In You Must Go

You knew it was coming – with the debut of The Force Awakens you had to know I would share a message with a Star Wars theme. Yet perhaps not the message or reference you anticipated. One of the often forgotten scenes from The Empire Strikes Back occurs when Luke Skywalker is being trained by Yoda on the planet Dagobah. We all remember Luke’s failed attempt to lift his fighter out of the swamp, and we certainly remember Yoda’s sage advice: “Do or do not. There is no try.” While you certainly remember Luke’s journey into the dark cave where the dark side of the Force resides, you may have missed the deeper message in that scene – a message that we can all bring into our lives today.

First, let’s set the scene. Luke is being trained by Yoda on mastering the Force and he discovers the cave, which leads to the following exchange with Yoda:

Yoda:   That place… is strong with the dark side of the Force. A domain of evil it is.  In you must go.

Luke:   What’s in there?

Yoda:   Only what you take with you. [Luke looks warily between the tree and Yoda.  He starts to strap on his weapon belt.]

Yoda:   Your weapons… you will not need them.

Luke then enters the cave (with his weapons), encounters and battles a vision of Darth Vader, severs Vader’s head and then when Vader’s black helmet falls away it reveals Luke’s head.

What are we to make of Luke’s experience? What’s the message for Luke and for us? I’ve often read that this scene represents the influence of the dark side and the potential for Luke to move over to the dark side, but I “see” a different message in this scene and ordeal for Luke. Look carefully at Yoda’s answer to “What’s in there?”: “Only what you take with you.” The message for me is that Luke (and you and I) take into the dark and the unknown only what is already in us – including our doubts, uncertainties, insecurities and, of course, our stories. When Luke entered the cave he was not going in to face his fears, but rather to face himself. In other words, the journey into the cave for Luke (and all of us) is the journey to face and hopefully move past whatever we believe about ourselves. Indeed, what’s inside you is that which gets in your way.

The problem for many of us is that we don’t know there’s a cave (totally unaware) or we sense the cave, but we’re afraid to go inside because we sense we’ll have to face some things (in facts, parts of ourselves) that we don’t want to face. Either we don’t think we can face them, we don’t know what they are (and therefore fear them), or we don’t know how we’ll handle them or respond (and we fear this unknown). After all, caves can be dark and foreboding places – a frightening representation of the unknown for all of us.

I wonder what would have happened to Luke if he’d been willing to enter the cave without his weapons. Luke felt compelled to take his weapons because he was afraid and didn’t trust that he alone (without his weapons) was enough for whatever he might encounter inside the cave. Perhaps, if he’d been unafraid (and willing to go inside without his weapons) his experience would have been very different. What would Luke have faced or would he have faced anything at all?

For yourself, imagine taking on the challenges and opportunities of life with a firm commitment and genuine belief that you were enough for whatever you would face. How would this change your experience as a leader, team member, partner (in relationship), friend, family member or community member? Remember again Yoda’s words – the only thing inside the cave is “what you take with you.”

Consider how this applies to your life, personally and professionally. When you drop the excuses and eliminate the blaming, your obstacles are most often inside of you and thereby within your control. Borrowing another lesson from The Empire Strikes Back, when Luke asks Yoda if the dark side is stronger, Yoda wisely responds “No … no … no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.” There you have it – the dark side is easier and quick. How’s THAT like your life?

In life, many times the best things (the right things) are neither quick nor easy. Getting what you want and, more important, becoming who you want to be takes work, requires facing your fears and doing the hard and challenging work of change. Indeed, life is very much a journey that invites you to (but never requires you to) enter the cave and the darkness to face yourself, your fears and your insecurities. That’s the truest nature of personal growth, development and leadership.

Are you ready to enter the cave? Are you willing to enter the cave without your usual weapons (denial, blame, excuses and stories) and to take the journey of self discovery with only what you have (awareness, self truth, honesty and vulnerability)? Much of what you desire is on the other side of the cave and only you can make that journey, but you don’t have to take it alone. You can bring along your friends and family … your values, beliefs and faith … your courage, wisdom, discernment and questions … your passion, purpose and mission … your desire to be the change you want to see in the world.

Are you ready to enter the cave and face yourself? Trust me, people all around you and in your life are waiting for you on the other side. Will you follow Yoda’s encouragement (“In you must go!”) or will you walk away and leave the work unfinished? Will you take the journey and face the ordeal? And always remember, this is not a movie – this is your life! And may The Force be with you.


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