5 Hidden Entrepreneurship Lessons from 5 Christmas Movies

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Written by Violet Lim, CEO and co-founder of Lunch Actually and EO Singapore. The original version of this article appeared on Violet’s LinkedIn blog. 

Wow! We have come to the last month of 2018! I don’t know about you, but this year passed by like lightning for me.

So, in the spirit of the holiday season, I revisited my favorite festive and realized that there are many within them. 

1. Love Actually

The lesson: Set boundaries and find time for yourself.

Many of you may know that Love Actually is my favorite movie of all time! In fact, I’m often asked if this was the inspiration behind the name of our company, Lunch Actually, South East Asia’s first and largest lunch dating service. Well, my husband Jamie and I are still debating who came up with the name, so… maybe yes, maybe no? 🙂

Love Actually is one of those feel-good movie that depicts love in many forms through the different stories of relatable characters: love that transcends language (and profession in unlikely places!), teenage love, love between a father and a son, sibling love, love between best friends, one-sided love, and on and on. The movie is set during Christmastime, and it’s one of my must-watch movies during the season.

Remember the story about Sarah (Laura Linney) who has had a crush on her co-worker Karl for years? Finally, after many “could have beens,” they end up at her apartment, but the whole romance fell through because she’s constantly disrupted by phone calls from her mentally ill brother, Michael.

It is one of the saddest moments of the show for me as I was really rooting for Sarah to get together with Karl. At the same time, I could relate to her situation.

As entrepreneurs, we often carry a lot of stress and pressure on our shoulders—to hit the company’s target, to make sure the company is profitable, to hire and retain A-players, to constantly improve our products and services, to cultivate and maintain a positive company culture … the list goes on. We work long hours on weekdays, weekends and even when we are on vacation. We do not rest. We hustle, hustle and hustle. If we are not careful, this will eventually result in burnout and exhaustion. Although hard work is important, it is also necessary to draw a line and set aside moments for “me-time” and family time. It’s critical that you allow time to pursue your passions outside of work—your love interests, even.

2. Home Alone

The lesson: Believe in yourself, be resourceful and think on your feet.

In this movie, we come to love the adorable character Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) and his crazy big family who accidentally forgets him as they leave on holiday. Being a little kid, Kevin is very excited to be home without supervision. He’s enjoying his freedom—eating and watching whatever he wants! But, as his house becomes the target of a potential robbery, he goes head-to-head with the criminals, coming up with creative (and funny) tricks to protect his home and himself.

Kevin reminds us that we must trust our own instincts and be independent. Our journey won’t be easy, but in the face of challenges or fierce competitors, we, entrepreneurs have to stand our ground and persevere. Be adaptable, creative and utilize all the resources available to us. If an 8-year-old can, we definitely can too! (Just don’t set anyone on fire!)

3. Jingle All The Way

The lesson: Always plan ahead.

This hilarious and heartwarming movie tells a story of Howard (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who often does not have time for his son due to his busy work. After missing his son’s karate practice, Howard tries hard to make it up to him. His son tells him that he wants Turbo Man as a Christmas present.

However, as it is already Christmas Eve, all the stores have sold out of Turbo Man figures, and Howard has to go all over town to get his hands on the toy that his son wants.

The key takeaway? Always plan ahead and avoid doing the important things at the last minute. Planning ahead is crucial for leaders to strategize and to allow their teams enough time to be productive and execute plans well. Be proactive, not reactive. By knowing what’s coming up and conducting scenario-mapping for different situations, you will stress less and may even uncover opportunities that you don’t see if you are constantly running to meet deadlines.

4. A Christmas Carol

The lesson: Learn from other people’s mistakes.

The movie tells us a story about an old man named Ebenezer Scrooge, who is miserable after the death of his business partner. He resents Christmas, lives alone and refuses to join his nephew’s holiday dinner every year. One night, the ghost of his former business partner visits him, along with the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. Through this journey, Scrooge realizes his mistakes and vows to become a changed man who treats others with kindness and compassion.

In business, we can reflect on other people’s experiences and learn from them. One way is to read books written by entrepreneurs about their journeys and lessons learned. We can also learn from fellow industry players, assessing how they overcome their challenges and using these knowledge to better our business. Another option is seeking out spaces where entrepreneurs can share and exchange knowledge. One of these platforms is Entrepreneurs’ Organization (better known as EO). I have been a member since 2012 and applying to join was one of the best business decisions that I have made.

5. While You Were Sleeping

The lesson: Always do the right thing.

This 1995 romantic comedy stars Sandra Bullock as Lucy who saves Peter, a handsome stranger whom she has a secret crush on. Because of his fall, Peter ends up in a coma. Through a comedy of events, Lucy is mistaken as his fiancee. Because she has fallen in love with his warm and close-knit family, she can’t bring herself to tell the truth—that he actually doesn’t even know her.

This is a lesson that stays true with me since I started my business 14 years ago. I believe that we should always do the right thing and tell the truth, no matter how hard it might be. As entrepreneurs, we are sometimes afraid to tell the truth because we fear we might hurt others or even look weak. We tend to sugarcoat our statements or beat around the bush.

When I first started the business, I was reluctant to tell some singles the truth about why their date did not want to see them again. I was worried that I would hurt their feelings. I would tell them,  “Oh, they are very busy, or they are currently travelling.” Eventually, I realized that by not telling them the truth, I was actually doing them a disservice. I was not helping them grow, be a better version of themselves and be a more successful dater. Once I realized my folly, I vowed to always share truthful feedback with my clients. Many have appreciated my honesty, improved themselves based on my feedback and gone on to be in happy relationships.

In case you have not watched the movie and you’re curious what happens—spoiler alert!—Lucy’s secret is eventually discovered, and it causes much hurt and confusion in Peter’s family. However, this is a love story set around the Christmas season, so… Lucy ends up falling in love with Peter’s brother, Jack, while Peter is in the coma.

In real life and in business, not telling the truth or going down the slippery slope of half truths is never a good thing. Hence, Always Do the Right Thing is one of our “10 laws” here at Lunch Actually, and as CEO and co-founder, it is something I constantly strive to live up to.

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