Five Leadership And Life Lessons From Classic TV Theme Songs

My husband and I were driving and joking about some of each other’s bad habits recently when I said, “You take the good, you take the bad,” and then continued to sing the entirety of the “Facts of Life” theme song (to his and my children’s chagrin). It got me thinking about what some of the best TV theme songs have taught us about personal and professional success and how we can apply these lessons to our professional lives.

1. “Cheers”: Build Relationships With Your Coworkers

The “Cheers” theme song is often ranked as the No. 1 theme song of all time. Why? I think (besides for the catchy tune) it’s because we all relate to it:

“You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same

You wanna be where everybody knows your name.

You wanna go where people know, people are all the same

You wanna be where everybody knows your name.”

It speaks to something I call the “Law of Similarity”: People like people like them, and they trust who and what they know. Expand this into the workplace and we learn we must ask questions; we must delegate; we must build relationships with the people we work with.

Tip: Start the day by asking someone a question about themselves. Only ask if you are actually interested in hearing the answer. It doesn’t have to be about their sick cat. It could be, “Did you see the game or that reality TV show last night?” Take the relationship beyond work to see what shared interest you have and you will see the relationships strengthen.

2. “Laverne & Shirley”: Follow Your Own Path

Although the millennial crowd may not be as familiar with the tune, I bet if they heard it once, they’d be imitating the walk down a Milwaukee street. This theme exudes the millennial mindset and is suited for the innovator, the entrepreneur, the person who always seems to be going against the grain, or simply the person who feels nothing in life was ever easy. Every line inspires you to keep trying, keep believing in yourself, and to “do it your way”:

“Give us any chance, we’ll take it

Read us any rule, we’ll break it

We’re gonna make our dreams come true 

Doin’ it our way…

There is nothing we won’t try

Never heard the word impossible

This time there’s no stopping us. We’re gonna do it.”

These lyrics remind us to trust our gut, take a chance, and be okay with nonconformity. Whether internal or branching out on your own, do what works for you and those around you.

Tip: Pay attention to what your inner critic is saying. The majority of self-talk is negative. If you fall into that trap, imagine the pep talk your best friend would give you. Then change the internal messaging and be your own best friend. Choose your words carefully and rephrase to neutral, positive and action-oriented language. In other words, focus on what you can do and not what you can’t. 

3. “Different Strokes”: Appreciate Our Differences

Growing up I had a poster of pint-sized Gary Coleman in my kitchen that read, “My engine may be small, but look out for my steam.” Being a good head shorter than everyone else my whole life, that motto gave me strength. What I realize now is that this theme song teaches that and much more:

“Now, the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum,

What might be right for you, may not be right for some.

It takes diff’rent strokes to move the world.”

These words remind us to respect individuality. Take it to the workplace and you realize that you need different ways of thinking to come up with the best solutions. We need diverse teams in approach, age, gender, background and mindset.

Tip: Next time you get frustrated working with someone, try shifting your thinking. Instead of being annoyed by their attention to every minute detail, appreciate that it alleviates you from having to deal with them. Then take a moment to tell them what you appreciate or admire about them. It will reduce the tension and open up more collaboration.

4. “Facts of Life”: Manage Expectations

Though I work for myself and love what I do, no one ever loves every aspect of their work. Whether you are just starting out or at the top of the ladder, there are always parts of the job you don’t like. As long as there are parts you love, you are doing great.

“You take the good, you take the bad,

you take them both and there you have

The facts of life, the facts of life.”

The biggest takeaway of this song is to manage your expectations. I have spoken to a lot of entrepreneur hopefuls and this is the lesson I am always trying to open their eyes to. Managing expectations can be extended in many ways, from hiring to delegating to doing. For example, when hiring someone, don’t paint a perfect picture — paint a realistic one.

Tip: Communication is key to managing expectations. It can be as simple as letting someone know when you will be able to address the task they assigned you. For instance, don’t just say yes. Say,“Yes after… ,” “yes, when…,”or “yes, if… .”

5. “One Day at a Time”: Relax and Enjoy the Journey

We have all heard this saying. It is the mantra for many working to overcome challenges, but I think there is more to this theme song that we can learn. For the Type A, high-strung, control-freak personalities such as mine, the lyrics explain that we need to chill:

“This is life, the one you get so go and have a ball.

This is it. This is it.

Straight ahead and rest assured you can’t be sure at all.

So while you’re here enjoy the view.

Keep on doing what you do

So hold on tight we’ll muddle through

One day at a time, one day at a time.”

Whether it is personal or professional, life should be a bumpy ride, and that is part of the fun. Career paths are rarely what we envision in college. After all, I majored in accounting. However, if it wasn’t for the decade in the finance world, I would not have made all the mistakes I now teach others to avoid. Find the purpose in what you do, even if it just to get you to the next thing.

Tip: Breathe. Reflect. Appreciate. At least once a day, slow down long enough for a few deep breaths. Think about one thing you are grateful for and share it. It is great to be told by a coworker, boss or friend that you are appreciated.

What are your nominations for other songs to make the list? Check out this list of TV theme songs and tell me what they taught you.

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