7 Small-Business Lessons You Can Learn From “Wicked”

Last Saturday my wife, daughters, and I saw the musical “Wicked” at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis. It’s the second time we have seen the show, and I’m sure it ranks in my Top 3 favorite musicals.

Part of my affection for “Wicked” comes from knowledge of the show. On family vacations, we’ve listened to the “Wicked” soundtrack many, many times as we’ve crossed the Western Plains (and yes, Kansas, even). But more important than familiarity—the lyrics! I love lyrics, and lyrics don’t get any better and wiser than “Wicked.”

But enough chit-chat! I give you seven business lessons from “Wicked”! (lyrics by the incomparable Stephen Schwartz)

1. You don’t have to be a wizard to do brilliant things. The Wizard sings in “Wonderful”:

I never saw myself
As a Solomon or Socrates
I knew who I was:
One of your dime a dozen
Mediocrities.

Then suddenly I’m here
Respected—worshipped, even
Just because the folks in Oz
Needed someone to believe in.

2. Be vigilant about your brand at all times. The Wizard sings in “Wonderful”:

A man’s called a traitor—or liberator
A rich man’s a thief—or philanthropist
Is one a crusader—or ruthless invader?
It’s all in which label
Is able to persist.

3. Don’t be afraid to take on challenging jobs! Galinda sings in “Popular”:

Whenever I see someone less fortunate than I,
And let’s face it, who isn’t less fortunate than I?
My tender heart tends to start to bleed.
And when someone needs a makeover,
I simply have to take over!
I know, I know exactly what they need!

And even in your case,
Though it’s the toughest case I’ve yet to face,
Don’t worry, I’m determined to succeed!
Follow my lead!

4. Even if you stumble badly, suffer public humiliation, and the townspeople want to burn you at the stake, don’t give up hope. The setback, in fact, might be the best thing that’s ever happened to you! The Wizard sings in “Wonderful”:

The most celebrated
Are the rehabilitated.
There’ll be such a whoop-de-doo
A celebration throughout Oz
That’s all to do—with you.

5. If you treat people badly, you will pay a price. Oh yes. You will. Even if you are an A-lister. Glinda sings in “No One Mourns the Wicked”:

Yes, goodness knows
The wicked’s lives are lonely
Goodness knows
The wicked cry alone
Nothing grows for the wicked
They reap only
What they’ve sown.

6. Accept that some of the spells you try will not work. And know that you will look stupid sometimes. But it’s better than the alternative. Fiyero sings in “Dancing Through Life”:

Dancing through life
Swaying and sweeping
And always keeping cool.
Life is fraught less
When you’re thoughtless
Those who don’t try
Never look foolish.

7. There comes a time when every business owner needs to trust their brain, have courage, show some heart, and do what they believe is best. Elphaba sings in “Defying Gravity”:

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules
Of someone else’s game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes: and leap!

It’s time to try
Defying gravity.
I think I’ll try
Defying gravity.
And you can’t pull me down!

Are You A “Wicked” Fan?

What have you learned from the musical? Please share your opinion in the comments below.

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Comments

  1. Mike Korner says

    Great list of lessons Larry!

    I can’t decide which is my favorite, though I’m leaning toward #1, “Just because the folks in Oz Needed someone to believe in”. It’s funny how that happens to leaders … someone needs to lead, so they step up.

  2. Dawn Svenson Holland says

    Larry, I went to Wicked last September for the first time – knew nothing about it before attending. As I listened to Defying Gravity, I felt like I had found my voice to make the solopreneur leap. Thank you for this!

  3. Larry Keltto says

    Hi Dawn:

    Wow! That is SO cool to hear! Occasionally I will see someone wearing a t-shirt that says “Defying Gravity,” and I tend to think the person wearing it is a kindred spirit.

    I love this lyric from “Defying Gravity”:

    “And if I’m flying solo
    At least I’m flying free.”

    Larry

  4. says

    Larry, I haven’t seen the musical, but the article it’s really good.

    I like all of them, especially #7 and I believe that once you have the brain, heart and body working all together, you will be successful on everything you do.

    Eugen

  5. says

    Great post!

    And yet another example of the multi-facetedness of humanity. Those who are one way can learn to be another (such as Glinda), and you can use people’s words to learn the lesson you need to learn, whether or not it’s what they meant by it.

    History proves #2 time & time again. It’s all labels at the end of the day, the one chosen determined by whose side you are coming from.

    The thing that’s sad for me and feeds a bit into my own fears is #7. So true, but look at how it ended for her. But then, many stories do that to encourage people to stay with the herd, the Tribe. So maybe it’s time to rewrite that thought too?

    Anyway, thnx for a great look at business through the lens of Story! :-)

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