There is a poster that claims “all I ever needed to know, I learned from Yoda.” It’s full of his quotes from all five Star Wars movies in which he scuttles around, making wise statements in his syntactically backwards way. To celebrate the release of the greatest film franchise ever in 3-D, I’d like to present some lessons I’ve learned. Stay tuned, because this page changes as continually add quotes and lessons.
Yoda Lesson Number One: Do not overlook the obvious. This teaching comes from the very first encounter Luke has with Yoda on the Dagobah System.
“I am wondering, why are you here?” -Yoda.
“I’m looking for someone.” -Luke.
“Found someone, you have.” -Yoda.
As an analytic thinker, I tend to dig deeper than needed to find answers. Yoda consistently reminds us throughout the movies to be “mindful” of the present, the here and now. He begins to teach Luke (and us) this lesson from the moment he approaches him and R2D2 after the X-Wing crashes on the swampy planet. Even the young Skywalker realizes the truth behind the statement found someone, you have, when he playfully smirks at his short, wrinkled, soon-to-be Jedi trainer. It’s obvious Luke found someone. Since Yoda has not tried to eat R2D2 or sink Luke’s ship, and is talking, it’s obvious he’s here to help. So do not ignore the obvious
Yoda Lesson Number Two: Wars not make one great.
Luke flew to Dagobah to seek a “great warrior.” I imagine he pictured someone at least his own height and who appeared quite mighty to train him in the ways of the Force. So Luke would not have guessed right away that the cackling little Yoda was a famed Jedi Master. Yoda was “great” before the Clone Wars, as he trained generations of Padawan learners to use the Force and made allies with many ethnicities, such as the Wookies. He did not need the Clone Wars to establish his wisdom. And, as proven in Episode II, Attack of the Clones, he did not need an extra 3 feet to his physique to put the smack down on people. Yoda’s own life experiences and training led to his wisdom, his faith in the Force led to his power, and his patience and serenity led to sound judgement. Therefore, wars did not make Yoda “great.”
Yoda Lesson Number Three: Focus on the here and now.
The past is the past, and it does shape who we are. Be mindful of the future, but as Qui Gon will say in Phantom Menace, not at the expense of the present. “For a long time” had Yoda watched Luke, seeing that his mind was always somewhere else, “never on what he was doing.” It led to Luke growing impatient and whiny, and getting his hand lopped off in a lightsaber battle against Vader.
For us, always worrying about what is to come, or what may come, leads to anxiety and stress. Focusing on the here and now helps us relax and get important things done correctly.
Yoda Lesson Number Four: Size Matters Not.
This quote is perhaps Yoda’s most famous. Judge me by my size, do you? Well, do not. For Yoda does not draw his strength from his short stature, but from the Force. He calmly and humbly teaches Luke how to pull a stuck X-Wing fighter out of the swamp by focusing. This lesson is repeated throughout the series: Darth Maul is shorter that Qui Gon and Obi Won, but proves himself a formidable opponent. The skinny Princess Leia single handedly strangles Jabba. The Ewoks help put the final smack down on the Empire.
Yoda Lesson Number Five: The Force is all around you. Draw strength from it.
Yoda instructs Luke to clear his mind and feel the Force as “life creates it, makes it grow. It’s energy surrounds us and binds us.” This simple explanation of the Force was enough for us young Generation X-ers as we watched Episodes IV, V, and VI. Yielding the Force was like belief in a divine being: it simply Was. We did not need the scientific, techno-babble of Midi-Chlorians to explain the Force. And we still do not. Yoda’s poetic and spiritual description of the Force was enough to train Luke in his quest.
Yoda Lesson Number Six: CONCENTRATE!
Think! Stay focused! Do not let your mind wander! If you have an important task to do, don’t rush through it. When Luke broke his concentration while balanching Yoda in the air, it resulted in a bad tumble. I imagine if Yoda did not use the Force, he would have broken a hip.
Yoda Lesson Number Seven: Have Faith.
When Yoda moved Luke’s X-Wing fighter out of the mud, floated it above Luke’s head, and then landed gently on solid ground, his Padawan had only one thing to say.
“I don’t believe it.”
“That is why you fail,” Yoda simply stated.
Even though Star Wars is science fiction, the Force is very similar to the faith people have in divine gods. It is not something seen, until one uses it to do incredible deeds. It is something felt, like faith. If one does not have faith, one can not accomplish tasks, goals, or dreams.
Yoda Lesson Number Eight: Be Humble.
“Adventure, heh! Excitement, heh! A Jedi craves not these things.”
Basically Yoda instructed Luke that the Jedi way is not an exciting job, taking you away from your boring, drought ridden home. Like many things in life, it takes a commitment, it takes learning and patience. Then once you have your badass Jedi powers under control, they are to be used to help others, keep balance in the universe, and keep yourself in check.
Yoda Lesson Number Nine: Age Gracefully.
“When nine hundred years old you be, look as good you will not!” Yoda accepted his wrinkles, dull eyes, and tuft of crazy white hair. No botox or face-lifting cream for this Jedi Master. Strong, he was in the Force. Growing old is a natural process that we all go through. I’m not excited about it, but I hope to have Yoda’s attitude about it.