A Mario Kart Perspective: Three Lessons About Being Successful

Image Credit: Nintendo

Image Credit: Nintendo

Over the Christmas holidays, as I was playing Mario Kart on the Wii (and struggling to finish a single race better than 10th place), it occurred to me that there are some similarities between Mario Kart and life. Now, I will admit that the thought of comparing Mario Kart to life may seem a little absurd at first, but stick with me – I think you’ll agree that we can learn some lessons from Nintendo’s legendary racing game.

One quick note – I play Mario Kart about once every three months. So, if you were secretly hoping to challenge me to a friendly Mario v. Luigi race, I hate to disappoint you, but I’m afraid I wouldn’t be much competition.

Here are three lessons that we can learn from Mario Kart about being successful.

Success requires more than talent. 

Every character and car combination in Mario Kart favors a different aspect of racing (e.g. acceleration, speed, handling, etc.). However, simply depending upon the specific racing abilities (talent) of your character/car combo is not enough to win. You have to take advantage of the items that are offered throughout the track to supplement your character’s awesome racing skills.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that talent alone will advance your career, grow your revenues, or make you a better parent. It won’t. Talent is a great platform to build on. But, it is simply that – a platform. You must build on it. You must work hard to fine tune your skills to fulfill your potential. Human resources consultant Robert Half is credited with saying, “Hard work without talent is a shame, but talent without hard work is a tragedy.” Don’t sacrifice your talent on the altar of apathy.

Success requires priorities. 

In Mario Kart, you have to know when to use each item to make the most of it. Using an item at the wrong time (or using it at all) may in fact end up working against you. For example, using the gold star around a bend that doesn’t have bumpers on it might just send you spiraling into the ever-present black pit below. (This has never happened to me before.)

Be selective with the opportunities that you take advantage of. Identify what will help you reach your goal and focus on that alone. Don’t say “yes” to everything that comes your way. “No” is a very powerful word – use it often. Sometimes it’s not that the opportunity is necessarily a “bad” opportunity – it may just be that the timing is not right for you. Concentrate your efforts; don’t dilute them. A Chinese proverb warns, “He who chases two rabbits will catch neither.”

Personal mission statements and life plans are strategic tools that can help you focus on your goals with laser beam intensity. You have to know where you’re going before you can set your priorities straight to help you get there. French Renaissance author Michel de Montaigne hit the nail on the head: “No wind favors him who has no destined port.”

Success requires persistence.

It seems that Mario Kart is all about persistence – the final rankings always seem to be determined in the last five seconds of a game. (Anybody with me on that one?) Giving up halfway through the race ensures only one thing –you will finish last.

Willpower is like a muscle – exercise it and it will become stronger. You can cultivate the will to never quit trying. Some of the greatest inventors of history were the ones who persevered despite the fact that it seemed that the cards were heavily stacked against them. Thomas Edison tried more than 10,000 different types of material before he discovered that tungsten was the perfect filament for his incandescent light bulb. It took James Dyson 5,127 protoypes over a 15-year period to develop the technology for the world’s first bagless vacuum cleaner. Consider how different the history of these every-day items might be if Edison quit after 9,000 attempts or if Dyson threw in the towel after 5,000 prototypes.

The pathway to success is a daily journey of overcoming obstacles. Don’t let the obstacles define you. Let your response to the obstacles define you. (Click here to tweet that.)

Question: how have you applied these lessons in your own life? You can contribute to the conversation by clicking here.

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Four Examples of Effective Leaders

Many leadership gurus debate whether leadership is an art or whether it is a science – or a combination of the two. But, no matter where you fall in that debate, when the rubber meets the road, understanding the theories behind leadership counts for nothing without practical application.


As I’ve had the opportunity to work with effective leaders (and some not so effective), I’ve noticed some recurring themes. I’ve worked hard to imitate the good examples in my leadership roles. And, although effective leadership takes a lot of time and emotional energy, the positive impact is a lasting one.

Let’s look at four practical applications of effective leadership.

An Effective Leader:

1.      Admits fault rather than shifting the blame.

You must be honest, which may be the single most important characteristic of a leader. Perry Noble said, “Character and integrity will take you further than any system, structure, or creative idea.”

Let’s admit it – we all make mistakes. Making a mistake provides us with one of the most impacting choices that can be made: admitting or shifting. The lasting impact of the mistake won’t be the mistake itself; it will be whether we admitted fault or shifted blame. If you don’t want to shift the blame, don’t ever throw anyone under the proverbial bus. In fact, get that bus out of the building! (That’s my way of saying don’t let shifting blame be an option in your leadership.)

2.      Leads by example rather than by hypocrisy.

You must demonstrate action instead of simply dictating action. (Click here to tweet that.) While both leadership styles will probably get the job done, simply accomplishing a task is not the goal of an effective leader. If you want to be an effective leader, instill inspiration and vision in your team. Excellent work will become a natural by-product of your leadership.

Hypocrisy is like an acid – it corrodes away inspiration and vision until they are no longer recognizable. Conversely, just like rebar is used to reinforce and strengthen concrete, leading by example reinforces the vision and inspiration. Remember the old adage, your walk talks louder than your talk talks.

3.      Communicates intentionally rather than impulsively.

You must carefully guard your communication. This doesn’t mean that you can’t communicate frequently or with confidence. In fact, it is the exact opposite. Only intentional communication is truly effective communication, which means that you must intentionally choose the message, time, place, medium, and recipient(s) of your communiqué.

Because words are the most powerful assets we possess, they should not be a free-flowing commodity. Words should be carefully crafted and delivered out of the utmost respect for the listener. It was Abraham Lincoln who once said, “I am very little inclined on any occasion to say anything unless I hope to produce some good by it.”

4.      Promotes collective success rather than personal success.

You must be humble and place your team’s success ahead of your own. It helps if you understand the power of synergy. (Warning: this gets a bit technical.)

Synergy: the interaction of elements that when combined produce a
total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements.

Did you know that synergy is naturally inherent in many areas, including physics, genetics, and toxicology?

Generally, teamwork is no exception. In her book, Smart Tribes, thought leader Christina Comaford details how a change in leadership behaviors can significantly increase a team’s potential for success. Remember what our high school coaches always told us? There is no “I” in “TEAM.” Yep, it still applies today.

Question: what other practical applications have you seen in leaders that you respect? You can contribute to the conversation by clicking here

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