Life lessons from Ender’s Game (the movie)

I recently got the chance to watch the Ender’s Game move.

I loved the book as a child, and greatly enjoyed seeing the book adapted to the big screen. Still, I left wishing that it spent more time on Battle School. In my opinion, the lessons from Battle School were most interesting parts of the book, and were the funnest to read. They would have been great to see, although they would have stretched the move to 3+ hours (I would have been OK with it though!).

Even with much of Battle School missing, I still found myself noting important life and leadership lessons during the movie.

Here are a few:

*** Warning ***: There will be a few spoilers so if you intend on watching the move, you may want to stop reading.

1) Isolation must never be broken.

Early in Battle School, Ender is constantly singled out on purpose. This isolation is lonely, but is essential for grooming Ender into a leader. The leader isn’t the same as the others. The leader needs to be different, adjust to it. A good way to kickstart this is just to be treated differently.

I immediately thought about the lonely journey as an entrepreneur. As I’ve written on earlier, there is power in being different: the only way you can hope to attain something extraordinary is to break free from the regular. Breaking free is lonely, so maybe it is right that the entrepreneurial journey is lonely. It wouldn’t work any other way.

2) No distraction.

Ender continually tries to email his sister during the early days of Battle School. He doesn’t receive any replies. When he asks Colonel Graff, he is told the email is shut off. There is no space for distraction in Battle School.

Any significant challenge requires focus. Watch the email.. and Facebook.. and other distractions.

3) Allow others to shine.

When Ender begins to be singled out in the classroom, he tells the teacher that two others students would be great at answering the question. He could have answered it, but as the singled-out student already, it serves him no purpose to be a know-it-all. You gain allies and friends by deferring the limelight and allowing others to shine.

4) Let others save face.

When toon leader Bonzo tells Ender that he can’t practice in front of the team, Ender asks to speak to Bonzo in private. He tells Bonzo that he will practice, and that he won’t be stopped. But, he will lay low for the day, and allow Bonzo to give him permission the next day.

When fighting someone, you are still better off if you find a way to get your way without harming them.

5) Don’t just win the battle, win the future battles.

If there is going to be a fight, Ender will literally end you. He doesn’t just win the battle. He fights to win the future battles. It is the best way to avoid future conflicts.

If you have a problem, don’t go for the quick solution. Don’t go for the one-time fix. Get to the core of the thing, and take care of business.

6) Do things your own way.

When Ender becomes leader of the Dragon Army, he immediately tells the troops that the youngest sleep by the door, and the oldest sleep away from it. Usually, the older troops get to sleep by the door. It is Ender’s way to telling them he intends to run his army his way. It isn’t described in detail within the movie, but he also runs the Dragon Army his own way, and is wildly successful for it.

There is always a “regular” way of doing things. Is it really necessary? Think about it, and do things your own way if it seems right.

7) Take the misfits.

Ender’s Dragon Army contains misfits from all of the teams. Historically, the Dragon Army has never won a battle, so when they resurrect this army name for Ender, it seems fitting that it take in the misfits.

Yet Colonel Graff knows that with the right leader, the Dragon Army can be great. The misfits are only misfits because they haven’t found their place on their team. In a different team, with a great leader, the misfits can be great.

8) Love for you enemy.

Early in Battle School, Bernard bullies Ender whenever he can. When Ender gets the Dragon Army, he accepts Bernard as one of the team. As the leader, Ender could have made Bernard’s life more difficult, but he didn’t. Showing your enemies respect can be powerful, especially when you don’t need to show the respect.

Ender is known for loving his enemies. He uses both intelligence and empathy to understand his enemy. With this understanding comes love for the enemy. It also turns out that the best way to crush an enemy is to truly understand them.

9) The importance of family.

Battle School can be brutal. As Ender is continually isolated without email and outside contact, he eventually gets sick of it. When Ender quits Battle School, the first thing he does is see his sister Valentine, who successfully talks him into going back to Battle School.

We aren’t machines. Minimizing distraction is great, but in the end, we really to be around people we care about. Family matters.

10) Play the big game. Try.

As Valentine convinces Ender to go back to Battle School, she says she believes that Ender is afraid of the future. He may be afraid of the unknown enemy. Still, in order to save the humans on Earth, he has to try.

11) You’re never ready.

Before the graduation battle, Mazer Rackham tells Colonel Graff that Ender isn’t ready. And it isn’t a big surprise. Ender isn’t ready. He is young, and is still in training.

Colonel Graff simply replies, “you’re never ready.”

12) The way we win matters. * Big spoiler alert *

Ender wants to win. And when he does, he wants to win on his own terms. He fights to win all future battles, but first seeks to understand.

When he unexpectedly wipes out the buggers at the end, he is overcome with grief. That is not the way he wanted to win. He never got to learn about his enemy before destroying them.

This is one of the big differences between Peter and Ender. Ender cares. He values life, humanity, and whatever you call it for other species.

The book is better.

The movie was enjoyable. Without a doubt, the book is better. If this post was on the book, the list would probably be two times longer.

If you haven’t read the book yet, you should! It is a fun read, and is chock full of lessons on life, leadership, management, and empathy. I also suggest the other two in the series (Speaker for the Dead and Xenophobia), both of which are much more somber in nature, but great in a different way.

P.S. This is post number #39 in a 100 day blogging challenge. Was late on this post, but my Internet went out last night halfway through writing. Should have another post by the end of the day 🙂

Follow me on Twitter: @alexshye.

Or, check out my current project Soulmix.

3 thoughts on “Life lessons from Ender’s Game (the movie)

  1. Just saw the movie and I though it was great…I took it to be very thoughtful. Never read the book, but I left the theatre wanting to look into it. Thanks for mentioning the other books so I know what to look out for.

    • Its hard for me to imagine the movie w/o knowledge of the book, but glad you liked it. The book is amazing.. I definitely recommend it. I’ve read it 4 times in my life, and might just read it again after watching the movie!

      Thanks for dropping by!

  2. The good, the bad and the ugly | Eiraborate

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