Business Insights in Unexpected Places: What I learned about business from Garnet of Steven Universe
When I was in college, a good friend of mine found and gave me something cool. It was a raw garnet from an outcropping near a mall in the suburbs of Baltimore that we were visiting on a field trip.
I like garnets, both because they're my birthstone and also because I feel like they're far less pretentious than their more "precious" counterparts. This one is particularly special to me, so I kept it just as it was found, raw, uncut and unpolished.
Perhaps this is a small part of why I find the character Garnet, in the show Steven Universe so appealing.
If you're unfamiliar with the Cartoon Network show, the coming-of-age story centers around Steven Universe, a young boy who lives with three magical gem-based creatures who save their adopted home regularly from a bevy of monsters and aliens. As with most stories, things aren't always what they seem, and both Steven and the gems often have to grow, adjust, and learn to see things in a new way to achieve their missions.
My favorite of the three gems is, of course, Garnet.
Garnet is awesome.
She's no-nonsense, and, like my raw garnet, can come across as a little gruff (often preferring to punch her way out of conflict) but, she is also one of the most beautiful of the show's characters.
To top it all off, she's got a lot to say that I think applies beautifully to running a business. After all, what is a business except a series of relationships that help you accomplish your mission?
Garnet Gives Advice
"You are an experience! Make sure you're a good experience." ~ Together Alone
Your company may be one thing. It may be many. It could even be different things to different people. At the end of the day, however, all businesses are an experience for their customers.
Always make sure the experience you provide is a good one.
"True strength is about more than just how many mountains you can punch in half." ~ Garnet's Universe
Click to watch clip.
Ok, so this one is kind of cheating because it's actually a quote from the titular character, Steven, but I'm going to allow is anyway because the point is important.
Most business owners are in the position they're in because they know their stuff and how to get things done... They know how to punch mountains in half.
But eventually it helps to realize that true strength is about MORE than just punching mountains in half. Sometimes it's about finding a new path. Sometimes it's about giving up something you once thought was vital. Most often, though, it's about knowing you're not alone and finding a team with complimentary skills to help you when punching the mountain, alone, just won't get it done.
"There are millions of possibilities for the future, but it's up to you to choose which becomes reality. Please understand. You choose your own future." ~ Future Vision
Click to watch clip.
This is the quote you'll find it on every list of Steven Universe quotes that exists. And for good reason. From a business standpoint, it brings me back to the key issue with almost every struggling small business I've worked with, focus. There ARE a million possibilities, but you do choose your own future. What's more, you have to choose, not try to accomplish all one million or, worse yet, let the decision be made for you because you can't decide.
"To find balance, you must understand your feelings. To understand your feelings, you must see them clearly without running from them." ~Final Education
Balance. It's something you hear about a lot in business, but it's more than just work/life balance and self-care. A carefully crafted team, whether it's comprised of full-time team members, carefully selected contractors, or reliable service providers will almost always become necessary to help a business owner keep from falling apart as things start to grow and change. These changes and this growth require balance to be successful. I think Garnet hits this perfectly on the head in this quote going on to explain that, "To find balance, you must understand your feelings. To understand your feelings, you must see them clearly without running from them." Just as with choosing your business' direction, you don't want to let your business' culture (or feelings) be set by someone else because you didn't acknowledge them or because you ran from them.
Garnet: I have to burn this. *unfurls scroll with mystic symbols*
Steven: Cool! *takes a picture with his smartphone*
Garnet: *takes phone* I have to burn this, too.”
Technology can only do so much to help you mitigate risk and it always also leads to risks of its own. You have to remember that training your people to be good stewards of your information, not to mention your company at large, is always the first and one of the most important steps in risk management.
*Garnet picks up a giant battle-axe* "Never know when you might need one of these." ~Rose's Scabbard
Always be prepared. Enough said.
You MUST learn to help yourself. That's how you become stronger. ~Shirt Club
Click to watch clip.
I talk a lot about team building, and I do believe that knowing our own strengths and weaknesses is vital to helping us use them to our advantage. HOWEVER, just because you're not the one who carries out a task or a process in your business doesn't mean that you don't need to understand it. You must learn to help yourself, to know if someone else is helping you the way you need them to. Don't be afraid to lean on others, but never forget how to help yourself.
"I think you can do it, but it won't work if you dance like Pearl. You have to dance like you." ~ We Need to Talk
This quote makes me thing about my typical lecture on "competition." It goes a little something like this, "Just because you no one else is doing it doesn't mean there's no competition. Doing nothing is cheap and easy. You need to know why your solution is better than doing nothing."
You won't work if you dance like the competition. You have to dance like you.
"It's not easy being in control... I have weaknesses too. But I choose not to let them consume me. I struggle to stay strong because I know the impact I have on everyone." ~Friend Ship
Click to watch clip.
Being the boss isn't hard, it's HARRRRRD. Even if you find a group of people you can talk to who understand what you're going through (the reason I wholeheartedly encourage people to join a CEO group), the final decisions and responsibilities for YOUR business still fall to you. We all have weaknesses, even the strongest among. At some point you have to come to terms with that and learn to process those fears and stresses to be a strong leader.
"Your soulmate is your complement, not your missing piece." ~ Together Forever
Talk of soulmates may conjure romantic images, but I believe these concepts apply to all kinds of relationships. Finding new people to build your business with is rarely about finding a clone of yourself, but rather about finding your missing piece(s).
"Check in on your left rear tire before you hit the desert! It's not serious but could be trouble if left unchecked!" ~The Future
Click to watch clip.
So, in addition to being the coolest of the gems, our friend Garnet has the ability to see possible future outcomes that could befall her fellow characters. Any parent or business owner knows the feeling of watching as the thing that we had to carry starts to venture out on its own. Garnet doesn't know the future, and neither do we, but we can do what we need to do to prepare for it. We, hopefully, forecast and budget and hire and buy supplies or inventory to prepare for these outcomes. So yeah... trust your business to succeed as you designed it to, but also don't forget to check that proverbial tire once in a while... just in case.
So, there you have it, helpful thoughts from Garnet from Steven Universe. I hope you'll think about the ones that make sense to you. As for my part, I'll keep looking for business insights in unexpected places!
Can't get enough of Garnet either? Here's a little reward for making it to the end!