe. Like it’s okay for not going as fast as, you know, we envisioned or what we thought in our brains as long as we’re still moving forward. Yes. Okay. Hit it with me. I’m ready for another one. I loved Coming to America. What is another lesson that we can learn from the eighties?
What Prince Can Teach Us About Leadership
Chris Clews: Okay, cool. We’ll stick with leadership and we’ll talk about my favorite musician, the guy who loved the color purple.
Jenn DeWall: I mean, he has a name now. I mean, I, he went from having a name to not having a name, to having a name, right?
Chris Clews: Yeah, yeah, right, Exactly. It was a symbol for a little while. <Laugh>. So, Prince. Prince in 1987, we’re gonna go back to 1987. Hop in the DeLorean with me and we’ll go back. Or hop into Bill and Ted’s phone, phone booth time machine, whatever you wanna do. And we’ll go back to 1987. And so Prince at the time was the king of music. We talk about Michael Jackson being the King of Pop, but Prince was legitimately the king of music. And he’d only been with us for a few years in terms of like us knowing who he was. But he was winning Grammys and getting nominated for Academy Awards.
And he was writing music for The Bangles and Chaka Khan and like, just insane what he was doing. Suzanne Vega at the time, who I really, I really enjoyed her music, but you had to listen to college radio to have heard her. She was an alt singer or maybe you knew her from the Pretty In Pink soundtrack. She had a song called Left of Center on the Pretty and Pink soundtrack. She came out with a song in 1987 called, My name is Luka. I live on the second floor. I live upstairs from you. That’s all the singing you’re gonna get from me.
Jenn DeWall: I don’t know. The one I wanna know. I’ve never heard of her.
Chris Clews: This is my, Oh man. So my name is Luka is like this incredible song. It’s really sad, serious song about child abuse. And so she sings. My name is Luka. I live on the second floor. I live upstairs from you. You know, I think you’ve heard me before. It’s like a very, very intense song. So Prince hears this song, Okay, now remember she’s an alt singer. She’s got, you know, a little bit of a following, but not, I mean, Prince was a megastar. He hears the song, he’s so moved by it that he actually pens a handwritten note to her. And then you can look up this handwritten note on Google. You can type in Prince and Suzanne Vega and you’ll see the handwritten note come up. And the note says, Dear Suzanne, Luke is the most compelling piece of music I’ve heard in a long time. There are no words to tell you all the things I feel when I hear it. I thank God for you, Prince.
Jenn DeWall: I Love that!
Chris Clews: That. Pretty awesome. Right?
Chris Clews: Leaders Share the Stage of Success
Jenn DeWall: Well, and he was, I mean, a real person as far as I understood him based on following him. He was pretty real, right? I mean, he lived in Minneapolis. That’s not a place that celebrities go to live.
Prince and the Power of a Handwritten Note
Chris Clews: <Laugh>. That’s right. And he wrote this, this handwritten note. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s incredible. And think about, back then you couldn’t email anything. There was no digital social media. You had to have somebody hand deliver this to her. It had to go in the mail. There was an extra step that needed to be taken to get this handwritten note delivered to her. When you see the note, you’ll see at magical handwriting as well. And not surprisingly, right, so in 2016, when he passes away, Suzanne Vega posts this note on her social media to let people know the kind of guy, kind of guy he was behind the scenes. And what he taught us with this simple handwritten note, there’s a difference between leaders and rulers in that leaders share the stage of success. Rulers keep everybody below it, but leaders share the stage of success.
He had this massive stage, proverbial and legitimate, or literal I should say, but proverbial stage as well. And he said he saw her and he said, I see your greatness. I see you doing great things. Keep it up. Right? He was sharing that stage with her in a way by saying like, Yeah, you could, you could be on this stage with me. You’re doing great things and I wanna acknowledge that and let you know that you’re doing great things and that there’s room on this stage of success for you as well. That’s what leaders do. Rulers keep everybody below the stage. You’re like, No, no, you stay down there. Because typically rulers are afraid that somebody might actually challenge them or be better. They’re usually placed on that stage. We talked about earned versus unearned, where leaders have typically earned that, that space on stage.
And so they share it. The second thing he taught us was an encouragement doesn’t cost a thing. With that handwritten note, we can all go out and encourage somebody today. It’s really, really simple to do. And it does not cost you a thing to encourage somebody. And the third thing is that a handwritten note is a lost art. That handwritten note will make a huge difference. If somebody does something really cool or you see something doing really something really cool, a handwritten note goes so much further than an email. Just take the time to pen something out. I have terrible handwriting, but I can tell you that a handwritten note goes a much longer way than an email.
Jenn DeWall: Yes. I just love even the call to action that you gave our audience so that we could go out and encourage someone. It could be your neighbor. It could be someone at the grocery store, or it could be a colleague. We could all just go out and encourage someone. Yeah, why don’t we, I mean, and I like that example that you’re sharing regarding Prince, because of course we all know who Prince is. I, you know, it’s sad that he was gone too soon. But you have someone of that status and stature and you know, and still saying there is room for you here. There are so many, I know that we’ve all worked with them, the bosses that have too much ego, that somehow I almost want to have a conversation to say, do you know, know what? There are other industries and organizations outside of this that you are not a part of.
Showing Appreciation is Inclusion
Jenn DeWall: You know, when they get that really big ego and they kind of lose sight of the fact that you’re actually not the only person in the world that’s doing this. That’s right. And that’s worse. I mean, because Prince really was one of the, you know, he could do it at his level versus a, you know, someone in an organization where we know that these roles are more easily replicated across different organizations and industries. What a beautiful example of what it actually means to, you know, have that mentality of making people greater than yourself and saying, Yes, you’re welcome here. Yeah, you’re just making me miss Prince even more now.
Chris Clews: And he was like, you know, I mean, you talk about leaders. I mean, he was. How many people in world history have been known by one name? Very few. So it wasn’t just that he was a megastar. He was beyond that. And his impact and his influence is gonna live for hundreds, maybe even thousands of years. They will still be talking about Prince and how he took the time to pen that handwritten note to her. I mean, it’s just, it’s amazing. So yeah, he’s very cool. And you’re right. We all have people in our life who need encouragement. Cameron Fry, for example, on my shirt, he needed encouragement. Ferris and Sloan gave it to him. So, you know,
Jenn DeWall: We all need to find that friend that’s staying at home and is a little bit afraid to go out. Maybe the pandemic had them a little bit more reluctant to want to do things and we need to pull them back out.
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The Importance of Connection in Leadership
Jenn DeWall: You know, the other example that came to mind when you say that, the encouragement, we all need to reach out and even connect with someone because I bet we were way more connected in the eighties when we didn’t have our cell phones dividing our conversations totally than what we are today. And so, heck, you could make a point, whether a handwritten letter or just going out and picking up the phone and actually have a conversation with someone today versus just saying, Oh, I’ll maybe text you, call them, I don’t know, pretend it was the eighties. And that’s how you have to encourage them.
Chris Clews: Absolutely. And, and the movie Stand By Me, the last line of the movie is, I never had any friends like I did when I was 12. Jesus, Does Anyone? And I talk about that idea of reaching out to the people that you grew up with your friends and the people that were around you when everything and anything was possible that you could look into the woods and say, Yeah, there’s dinosaurs in there. Let’s go see, let’s go find them.
Like those kids that, those friends that you had when you were younger and to reach out because you don’t know this, how they’re feeling. You don’t know what’s going on in their life. They may be doing incredible. And you wanna hear that and say, Oh, it’s awesome, man. Or That’s great, good for you. Or maybe that they, that reaching out to them actually helps them. You just don’t know. So that’s really important. Yeah.
Jenn DeWall: And just because someone puts something really pretty and perfect on social media doesn’t mean it’s the same behind the scenes.
<Laugh>. So let’s go into some other lessons. Don’t worry, we can skip a beat on leadership. What are life lessons that you picked up from the eighties or other lessons that you talk about in your book?
Unexpected Leadership Lessons from The Karate Kid
Chris Clews: Yeah, so I think one that’s really important today, and you and I touched on this before the podcast, so obviously health and wellness is a really important theme throughout our lives and our workplaces. And so this particular lesson kind of works for both. It is actually in my second book, not my third one, but because I love this character and I think that he’s one of the greatest characters in all of cinematic history. Mr. Miyagi and the the Karate Kid. The original. The original, okay. Not the remake, Never a remake. Whenever I talk about a movie, it’s never the remake. It’s always the original, the Karate Kid with Mr. Miyagi. And, you know, for those of you that are following Cobra Kai, and it’s put questions into our mind about who the bully actually was. Was it Johnny Lawrence or was it Daniel?
Chris Clews: We’re gonna, for this particular conversation, we’re gonna go with the fact that Daniel was the one being bullied. Okay? And I know there’s questions about that, but let’s just say he’s the one <laugh>. So Mr. Miyagi takes him under his wing. And, you know, we all remember that when he is teaching him, you know, karate and, and all the things that come with, with karate, not just the, the ability to protect yourself, but discipline and life and learnings and you know, management of you. And so he says, Wax on, wax off. And we all know that line, or most of us do, but there’s a bigger one that he says to him, and it’s when he is painting the fence and he tells him, he thinks he has to paint this little piece up and down, and he is like, No, no, no, all the fence.
“Don’t Forget to Breath – Very Important”
Chris Clews: And he tells ’em, Don’t forget to breathe. Very important. And so we think about this in the context of our lives. I’m not talking about the idea of just the the physical act of breathing, because thankfully we do that involuntarily, otherwise, I’m not so sure I’d be sitting in front of you if I had to remember to breathe all the time. I’m talking about the idea of breathing in a very, very different way. Different. So when we think about the idea of don’t forget to breathe, very important. And I think about, you know, how often in our lives do we get stressed out? Most of us a lot. And the thing that really, the really sad thing about stress is that we don’t typically recognize that it’s there until it shows itself. So with all these things are happening that are building stress, building stress, building stress up in us, and then at some point it just comes out in whatever fashion it does.
It’s, it’s different for everybody, right? But there that stress comes out, or maybe it doesn’t, you’re just holding it in until you have a health issue that’s been exasperated or created by that stress. And so this idea of don’t forget to breathe is very important. What I mean by that is taking time to breathe when you need it, because stress is like dehydration. By the time you realize you have it, it’s too late. And if you’ve ever had a bout of dehydration like I have, you don’t know it until it shows itself. And it’s physical nature and it is disturbing. And I gotta tell you, like, you feel like you’re gonna die. Have you ever had it?
Jenn DeWall: No. What happened? I mean, I live in at a higher altitude. So I feel like I always have to have a ton of water here. But what happened?
Chris Clews: You, you just, your body basically, I thought I was having a heart attack, but it’s actually, it’s actually dehydration. You start getting those cold sweats. Your, your body starts like shutting down. You feel like you’re gonna pass out. You have trouble breathing. There’s all these different, like, things that happen. And thankfully I was around some people when it did, but if I look back at that entire day, I know why I was dehydrated. It was really bad choices that I made to not drink water and to do all these things that required it. And so those were choices I made. And I ended up with dehydration. And it took several days physically for me to come back. But it took a couple weeks mentally because it scared me.
And so stress is the same way. It doesn’t, you know, it, it builds, builds, builds. You don’t know what’s happening until it’s too late. And so what I say is when I say breathing, I mean, that could be taking a step back to play with your dog or your cat or your kids have a cup of coffee, tea, yoga, meditate, workout, walk, run, whatever. You define breathing. It’s so important to do that and to make sure you do it.
When as soon as you feel like, Hey, I need to take a step back, you need to be able to do that in your life and in your workplace. And that can only happen in your workplace is if, if they developed a culture that allows you to do that. Leaders, it’s so important to let your team members know that they have time to breathe. And I’m not talking about a lunch hour. I’m saying I’ve got a 10:30 meeting, It’s 9:45 and I’m feeling it, I’m feeling stressed.
I need to reschedule this 10 30 meeting at 1130. Are you got, can everybody be okay with that? It’s so important to have that flexibility. And leaders, you have to lead by example, because we talk about the idea of stuff rolling downhill– well, stress rolls downhill. And it’s a heck of a lot worse when it does, when it rolls downhill, it’s a lot worse. And so leaders, you’ve gotta take that time to breathe as well. Make sure you’re breathing and make sure you’re letting your team members know that they have that time to breathe as well. It’s so important for everyone’s health and wellness and a stressed out person, by the way, a stressed out employee is not a productive employee and a stressed-out leader is not a productive leader. So because of that as well, it’s so important to breathe.
Leaders Need Breaks Too
Jenn DeWall: I mean, we talked about this obviously with my health challenges and our audience knows that I have multiple sclerosis and it’s, you know, I notice it in my body, so I’m lucky to notice that because I can absolutely see my, when I’m stressed, my symptoms freak out. And so I very quickly know, pull it back. But so many people d aren’t fortunate and that’s where the heart attacks do happen. Or not realizing these slow things that are actually impacting your health. But here’s the piece that I wanna say. Maybe you can join me on this mission.
Can we go back to start a mission that says, let people take lunch, because I am so sick of going and talking to organizations and hearing everyone say, Oh, I worked through my lunch. What’s lunch? You need a break? Yeah. For people’s health. And you said it at the end for your ability to even do your job, you need a break. You’re not a productive employee if you’re overly stressed because then stress, you’re like panicked and anxious the whole time. So you’re not thinking clearly. You’re not thinking maybe rationally you might maybe missing the details. Do you think that could be solved with actually just starting to mandate lunch again? Can we, can we start a campaign? I’ll make you a button. You can wear it on your events. I’ll wear it at mine: Bring Back Lunch In Corporations. Like have people have it.
Chris Clews: A hundred percent. I agree. And it should be whenever you need to do it too, by the way. And that’s, that’s the thing I think, you know, and it’s in our personal lives as well, You know, if you’re, you’re in a relationship and you need some time to breathe, you know that I’m not a relationship person, believe me. I’m the last person to ask about relationships. And I, I know when I say, you know, take a break, I don’t mean a Ross and Rachel break from friends.
If you get that, if you get that one. What I mean is that, you know, there are times where you need time to breathe as well. And, everybody in your personal life and in your work life, we all need to appreciate that and understand that we’re humans and we need time to breathe regardless of what that relationship is. You know, whether it’s leader to team member or it’s, you know, spouse to spouse or whatever. It’s so important to, to understand that you have that time to breathe.
What’s Your Favorite 80s Movie?
Jenn DeWall: Yes. All right. And closing, Chris, before I ask you, you know, where the audience can connect with you, I want to know— what’s your favorite eighties movie?
Chris Clews: Oh wow.
Jenn DeWall: Is this asking, asking you to pick like your favorite child out of, you know, so many children? I, I didn’t know if that with asking you this, if I really would be tough and if we need the, you know, 10 minutes of thinking time, writing down pros and cons. Do you have one?
Chris Clews: Yeah. it’s, it’s tough for me because I have to go by genre and I really have trouble kind of nailing down one eighties movie that I would say is my favorite. There are,
Jenn DeWall: We’ll do genre horror. What’s your favorite horror movie from the eighties?
Chris Clews: Ooh, that’s a good question. Favorite horror movie? I mean, for me, it’s gonna sound like a little bit cliche, but I would say like the original Halloween is one of my favorites actually. It’s not even really 80s, eh, I guess close. It’s not really
Jenn DeWall: 1970s, you know and so stress is the same way. It doesn’t, you know, it, it builds, builds, builds.
Chris Clews: Know, it’s not really eighties. It’s
Jenn DeWall: Not really eighties still there.
Chris Clews: You know, Man Hunter, I would say. And it, and it, it doesn’t get mentioned as a horror movie, but it’s actually the original, It’s, it’s in the Silence of Lambs series and it’s called Man Hunter. I would highly recommend it.
Jenn DeWall: Okay. What about, so then romantic comedy, is that gonna be Coming to America or what, what would that be?
Chris Clews: Romantic comedy. Yeah, I mean, coming to America is definitely, gosh, you’re getting me to think now on the fly. I, I maybe say anything.
Jenn DeWall: Oh, okay. Okay. What about drama?
Chris Clews: Drama? I really wasn’t into, I really wasn’t into dramas too much, but I’ll say Dead Poet’s Society.
Jenn DeWall: Oh gosh, yes. Cause let’s you sub your yes Dad Poet Society. If you have not seen it, everyone needs to see it. Here’s the plug. I don’t know if you, you could probably get it on DVD even that was printed on, you know, VHS and beta. But no, I should probably ask. And then what about your most or what about your final best Feel Good eighties movie? I mean, they’re all feel good kind of, but what’s your most Feel Good movie.
Chris Clews: Best Feel Good would probably be, well, I’ll give you two because one is really underrated and people may not have seen it. The first feel good one for me is Field of Dreams.
Jenn DeWall: Okay.
Chris Clews: Fantastic movie. And I have some great lessons in my third book from that movie, but an underrated one that’s a really, really feel good movie that I think is important for, especially for kids today as well. It’s called Lucas. And I would highly recommend it. It’s Corey Haim and Charlie Sheen back in the day and has a really great cast. And Corey Haim plays this kid who’s, you know, kind of quiet and shy and introverted, and he chases butterflies. That’s what he does. And there’s a, it’s a great movie about, you know, him having his first crush on this cheerleader and all these things unfold and how he’s, you know, made fun of and pushed around in school and then eventually, you know, people come around to love him for him. It’s a really great movie. It’s called Lucas. Really Good Feel Good movie
Jenn DeWall: Movie. Yeah. I love it. Thanks for playing around on the unscripted game with questions that I asked you that you were not prepared to answer. So I,
Chris Clews: I feel like I failed the Horror movie one. I feel like I failed that one with Man Hunter Man Hunter’s much more of like a psychological thriller, I think horror movie I’d go to Children of the Corn.
Jenn DeWall: Okay. Okay. Oh my gosh, I’m trying to think of what name I can’t ever hear because of children. I’m forgetting that.
Chris Clews: Malachi. Malachi, Yes. <Laugh>,
Where to Find More From Chris Clews
Jenn DeWall: I think that name. Yeah. So Chris, I’ve loved our conversation and where can our audience get in touch with you? We’re you’re promoting, it just was released your third book Yeah. Lessons from the 80s, but you of course wrote two more. You’re a speaker. Where can people connect with you?
Chris Clews: Yeah, I appreciate it. ChrisClews.com is my website. C H R I S C L E W S Dot Com. I’m on all the main socials. I have not gravitated towards TikTok yet, but I am on Twitter at eighties pop culture, which is, I couldn’t believe that was available, but I got it. Instagram is where I spend a lot of time. Chris Clews eighties, and then, you know, Facebook and LinkedIn, Chris Clews as well. I also do some advocacy that I wanted to just touch on really quickly. Yeah. With Dead Poet Society, the movie we talked about, there’s a, everybody knows the Carpe Diem, or most people do, Seize the Day, but he says something else to the kids.
Chris Clews: He says, No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world. And this is a really important line. It’s a really important lesson because in the palm of our hands, this, this phone, if you can see it here, you have the ability to get your words and ideas out to the world. It’s the great equalizer. You know, it’s not anymore that it was. It’s just a journalist or politician or world leader, athlete or celebrity that can get their words and ideas out there.
We all can. It’s the great equalizer that’s walk that’s talking to talk, but you gotta walk the walk as well. And for me, it’s animal rescue. I have an 80-pound pit mix at my feet right now. His name is Bodhi, which is named after Patrick Swayze’s character in Point Break. And which is my favorite actor of the eighties, is Patrick Swayze. Point Break, Not an eighties movie, but a great one. And so I advocate for rescue.
Chris Clews: I believe that rescued is the best breed. And so I tell people, I, I donate a portion of the proceeds from my speaking gigs and book sales to Wonder Paws Rescue in for in Fort Lauderdale who saved Bohdi’s life. And I feel like that’s a really important thing for me. I want that to be my legacy is how important animal rescue is to me, and how much, you know, he came into my life at a time where there was a lot of things swirling around me. And so yeah, we kind of saved each other.
Jenn DeWall: I love that. And yeah, it’s not just talking about it. You actually take action. You are about it. Chris, Thanks for being a person that walks the walk. Thanks for making leadership fun in a playful and engaging way, because sometimes we take ourselves too dang seriously. And maybe in closing, we should probably just say to everyone in honor of Dead Poet Society, Carpe Diem, go out and seize your day everyone. Chris, thank you so much for joining us today.
Chris Clews: Thanks, Jenn. Stay Rad, Everybody,
Jenn DeWall: Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of the Leadership Habit Podcast. I hope you had fun. I hope it was nostalgic. And, of course, if you want to connect with Chris, you can head on over to his website, ChrisClews.com. There, you can purchase his books, and you can learn more about his speaking services. And, of course, if you know someone that maybe loves the eighties or potentially could benefit from hearing these uplifting messages, share those podcasts with them.
And in closing, if you ever want to find out more about how you can develop your leaders, head on over to Crestcom.com. There you can sign up for our complimentary free webinars and even request a two-hour complimentary leadership skills workshop. We hope to have the opportunity to help you develop and empower your leaders. Until next time,