Life Lessons I learned From a Dog Named “Bolt”

Let’s be honest, I don’t usually watch a lot animated Disney movies. Oh wait, I said “let’s be honest”--Ok, so maybe I do (and don’t try to tell me Toy Story isn’t one of the greatest movies of all time.) But a few weeks ago, I was riding my bike on the trainer in my apartment looking for something to watch.  For the most part, I have the TV on, but I don’t really watch it, as I’m rocking out to some Seether or 2000’s rap, like some old school Nelly. Since ESPN was showing women’s basketball, I was looking for something to watch while I rode. Disney channel was showing the movie Bolt, which I’d heard of, so I figured I’d watch. Plus, I had my jams on and was watching with subtitles, so I didn’t have to listen to John Travolta’s voice come out of a dog’s mouth anyway. The plot is about a small white dog named Bolt who, having spent his entire life on the set of a television series, thinks that he has super powers. Under the false pretense of the TV studio, he believes that his human, Penny, has been kidnapped, he sets out on a cross-country journey to "rescue" her.

Bolt

Halfway through the movie, this dog had me rapt (no, not rapped). Not only was the movie pretty good, there were some great life lessons that one can pull out of it, no matter who you are:

Believe in yourself, even when others don’t

Sometimes, if you tell people you can shoot lasers from your eyes or have a super-sonic bark, they won’t believe you--blasphemous, I know. But if I told you 6 months ago that I would be stronger now than I ever been in my life, you probably wouldn’t believe me either. Early in his adventure Bolt comes across a cat whom, convinced by a pack of conniving pigeons, he deems to be in plotting with an evildoer who stole his human.

The cat mocks Bolt and tell him that none of his powers are real. But the difference between us and Bolt? Bolt never doubt’s himself for a minute. He knows he has special powers (he doesn’t actually), and if he doesn’t believe in himself, who will? The first guy to break 4 minutes in the mile probably didn’t have anyone who believed he could do it, yet he did. Most people don’t think anyone will ever break 2 hours in a marathon, but there’s some crazy kid running around out there who thinks he can... And I guarantee they will.

Even if you want to do something unfathomable, never begin to doubt yourself--if you do, then you’ll never even try.

Always protect and be there for the ones you love

When Bolt’s person gets taken away from him, he has one mission--save her. He never once thinks about where he will sleep, when he will eat, if it will be dangerous, or if he could get hurt. All Bolt knows is that someone he loves needs his help and he’ll risk life and limb to save her.

As I’m writing, I can’t think of any stipulations for this rule. No “but” or “except when”, nothing. If you love someone, be there.

Turn your enemies into friends

Tricked by a flock of conniving pigeons, Bolt is sure that the cat he encounters knows where Penny has been taken and how is responsible (another lesson--stay away from haters).  His initial response is to hurl the cat headlong into rush hour traffic on the highway from the edge of a bridge. But he doesn’t.  Bolt recognizes that the cat may prove useful in his journey and he takes the cat along with him on his mission.

Bolt and the "evil" Cat

You won’t get along with everyone.  You should try, but it just won’t always be the case (caveat--PLEASE don’t hate on people for trivial things like how they look or how they workout.  We’re not a bunch high school girls here). But I am not talking about the guy who parks across 2 parking spots, I mean your true competition.

Instead of resenting someone who vies for success in the same industry as you, try looking at them with curiosity--what do they do that has helped them be successful? Did someone get a promotion over you? What skills are on his or her resume and what work experience do they have that you don’t? Now, what are you going to do to ensure that the next time someone is being looked at for a promotion that you get it?

Lastly, as Bolt learns, sometimes our enemies are those who are most similar to us, and that’s what breeds the competition and dislike.  Set these aside for a minute and try to get to know. The things you couldn’t stand about a person might be what make for a great relationship.

Create your own luck

There’s a point where Bolt realizes that he doesn’t actually have any powers. On his journey, the cat is captured and Bolt has to make a covert rescue operation to bust her out. In doing so, he takes out an animal-catcher, thwarts a group of hungry canines, then proceeds to blow a gas station to smithereens.

But wasn’t he useless without his powers? The saying goes, “the harder you practice, the luckier you get.” Luck is relative. Sometimes the cards just fall right for you, but you have to be willing to play those cards in the right order.  Now this is just my opinion, but I believe our lives are filled with luck and opportunity. For me, I believe that comes from God, but wherever it comes from, the key is acting in that moment.  If a beautiful girl (or guy) walks into a coffee shop and you don’t introduce yourself, are you unlucky that you’re not dating anyone? If you don’t lift weights heavy and push yourself to get better, are you unlucky that you can’t build muscle?

Hustle, hustle, hustle, hustle, hustle hard (closed mouths don’t get fed on this boulevard)

Bolt didn’t sit around and wait for someone else to bring him to Penny. As soon as he saw the problem, it was game on, do work, solve the problem. What we can learn is that  you can’t wait on anyone else to make things happen for you and, like I said above, you’ve got to put in the work to expect good things to happen.

Additionally, find ways to be awesome and to not be like everyone else.

Hustle

Learn new skills

So learning how to eat and drink out of a bowl on the floor is not the most glamorous of skills to learn, but Bolt allowed the cat to teach him how to do so. The point? Another tool in his toolbox.  Right now, I am trying to learn to code websites.  Does my job require this? No, but someday it might, or someday I may want to build a site and I’ll have the skill to do so.  Not only that, but there are all the skills that come along with learning something new--like how to study and how to partition your time in order to have the hours you need to learn.

Learn everything you can.  C.S Lewis said “Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either.” (Mere Christianity, 88). If you don’t know about the other side, how can you actively choose to behave in a certain way?

Never stop learning, asking questions, and challenging what is already given. If you don’t ask questions, then you can’t grow.  I’ve always found this in my Faith. By asking questions, I am able to arrive at the deeper understandings behind the “whys” of what I believe.

Face your weaknesses

Be brave.  Bolt never backed down. As a superhero, the evildoers didn’t scare him, but even as he realized his mortality, he stayed true to his mission... and he succeeded.

Why don’t we like to confront our weaknesses? I can think of 2 reasons--the first is that we don’t like to revel in what we’re not good at. A good friend spent some time trying to teach me to juggle... And I’m awful at it.  Throw a football, drain 3-pointers, do fancy footwork on agility ladders, I’m golden... But juggle 3 little batons and I’m useless.  My sticking point is I don’t like failing. And I don’t like failing over and over. But if I really want to learn to juggle, and I’m going to have to fail, fail, and fail again... And maybe one day I will nail it!

The second reason, which stems from the first, is that it makes us uncomfortable. Everybody else in the gym squats more than you and runs faster? Its more comfortable to not go.  But if you ever want to run fast... You’ve got to run fast. If you ever want to squat 300 pounds, you’ve got to start moving some pretty uncomfortable weights in order to get there. The joy comes from being successful and eventually learning how to turn these weaknesses into strengths.

I hope you can relate to some of these lessons.  Tell me, what lessons have you found from surprising places?